Jackson Ready for Playoff Run

Lamar Jackson photo

Lamar Jackson hopes to start fast in the Baltimore Ravens AFC Divisional Playoff matchup against the Tennessee Titans Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iif2NWLiZZI

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson helped his team become the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But can he get them to the Super Bowl?

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

Owings Mills, Md.—For all the rave reviews and the talk of having revolutionized football that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has received during the 2019 regular-season, the big question for the former Louisville star could get answered this weekend.

Can he lead them to a Super Bowl?

Jackson, the odds-on favorite to be NFL’s Most Valuable Player, has a tough task ahead of him in the Ravens AFC Divisional Playoff matchup against a very physical Tennessee Titans squad looking to spring a huge upset Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

In a season where he’s been mobbed by children at a local mall, named an All-Pro and starred on just about every highlight reel on every sports media outlet from ESPN to YouTube, Jackson said he is focused on the single goal of a Super Bowl win.

“It’s cool, It’s cool … I’m just trying to work. I want a Super Bowl,” Jackson said. “All the accolades and stuff like that, I’ll cherish that, but I’m trying to chase something else right now. … I’ve been wanting a
Super Bowl since I was a kid. That’s why I play the game because I want to win.”

Throughout the season, Jackson has become the ultimate weapon as a duel-threat quarterback with record-setting numbers. In his first full season as a starter, he set an NFL record for rushing yards in a single season by a quarterback by gaining 1,206 yards, breaking a record held by former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

“The new era that we’re in now in the NFL, he knows his matchups,” said Ravens veteran safety Earl Thomas, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013. “He uses the big tight ends, throws where only they can catch the ball and we all know what he can do once he starts to run.”

When the season began, more than a few NFL experts wrote Jackson off as a “running quarterback”, but he’s changed the minds of many in that regard. Jackson passed for 3,127 yards, completed 66.1 percent, was third in the league in quarterback rating, and led the league with 36 touchdown passes.

“He’s good at everything, he was already so good at everything,” said tight end Mike Andrews, who caught 64 passes from Jackson for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. “I think mentally the quarterback position is so hard and so tough. After a year of being in the system, seeing defenses in the NFL, he’s been able to learn and been able to grow mentally in the whole football mindset.”

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Jackson’s running ability and his knack for getting the ball in tight spaces is a big help the Ravens in the red zone.

“He can also extend the play, hold the ball, move if he has to and he’s really done well with that,” Harbaugh said.

Jackson’s teammates like wide receiver Willie Snead IV said Jackson is driven by a desire to win and will take all the necessary to get there like working with his receivers after practice and during the offseason prior to training camp.

“It’s all set on Lamar. He wants to be great because of his work ethic and as a competitor. He wants to be the best. He wants the best for us,” Snead IV said. “He wants to see us all eat. I’m on board for that.”

But the true worth of Jackson’s season will be having to do it under the spotlight of a single-elimination playoff run where every opposing coach, including Saturday’s opponent, has seen him on tape and is scrutinizing his every step, hoping to find some weakness in what he does to exploit throughout the course of the game.

As he approaches his second playoff game, Jackson says he’s more prepared than he was during last January’s Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and he’s ready for anything the Titans throw at him.

“I’m not a rookie anymore, I’ve been around. I’ve seen everything that they can bring …  And we’re going to see it,” Jackson said. “Can’t start too late. You have to attack fast. It doesn’t really matter what quarter is, first or second, you have to attack. You have to finish the game strong. You can’t just go into the game playing half-assed.”

During the team’s organized teams last spring, Jackson said Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has been testing him in practice by throwing a number of blitzes and disguised coverages at him.

“(Martindale) used to disguise crazy blitzes during OTAs and stuff like that, and it just helped me a lot, knowing where guys would be and knowing the area of the field. I just have to get the ball out where my receiver can get it or no one can.”

Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III said the Ravens coaching staff has done a good job of preparing Jackson for any kind of wrinkle the Titans or any other teams will throw at him during the course of the game.

“Whatever they play we can adjust to that in-game so we’re not sitting ducks like ‘they played man-to-man all season and now they’re playing zone, what are we gonna do?’ Griffin III said. “When you do put stuff on tape and teams do something to take that away, you can adjust to give them a new problem.

“I think that’s what we’ve done all year (with Jackson). We continue to give teams new problems with Lamar running, Lamar throwing, our receiver packages, our tight end packages, jet sweeps … we keep giving teams new problems. …We want to be the math that they can’t figure out.”

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said he has been using backup quarterback and former starter Marcus Mariota simulating Jackson to prepare his defense. But that’s not enough to fully capture Jackson’s speed in-game conditions.

“Other than try to tie (Jackson’s) shoelaces together, not many people have had success,” Vrabel said with a little tongue and cheek during a phone interview with the Baltimore-area media. “We’ll have to prepare and try to get our players as ready as possible to defend not only him but (running Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards.”

If you want to see what happens, catch the game on Saturday night at 8pm on CBS-3.

What a Game: Super Bowl XLVII Was to Definitely One to Remember

By Chris Murray

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

For the Chris Murray Report

So what did we learn in the aftermath of the Baltimore Ravens thrilling 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII?

One- it is now safe to say that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.  In Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns passes and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

In the playoffs, Flacco beat Andrew Luck, the No.1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and then knocked off two league MVPs in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Aren’t those guys considered elite quarterbacks?

If you’re still not convinced that Flacco is that dude or at the very least well on his way to becoming that dude,  you need to consider that in the 2012 postseason,  Flacco tossed 11 touchdown passes without an interception which ties Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most in a single postseason  without  a pick.

“One of the things is that without question he’s a big-game performer,” said Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.  “My old high school basketball coach used to always say cream will always rise to the top and that’s Joe.”

Flacco is the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to play in four playoff games without tossing an interception.  He has won seven career playoff games on the road including this last Super Bowl. It is the most road wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Flacco has a better record (9-4) in the postseason than Peyton Manning (9-11), whom he beat in the divisional playoff round.

“Joe is one of those guys that the bigger the game the better he plays and I think that you’re going to see that continue throughout his career,” Caldwell said.

Flacco is currently in negotiations with the Ravens for a new contract. To quote Hall-of-Fame cornerback and NFL Network analyst, Deion Sanders: “Pay that man!”

Colin Kaepernick scores on a 15-yard touchdown run to bring the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens.

Colin Kaepernick scores on a 15-yard touchdown run to bring the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens.

Two-, Colin Kaepernick and the read option are here to stay despite losing in the Super Bowl. Yes, he had a slow start, but Kaepernick still played his butt off, especially in the second half. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense shredded the Ravens defense for 468 yards of total offense-including 182 yards rushing.

With his team down by 22 points, Kaepernick brought the Niners back using a combination of the pass and the running game with Frank Gore and LaMichael James in the Pistol offense.

Gore, who would finish the game with 110 yards rushing and a touchdown, had two runs of 20-plus yards including a big 33-yard run that put ball deep in Baltimore territory late in the game from that read-option offense.

Kaepernick was 16-of-28 for 302 yards and one touchdown. He also ran the ball seven times for 62 yards including a record-breaking 15-yard touchdown run, the longest in Super Bowl history by a quarterback. Not bad for a guy with just 10 starts in his brief career.

On their final drive of the game, the 49ers, in the Pistol formation, drove through a tired Ravens defense from their own 20-yard line to the Baltimore five. One of the big plays on that drive was Gore’s big 33-yard run to the Ravens 7.  A two-yard gain by James moved the ball to the five with about two minutes left.

That leads us to No. 3-Never get away from what’s working. On the 49ers remaining three downs of the game, they passed the ball on three straight plays and came up short.

You would have thought with Kaepernick’s running ability and the way Gore was crashing through the Ravens defense that head coach Jim Harbaugh or offensive coordinator Greg Roman would have called a play with one of them running the ball.

“I always thought they were going to run. I really did. All of those pressures were called for the run, not the pass,” said Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

A quarterback draw or a designed run by Kaepernick from the Pistol or just giving it to Gore on the same option plays that got them into the red zone in the first place.

“We could’ve ran on them all day,” Gore said. “We called plays that we thought that was good, and things didn’t happen.”

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) shakes hands with his brother Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers head coach after the end of Super Bowl XLVII.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (left) shakes hands with his brother Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers head coach after the end of Super Bowl XLVII.

No. 4-This was one hell of a Super Bowl.  This game had just about everything including several interesting storylines. You had the Harbaugh brothers-John and Jim matching wits against one another.

You had Flacco cementing his claim as a top-notch quarterback with an MVP-performance.

Beyonce’s performance at halftime, which included the reunion of Destiny’s Child, was a showstopper within a showstopper of a football game.

There was a 35-minute delay of the because of the power outage in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. I don’t pretend to know what caused it, but I suspect that origins of this outage came from a Buffalo Wild Wings in San Francisco where a 49ers fan sent a text to an electrician friend at the Superdome to shut the power down to stop Baltimore’s momentum.

Just kidding, but the Super Bowl power outage would make a great commercial for Buffalo Wild Wings.

The incredible performance by Ravens receiver and kick returner Jacoby Jones, who caught a 56-yard touchdown pass that will go down as one of the great plays in Super Bowl history.  Jones caught the ball falling to the ground at about the 49ers seven yard line. He got up, put a move on a Niners defender and sped past another for the touchdown.

As a kick returner, Jones opened the second half with an electrifying, Super Bowl record 108-yard kickoff return. To paraphrase a Baltimore Sun reporter Jones will never want for a drink in Baltimore for the rest of his life.

There was also the 49ers valiant comeback from a 28-6 deficit in the third quarterback, led by Kaepernick, who is going to be a star in this league for a good long time barring injury.

Ray Lewis ends an incredible 17-year career with his second Super Bowl ring.

Ray Lewis ends an incredible 17-year career with his second Super Bowl ring.

San Francisco’s comeback fell short on what was a controversial non- pass interference

call on Michael Crabtree who locked horns with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith in the endzone as Kaepernick’s pass on fourth down sailed over both players’ heads.

Was it  holding or pass interference against Baltimore or a good non-call by the officials?  It will be debated for a long time.

And last, but not least, Ray Lewis ending his storied career on an incredible goal-line stand by the Ravens defense. It was a fitting end for arguably one of the best middle linebackers to ever play the game.