Lamar Jackson authors 'MVP performance' for Baltimore Ravens

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When quarterback Lamar Jackson walked onto the field for pregame warmups, he heard the chants of “MVP” coming from Baltimore Ravens fans at Levi’s Stadium. After the Ravens’ 33-19 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, it was Jackson’s coaches and teammates declaring him “hands down” the best player in football.

“I thought Lamar had an MVP performance,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It takes a team to create a performance like that, but it takes a player to play at that level – to play at an MVP level – it takes a player to play that way. And Lamar was all over the field doing everything.”

In a battle of the teams with the best records in the league, Jackson took control of the MVP race by resoundingly out-dueling 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. Weaving around the 49ers pass-rushers all game, Jackson threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns while leading Baltimore in rushing with 45 yards. Purdy, meanwhile, threw a career-worst four interceptions.

Entering Monday night, Purdy was the betting favorite for NFL MVP and Jackson was second, according to ESPN BET. After the game, Jackson became the frontrunner for MVP (-180) with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

“He can do everything,” Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers said. “You [saw] it [Monday night]. He ran it; he threw it; he led the team. That’s the MVP. You lead your team, you have the best record in the NFL, and he just comes out and continues to come out and do what he [does] game in and game out even though people [say], ‘He can’t do this. He can’t do that,’ and he comes out and proves them wrong every time.”

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This season is setting up to be a repeat of Baltimore’s 2019 season, when Jackson won NFL MVP and the Ravens were the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Baltimore (12-3) can clinch the top seed on Sunday if it beats the Miami Dolphins.

On Monday, Jackson said he didn’t care about what others described as an “MVP performance” and pointed out how the 2019 team lost its first playoff game, a 14-3 defeat to the Tennessee Titans.

“We know it was in 2019 when we were playing against [teams] like this [and] winning regular season games [and] when the time came, we didn’t finish the season,” Jackson said. “We’re just going to keep taking it a day at a time, a practice at a time and a game at a time. That’s all I’m focused on right now.”

With 19 touchdown passes this season, Jackson would become one of the more unlikely NFL MVPs. The fewest touchdown passes by an MVP was 24 by Steve McNair, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

But Jackson has captivated the football world by his elusiveness in buying time and throwing downfield. Against San Francisco, Jackson was 10-of-12 for 132 yards and a touchdown when pressured. That’s his most completions and second-most passing yards when pressured in a game in his career.

“I think if anybody watched the game [or] if anybody watches football this season and watched the Baltimore Ravens, they know for a fact [that] Lamar Jackson is the MVP, hands down,” Ravens middle linebacker Roquan Smith said. “Anyone that watches football and knows football and [can] see the type of impact he has on the game – not even stat-wise, but just individually, the plays that he makes quarter in and quarter out, play in and play out – compare his film to anyone else in the league. Then, I would love to hear what anyone else has to say after that.”

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The Ravens were 6.5-point underdogs to the 49ers. That’s the second-largest underdog role in Jackson’s six-year career.

Being a decided underdog was brought up in Sunday’s team meeting, and several players said they felt “disrespected” by so many picking the 49ers to win. Baltimore inside linebacker Patrick Queen spoke about that when giving the talk in the final pre-game huddle on the field.

“We worked too hard for people to be writing us off already,” Queen said. “You kind feel a certain way about stuff like that when somebody writes you off before you even get a chance to even play the game. So my message was just go out there and just take what we want.”

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