The dust has settled on Super Wild Card weekend. From a drama standpoint, the games were largely disappointing.  

Amongst the victors this past weekend was the Ravens’ opponent for Divisional weekend, the Houston Texans.  

With a rookie head coach (DeMeco Ryans) and a rookie quarterback (CJ Stroud), many of the experts believed this would be a rebuilding season for the Texans but Ryans and his young signal caller had other ideas. 

For the Ravens and Texans, this will be their 2nd matchup this season. In what feels like a lifetime ago, the Ravens defeated the Texans in Week 1, 25-9. That game played out exactly like you’d expect a September game in today’s NFL. Nine combined sacks, twenty-two combined penalties and a scattershot performance from both teams with the more seasoned one eventually emerging triumphant over the younger one. 

While these two teams are on a collision course for M and T Bank Stadium at 4:30 this Saturday, the focus is really on one team; the Baltimore Ravens. And on that team, the focus is really on one player; soon to be two-time NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. 

In reference to Lamar Jackson and the postseason; do a Google search, find a podcast, tune into NFL Network and what is repeated over and again? What is the inescapable truth? What stat is burned into our collective memory?  

Lamar Jackson is 1-3 in the playoffs as a starting quarterback. 

To quote Captain Jack Ross  in “A Few Good Men”; ”These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.” 

Of course, there’s context that should be added to this fact.  

In 2018, the Ravens had fallen to 4-5 and were in the midst of 3 game losing streak when veteran starting quarterback Joe Flacco suffered a hip injury in Week 9. During the bye week, rookie Lamar Jackson was summoned to take the helm with the season on the brink and the franchise at a crossroads. Jackson proceeded to lead the team to a 6-1 record in his 7 starts and an unlikely division title. His only regular season blemish was an overtime defeat in Kansas City. The spark that the rookie provided was quickly extinguished on Wild Card weekend vs the Los Angeles Chargers. In a very uneven performance, Jackson completed less than 50% of his passes, fumbled 3 times and had 2 total turnovers in a 23-17 defeat. While Ravens fans practically begged to reinsert Joe Flacco at quarterback, Coach John Harbaugh stuck with his rookie and Jackson lead 2, 4th quarter touchdown drives and actually had the ball in his hands with a chance (albeit a longshot) to finish off an improbable comeback; only to succumb to a strip-sack that ended the ballgame.  

0-1. However, there is no AFC North title and no Wild Card game after the 2018 season without Lamar Jackson. 

The dramatic end of the 2019 Ravens has been beaten to death so I won’t rehash it too much here. Baltimore fell to the Titans, 28-12. Jackson fell to 0-2 in the playoffs but to act as if it was his play that directly resulted in that upset is simply disingenuous. From pass catcher drops, to the defense getting manhandled by Derrick Henry, to Greg Roman quickly and inexplicably abandoning the run, in favor of having Jackson drop back to pass over 70 times; the loss was a collective effort. 

In the 2020 playoffs, Jackson and the Ravens would get their revenge against the Titans in the Wild Card round. Highlighted by an electric 48 yard dash through the Tennessee defense to paydirt, Lamar Jackson got the proverbial playoff monkey off his back and secured the first postseason win of his career. That run, however, was abruptly halted on a windy night in Buffalo, where the Ravens fell 17-3. The pivotal moment in the game being a Jackson interception that ended up going 101 yards for a Buffalo touchdown. With that said, the game featured not 1, but 2 missed field goals by normally automatic Justin Tucker. Then, in the wake of the disastrous pick 6, any hope of Jackson orchestrating a comeback was short circuited when he was forced to leave the game with a concussion, after an errant snap from center.  

After injuries derailed his 2021 and 2022 season, Jackson’s playoff record sits at the afore mentioned 1-3.  

Generally speaking, you can see the difference between the Jackson of 2019 and the Jackson of today. The playful, somewhat immature demeanor of a 22-23 old, has been replaced by that of a laser focused, battle scarred, 27 year old. In video clips from the team produced, weekly special, “Wired”, you can see Jackson maintaining composure and focus during games, rather breaking into wild celebrations.  

In Week 17 vs Miami, Jackson’s 4th and 7 touchdown throw to Isiah Likely ran the score to 28-7 just before the half. As his team broke into raucous sideline cheers, Jackson chided them by saying, “Aye, aye, aye…Ya’ll calm the f#!k down! We stay locked in, fam!!” What a departure from the “big truss” Lamar of 4 years ago. 

This week, when questioned by reporters about his upcoming opponent, CJ Stroud’s performance in his first playoff game, Jackson candidly, and glibly, replied, “he played a lot better than I did from my rookie game, I’ll say that.” 

If there’s one thing that’s been constant throughout Lamar Jackson’s career thus far, it’s that he’s answered every challenge. After his rookie campaign, Jackson was rather derisively labelled as “athlete playing quarterback” or just a running back. So, what did he do in Week 1 of the 2019 season? He posted a perfect passer rating while throwing for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns. Then, in the post game locker room, Jackson famously uttered the phrase, “Not bad for a running back”, which was later turned into a t-shirt.  

Later in the 2019 campaign, 49ers analyst Tim Ryan made a controversial comment about Jackson having an advantage during mesh point handoffs because of his “dark skin color” and how similar it was to the football. How did Lamar respond? The next week in Buffalo, Jackson, rather defiantly, wore a long sleeve white undershirt during the game. 

During Jackson’s protracted quest for a long term contract this past off-season, many fans and media (along with yours truly) thought that he would’ve been better off with an agent. Jackson instead remained steadfast in negotiating his own contract and ended up earning his coveted deal that put him amongst the highest paid players in the league. With his new contract signed, Jackson next faced the challenge of learning a new offensive system under offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Once again, Lamar rose to the challenge and is the odds-on favorite to capture his second NFL MVP award. 

On the precipice of the Divisional weekend in Baltimore, there’s one more challenge that awaits Lamar Jackson; the quest for the Lombardi Trophy. The time is here for Jackson to rewrite his story and exorcise his post-season demons. 

Jamie Sieck
Jamie Sieck

Jamie has been a Baltimore sports fan since he can remember. He grew up in Gwynn Oak and currently resides in Hampstead with his wife and 2 kids. He graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He’s currently employed at Verizon Communications in Hunt Valley.

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