Why Ravens QB Lamar Jackson will be toughest challenge 49ers encounter

Why Ravens QB Lamar Jackson will be toughest challenge 49ers encounter

The 49ers have faced several tough challenges throughout their 10-1 start to the season, and have passed with flying colors nearly every single time. But next week, they'll face their most formidable challenge yet -- and possibly all season long -- in Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

If you watched Baltimore's beatdown of the Rams on Monday night, you don't need an explanation as to why. But for those of you that saw the blowout score and chose not to tune in -- and have been living under a rock for the last few months -- it doesn't take long to explain why Jackson poses such a unique threat.

He came into the game against Los Angeles on pace for the most single-season rushing yards ever by a quarterback, and then proceeded to gash the Rams for 95 yards on eight rushing attempts, falling just shy of his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season.

But that's not where he did the vast majority of his damage. As good as Jackson was with his legs, he was even more prolific with his arm, completing 15-of-20 pass attempts for five touchdowns and a 139.4 passer rating. That made him the youngest player in NFL history with multiple games with five touchdown passes in the same season. Sure, he only had 169 yards passing against the Rams, but that becomes less of a concern when a team can rush for 285 yards, as the Ravens did Monday night.

That wasn't an anomaly, either. Baltimore came into Monday night averaging 203.1 rushing yards per game. The 49ers rank second in the league with an average of 145.6. Yes, Jackson is a big part of that, but running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards form one of the best tandems in the NFL.

And therein lies the problem for San Francisco. In what is expected to be a bad weather game in Baltimore on Sunday, the 49ers rightfully will focus on stopping the Ravens' rushing attack. But Jackson's dual-threat ability might be impossible to account for, and the 49ers haven't exactly had their best performances this season against mobile quarterbacks.

San Francisco looked most vulnerable in Weeks 9-11, and that's not a coincidence. The 49ers faced Arizona's Kyler Murray twice and Seattle's Russell Wilson once over that span, and they're probably the two most dynamic QBs in the league -- outside of Jackson. The Seahawks beat San Francisco, and the Cardinals nearly did the same ... twice. Clearly, Seattle is a good, possibly great team. But right now, if the 49ers aren't the best team in the NFL, most would say the Ravens are.

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The Niners have one of the two best defenses in the league, and their 44 sacks are more than any other team. They feast on immobile QBs, and while you wouldn't call Aaron Rodgers immobile, San Francisco just limited the future Hall of Famer to arguably the worst performance of his career.

Even when the 49ers were leading 10-0 over Green Bay, Jimmy Garoppolo got on his team to pile on more points, knowing 10 wouldn't be enough to beat Rodgers.

Actually, it was, as San Francisco coasted to a 37-8 home win.

It won't be enough to beat Jackson and the Ravens -- who lead the league with an average of 35.1 points per game -- on the road Sunday. Not even close.

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

President Donald Trump reportedly told sports commissioners and top executives Saturday that he believes the NFL should start on time with fans returning to stadiums by August despite the coronavirus outbreak.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn't share the same thoughts.

The governor was asked about Trump's reported prediction, and said he doesn't envision California having made enough progress against the virus for it to be business as usual for the NFL come fall.

“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said Saturday. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia, where they opening up certain businesses, and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.

"It's interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and the NFL, they've been asking me -- in fact, a well-known athlete -- a football player -- just asked me if he expects to come back. I said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.' "

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Newsom is making sure to prioritize safety and caution above all else before letting sports return.

“Our decision on that basis here in the State of California will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our ability to meet this moment and bend the curve, and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that's appropriate," Newsom said. "Right now, I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

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The truth of the matter is that no one knows how long this will last or when sports will be able to return to packed stadiums. The NFL is planning on starting the schedule on time with fans in the stadium, but that might not be the case in California. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge again the fall, the fate of the NFL's season is very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports can only safely return once the country as a whole has turned the corner from the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

While the NFL offseason programs are postponed, many players are still working out to be ready for the time when the teams are able to get back to work in an organized setting.

In Miami, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Clelin Ferrell are working out with private defensive line coach Mark Hall.

Hall, who recently was a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, sent a video to NBC Sports Bay Area of the three players working out.

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The 49ers recently traded Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and re-signed Armstead to a four-year, $84 million contract. Ferrell will enter his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being the club’s first-round selection at No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft.