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Steve Wyche: The one key factor that Lamar Jackson, Pat Mahomes share

Steve Wyche: The one key factor that Lamar Jackson, Pat Mahomes share

Ravens passer Lamar Jackson and Chiefs signal-caller Patrick Mahomes, the NFL's last two MVPs, play the quarterback position in entirely different ways.

When Mahomes took home the honor in 2018, it was his rocket arm, flashy passes, and incredible production that earned him the award. In his first year as a starter for Kansas City, Mahomes threw for a league-high 50 touchdown passes and finished second in the NFL in passing yards.

Like Mahomes, Jackson led the NFL in passing touchdowns when he earned MVP honors in 2019. But the 23-year-old was just as dangerous, if not more, with his legs. Jackson finished with over 1,200 rushing yards, breaking Michael Vick's single-season rushing yards record while adding another seven touchdowns on the ground. 

Although the two quarterbacks have different styles, NFL Network's Steve Wyche believes they both have one trait that separates themselves from the other really good quarterbacks in the NFL.

"Stylistically, they are clearly completely different," Wyche told NBC Sports Washington. "But these are the types of players that as long as you have them on your field, you have an opportunity to win, no matter what time of the game it is. That's the key for MVPs."

Over the past two seasons, winning is exactly what Mahomes' Chiefs and Jackson's Ravens squads have done. In each of their MVP seasons, Jackson and Mahomes led their respective teams to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. In 2019, Mahomes led Kansas City to a Super Bowl title. Both clubs are expected to be Super Bowl contenders in 2020.

For Mahomes, Wyche explains that what makes him so great is that defenses cannot afford to make one mistake without paying the price for it.

"A lot of guys put up great numbers, a lot of guys influence games," Wyche said. "But if you are a defensive coordinator and you have to face Patrick Mahomes, you're like 'We cannot let up at any point.' One mistake, he's got you."

In Jackson's case, Wyche explains the way the Ravens passer has been able to be so successful early on in his NFL career is largely due to the offense designed around him.

"It's a little bit different for Lamar Jackson because their scheme isn't so heavily reliant on throwing the ball with the quarterback," he said. "There's is more designed, big plays, he can break a run and it's over. You can be the most sure-tackler in the world, you're looking at your shoetops and he's gone."

Several times a season ago, Jackson made defenders look foolish. It became a weekly tradition.

Mahomes, 24, and Jackson, 23, are already in the NFL's elite tier for passers. The scariest part for NFL defenses is that neither quarterback has even reached their peak yet.

"I think it's a great comparison," Wyche said. "They're both young. they're both going to continue to evolve. They both have great coaches that are going to nurture them."

And because of one free agent move, both Mahomes' and Jackson's path to the AFC crown has gotten a bit easier.

"They no longer have Tom Brady in the AFC," Wyche said. "Even though the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, the path to the championship is going to be a little bit different than what they've experienced in their early careers."

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Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the NFL has scrapped its first and fourth preseason games this season and cut the preseason in half. 

The Ravens were scheduled to play the Bills at home on Aug. 14 to open the season, then end the preseason on Sept. 3 against the Redskins. 

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Now, the Ravens’ tentative preseason schedule will have one road game, at the Cowboys on Aug. 22, and home against the Panthers on Aug. 30. 

According to the report, the move was spurred on by two factors: Firstly, that road teams would have trouble moving that many bodies and risk spreading COVID-19. Secondly, that no team has had on-field workouts this summer. Now, with training camps scheduled to start on July 28, teams will have more time to prepare for the season. 

The move came with coronavirus cases continually rising in the United States a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci said new cases could reach 100,000 per day if more preventative measures were not taken. On June 30, the U.S. had 46,042 new cases, the second-highest total since the pandemic began.

Baltimore is still set to report to camp at the end of the month, as is the rest of the NFL. With the new preseason schedule, they’ll have about three weeks to prepare for the first on-field game action of the season. 

The Ravens haven’t lost in the preseason since Sept. 3, 2015, when they lost 20-19 to the Falcons. 

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What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

It’s not a stretch to say the 2012 AFC Championship Game was one of the most painful losses in Baltimore sports history.

The Ravens went to New England off a 20-13 win in the divisional round and were a game away from the Super Bowl for the first time since 2008. 

And one of their biggest rivals stood in the way of the Ravens and their second Super Bowl appearance in history. 

Baltimore and New England went back and forth for the entire game, before a one-yard Tom Brady plunge on 4th and goal gave the Patriots a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. 

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Despite a Joe Flacco interception midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens held the Patriots out of the end zone and gave the ball back to their offense with under two minutes to play. 

Then, the Ravens marched into Patriots territory and found themselves at the 14-yard line with 27 seconds left. 

On second down, Flacco fired a pass to wide receiver Lee Evans in the right corner of the end zone. Evans had it in his hands — then he dropped it. A Patriots defender came in late to knock the ball out of his hands, a catch that would’ve assuredly lifted the Ravens to the Super Bowl. 

Evans never played a regular season game again. 

"It was an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl," he said after the game. "And I let it go."

Two plays after Evans’ drop, kicker Billy Cundiff trotted onto the field to attempt a game-tying 32-yard field goal. The kick hooked badly to the left, and the Ravens lost 23-20 just a few plays short of the Super Bowl.

Cundiff, who had made the Pro Bowl with the Ravens in 2010 and signed a five-year contract extension in January of 2011, suffered the lowest moment of his professional career 364 days after he put pen to paper. He was released in August.

But if the Ravens had won that game, whether through Evans’ touchdown or another play in overtime, it’s reasonable to assume things wouldn’t have turned out as well long-term for the team. 

The Patriots lost the Super Bowl two weeks later to the Giants, 21-17, as the Ravens regrouped and made additions. 

One of those additions was Justin Tucker, who signed as an undrafted free agent and beat Cundiff out for the job in training camp. Tucker is currently the most accurate kicker in NFL history. 

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The next season, the Ravens finished the regular season 10-6 and though they had to play in the Wild Card round, found themselves in Foxboro once again for the AFC Championship Game. They dominated the Patriots 28-13 and went on to win the Super Bowl two weeks later. 

So while Evans’ drop, and Cundiff’s miss, might’ve been painful in the moment, that game led to a Super Bowl victory a year later, as well as one of the best special teams players the league has ever seen.

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