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Lamar Jackson stymies Seahawks' defense, runs wild in 30-16 road victory

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Lamar Jackson stymies Seahawks' defense, runs wild in 30-16 road victory

Lamar Jackson was incensed coming off the field at the end of the third quarter. 

His most reliable offensive weapon, Mark Andrews, had just dropped two passes, and Jackson’s rush on third down only left the Ravens with fourth and two. So coach John Harbaugh asked his quarterback if he wanted to go for it on 4th down. The answer was a definitive yes.

The offense trotted back onto the field and Jackson scored a touchdown on the ensuing conversion as the Ravens, from that fourth down on, ended the game on a 17-3 run to pull out a 30-16 victory against the Seahawks in Seattle.

“I decided to stay with the field goal, play it safe a little bit,” coach John Harbaugh explained. “He came off, you could just see it in his face. I asked him, ‘You want to go for it?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I wanna go for it.’ I was told that Marshal (Yanda) said, ‘If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it.’ I felt the same way. If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it, too.”

Jackson’s run on a quarterback power — and his confidence in the decision — inspired the rest of the team.

"I was just charged up,” Jackson said. “I was tired of not scoring."

But while the fourth down was where the game turned on its head, Baltimore’s next drive was its most impressive of the afternoon.

The Ravens, more specifically Jackson, drove 96 yards down the field on 13 plays and used nine minutes of game clock as a Justin Tucker field goal put the the team ahead by 10.

“He’s a competitor,” Harbaugh said. “This guy is a competitor of the Nth degree. I don’t know how to describe what a competitor Lamar Jackson is. He wants to win at everything all the time. We feed off that, he carries that. I think that’s who we are as a team, I think that’s why he fits us so well.”

On the following Seattle drive, Marlon Humphrey picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on the Ravens’ biggest win of the season

The Ravens defense played its best game of the season against the MVP favorite through six weeks of the season. 

Still, the story of the game was Jackson and his ability to seemingly drag the Ravens offense down the field by himself for first downs. 

“People just don’t really want to give Lamar the respect he deserves,” Humphrey said. “But what I saw today, I felt like football is a game of a lot of aggression, a lot of emotions. We had the little snap count infraction with our center, when I saw Lamar...I felt like from there, it was something different that came out of Lamar. That’s a quarterback I really like to see.”

Jackson finished with 116 yards rushing on 14 carries and 143 yards through the air. But while his passing numbers weren’t eye-popping, his runs were what extended the game and gave the Ravens a chance to win. 

In just his 15th career start, Jackson is rapidly growing into the quarterback the Ravens hoped they were getting they drafted him in 2018. And through seven games this year he’s on pace to place fifth all-time in total offense, with a projected 5,088 total yards. 

Jackson went into perhaps the toughest venue in the NFL and escaped with a convincing victory, a win in which no one will dispute who was the best player on the field. 

He’s also just 22-years old.

“We have yet to see the best of Lamar Jackson,” Peters said. “I don’t know how to stop him.”

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Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Stephen A. Smith and ESPN poll leave Lamar Jackson out of top four quarterbacks

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN poll leave Lamar Jackson out of top four quarterbacks

Despite his 2019 MVP season, many NFL experts still aren’t convinced that Lamar Jackson is the league’s best.

In a debate with Domonique Foxworth on ESPN’s First Take on Monday, Stephen A. Smith shared his top-five quarterbacks in the NFL, slotting the reigning MVP fifth overall. 

Two days later, ESPN released a poll conducted with 50 NFL personnel to rank the top 10 quarterbacks in the league this season. Jackson was ranked sixth behind Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Drew Brees.

But after the record-breaking season the Ravens quarterback had –– a performance that earned him the league’s top individual honor –– how can so many still doubt his ability to succeed?

Smith cited two faults of Jackson’s game to justify his claim –– passing inability and playoff performance.

“There was a guy that ran the football very, very effectively, matter of fact as a quarterback led the team to have one if not the top-rated run attacks in football,” Smith said. “That would happen to be Tim Tebow when he was with the Denver Broncos. But what did I repeatedly say about my friend? He couldn’t throw the football at the NFL level. I never believed it, and that was a problem.”

Smith referenced Tebow’s rise and fall in the NFL and credited his inability to find longevity as a starting quarterback to his inconsistent and inaccurate arm –– something Jackson similarly struggles with.

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The Ravens led the league in rushing offense and ranked second in total offense but earned just the 27th spot in passing offense. Jackson ranked eighth in completion percentage among all quarterbacks but first in rushing yards and sixth in rushing yards among all players. For Smith, this discrepancy does not warrant Jackson a top-two quarterback spot.

“No one can run the football like Lamar Jackson. Nobody,” Smith said. “Not at the quarterback position in the NFL. We know that. That’s just on another level. But in terms of throwing the football, even though he’s had his moments, and he definitely improved in accuracy in terms of completing 66 percent of his passes last season, I don’t think he can throw the football like Deshaun Watson.”

Smith referenced Watson and a number of other quarterbacks higher on his list like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees and praised their accuracy, leadership and veteran play, which earned them the spots ahead of Jackson.

In addition to the issues with Jackson’s arm, Smith also believed his playoff performance holds him back. Jackson posted an 0-2 record in his first two playoff performances, falling to the Chargers in 2018 and the Titans in 2019. 

Overall in his career, he completes 63.7% of his passes and posts a 4.66 TD/INT ratio. On the other hand, during the playoffs, he completed 51.1% of his passes and posted a 1.0 TD/INT ratio.

As Smith noted while he did improve from a 48% completion rate to 52% in the playoffs this year, he will not reach an elite level of play until he can perform in the postseason.

While Smith was certainly skeptical of Jackson’s ability to succeed in the league long-term, he still understood the hype.

“I’ll tell you this though, he is top-two box office. He might even be number one.”

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