BALTIMORE — Quarterback draw is a play that’s run at every level of football. The idea is simple: draw defenders up the field by feigning a pass block and then try to run right past them. It’s easy enough conceptually, but the math becomes different when that quarterback is Lamar Jackson.
As Jackson danced and weaved his way around the Houston Texans' defense into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown in Saturday's AFC divisional round game, he exhibited a trait that he didn't have in 2019 when the Ravens were atop of the NFL: control.
The Baltimore Ravens punched their ticket to the AFC championship game next weekend and it became thoroughly clear that the Ravens will go as far as Jackson can take them. In Saturday's 34-10 victory against the Texans, he looked ready to lead this team to their first Super Bowl berth in a decade.
At halftime, a Super Bowl prognostication seemed dubious. The Texans returned a punt for a touchdown to tie the game 10-10, giving them an opening to get up on the Ravens coming out of the half. Except they didn’t.
According to head coach John Harbaugh and Jackson himself, Jackson ripped into the team at halftime to try and get the Ravens going.
“It would be inappropriate if I said it right now,” Jackson said about his apparent profanity-laced moment that inspired the team. The offense, which wasn't "doing our job," certainly got called out.
"In the second half, we wanted to put points on [the] board," Jackson said. "Moving the ball, moving the chains, we started to look like ourselves.”
The speech seemed to have worked.
The Ravens seized control of the game in the third quarter with two touchdown drives on consecutive possessions in the second half to go up 24-10. The first drive was capped by a Jackson draw. The second was a brutally efficient 12-play, 93-yard drive that ended on Jackson's 15-yard TD pass to Isaiah Likely.
Jackson finished with 100 rushing yards and two TDs on 11 carries. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 152 yards and two more TDs.
Harbaugh noted that the halftime setting for the Ravens was a little amped due to their lackluster first-half performance.
“The locker room was good,” Harbaugh said. “I think everybody was kind of a little edgy. We were all a little edgy. I talked to [the players] last night. I don’t even know how we feel. None of us know how we feel. We’re excited for the opportunity, but we’re edgy, and we’re mad. We have a lot to prove, and I thought that was the feeling in the locker room at the game. Everybody just took a deep breath and said, ‘Alright, it’s 0-0. [We] gave up a big punt return, and it’s our game to go win. We have to go take it.’”
As Jackson inches toward his second MVP award, it’s easier to see the influence that he has on this offense. He’s the emotional pulse of the Ravens’ entire team, not just the offense, and the final numbers of his performance suggest that as well. In the second half alone, Jackson threw for 100 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts while adding two more scores on the ground. He has a mastery over this offense and a growing experience with the sport that has allowed him to develop into an incredibly high-floor player.
“I got the keys to [the] offense and when I see it, I just try to put my team in the best position that I could,” Jackson said about his level of control.
That performance was why Jackson is on track to win his second MVP award in five seasons. The game can become easy for him, even when it’s not for portions.
"Credit to Lamar," Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans said postgame. "Made a ton of great plays. Probably why he's the MVP."
Harbaugh also credited Jackson with helping the team make the adjustments that got the Ravens moving forward in the second half.
“Offensively, we talked about completions and about our profit game,” Harbaugh said. “Let’s get the thing going [and] not try and push the ball downfield quite as much. I think it also helped open up the run game. Lamar did a great job. A lot of that was his thinking as well. He was all over it — what we felt we needed to do in the second half.”
Now, the Ravens await to see who wins the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Regardless, the Ravens are going to be hosting one of the best teams in the AFC. They also have a quarterback who is talented enough and dialed enough to make the plays and changes that can get the Ravens back into the Super Bowl. Now, they just need to do it with a version of Lamar Jackson that looks ready to take on the world.