/Lamar Jackson Shows He Can Win Ugly, and That Should Terrify the NFL

Lamar Jackson Shows He Can Win Ugly, and That Should Terrify the NFL

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Rob Carr/Getty Images

We’ve seen the star that is Lamar Jackson. We’ve seen the graceful, flowing running. The pinpoint throwing. The explosiveness. The total package of a great, historic young player.     

But that’s not the Jackson we saw against the 49ers on a rainy afternoon Sunday, and that’s extremely bad news for opponents of the Ravens.

Instead of Super Lamar, we saw Game Manager Jackson. Instead of Mister Jackson if you’re nasty, we saw a big brain, grit and grind.

The Ravens’ impressive 20-17 win over San Francisco showed Jackson’s greatness isn’t just about his physical abilities. He also has extreme mental discipline and toughness.

And that’s what gave Baltimore its eighth straight win.

This game was a heavyweight fight, and instead of throwing haymakers, Jackson threw a combination of jabs and crosses. He dipped. He feinted. He rope-a-doped. And he did it in the slop and goo of a baby nor’easter.

It wasn’t just the weather that impacted the normally galactic Jackson. This San Francisco defense is one of the fastest and most athletic in the NFL. Because the 49ers are so fast up front and so talented in the secondary, they offered a unique challenge to Jackson. 

The result of the combination of rain and 49ers’ reign was only 105 yards and one score on 14-of-23 passing. That is not Jackson-like. It was his lowest passing output of the season.

But more importantly for the Ravens, and scary for the rest of the league, the result was also a win.

Jackson did have 101 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries—pretty damn good, particularly since this was his fourth 100-yard rushing game, the most in a season by a quarterback.

And then on the final drive of the game, we got to see just how much of a complete quarterback Jackson is as he set up kicker Justin Tucker’s 49-yard game-winner with no time on the clock.

The drive displayed skills Jackson has that he still doesn’t always get credit for. On 2nd-and-6 at the Baltimore 39, he threw a short dart to wide receiver Seth Roberts for five yards. Two plays later, on a 4th-and-1, he ran for three yards and a first.

The Ravens were then at their own 47. Jackson, in the shotgun, ran for two yards. On second down, he threw for 12 yards. Then after a penalty, he threw another pass for 10.

The Ravens were at the San Francisco 34-yard line with 2:23 left in the game and already within Tucker’s range despite the weather. Jackson had displayed all of his abilities. We knew about the running and passing. The clock- and game-management skills were just icing.

All Jackson had to do was not make a mistake and put the football where Tucker wanted it. He did both with ease.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 01: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Rob Carr/Getty Images

What’s clear is that Jackson is learning at an exponential rate. He looks as comfortable managing a tight game as he does dominating in a blowout.

The game left the Ravens perfectly positioned to take home-field advantage in the playoffs, with remaining games at Buffalo, home against the Jets, at Cleveland and then home against the Steelers. Only the Bills are a scary defense. They’re built similarly to the 49ers, also with a ton of speed and formidable up front.

The Ravens won’t be scared, though. They are fearless because their quarterback is.

Jackson is becoming unshakeable. Nothing bothers him. Not even a pressure-filled final few minutes with the game on the line against the NFC’s top team.

It’s the rest of the league that needs to be scared, even more than they already were.

          

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.