The Baltimore Ravens couldn't have drawn up a better NFL start for rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.
With the weight of keeping his team in playoff contention against a division rival that crushed those hopes less than a year ago on his shoulders, Jackson stepped onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium and not only got the win, but set records along the way.
The 21-year-old's performance caught the attention of local and national pundits, earning him one of two Offensive Players of the Week honors in Peter Kings' Football Morning in America:
Hey rook. We know you went to the hospital with a stomach ailment on Thursday, but would you mind making your first career start Sunday? Against a team that hates us? Oh, and stop a three-game losing streak too? That was what was facing Jackson as he stepped in for injured Joe Flacco (hip) and started Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Jackson set a single-game record for a Ravens QB with 117 rushing yards, tacked on 150 yards in the air on 13-of-19 passing and simply played “winning football,” according to coach John Harbaugh. He also kept Baltimore’s feeble playoff hopes alive for another week.
Those 117 rushing yards were the second-most by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with 46 of them on the Ravens' opening drive alone. Coincidentally, Robert Griffin III holds the record for most rushing yards by a rookie QB with 138 back in October of 2012 with the Redskins.
His speed was an issue all afternoon for the Bengals as well. Jackson is so fast that according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson reached 15+ mph on 14 rushing attempts. No other player has hit 15+ mph on more than nine rushing attempts this season.
"The way he bounced back and his composure," safety Eric Weddle told reporters after the game on what impressed him about Jackson's performance.
"He threw that pick [to start the second half], and what did he do next drive? He went down and scored. And it was like nothing happened and you can't teach that. It's something that you see in him, he's very even keeled, cool calm and collected...that's what impressed me. His physical ability and the way he plays; we see it everyday so I expect him to play like that. But just to overcome some adversity early on in his first start and to come back and lead a huge drive and make some big plays....I just think his composure."
Now the Heisman Trophy winner will have to maintain that same composure when the Oakland Raiders come to town in what will likely be his second NFL start.
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