Lamar Jackson has been building his MVP case over the past few weeks, but he was still waiting on that big moment where it became clear that he was the favorite. He got that moment on a national stage on Monday night, as the Baltimore Ravens blew out the Los Angeles Rams, 45-6.
Jackson completed 15 of 20 passes for 169 yards and five touchdowns in his "Monday Night Football" debut. He also rushed eight times for 95 yards. He didn't throw an incompletion in the first half, led the Ravens on four touchdown drives and continued that stellar play in the second half. After halftime, Jackson marched the offense 75 yards down the field, completed two third down attempts, including a touchdown pass to running back Mark Ingram.
The Ravens were dominant on the ground as well. Ingram rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while Gus Edwards had 55 yards on 14 carries. In all, Baltimore rushed for 285 yards compared to Los Angeles' 221 yards of total offense.
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Lost in the Jackson hoopla, however, was the strong play by the Ravens defense. This unit has been playing some of its best ball as of late, and they played a big part in the blowout win on Monday night, picking off Jared Goff twice. Goff passed for just 212 yards and Todd Gurley rushed for just 22 yards. It was absolute domination.
With this performance, Jackson jumped in front of Russell Wilson as the MVP favorite, the Ravens solidified themselves as the best team in the AFC and maybe the best team in the NFL.
Let's take a deeper dive into how the Ravens destroyed the Rams on Monday night:
Why the Ravens won
If you saw even a sliver of "Monday Night Football," you know exactly why: Lamar. Jackson. On a night Michael Vick was in town to watch the second-year signal-caller, No. 8 elicited "M-V-P" chants while staying on pace to shatter Vick's record as a dual weapon out of the pocket. And that was only part of his near-perfect performance. Jackson could not have been much better tearing the Rams' defense apart, threading throws with ease and darting down the field with the same fluidity that's filled highlight reels since September. Baltimore's defense was solid, too, don't get us wrong; it successfully shook Jared Goff early in the contest and never allowed Sean McVay's unit to get in rhythm. But offense was the name of the game in the Ravens' incredible outing, with Jackson spreading the ball around, running it freely himself and leaning on another great, gritty night for Mark Ingram (111 yards, 1 TD), all while commandeering even more aggressive fourth-down play calls. Look at this way: Any time a team picks up 31 first downs, averages nearly 7 yards per play and possesses the ball for 39:56, you're going to have an incredibly hard time winning, let alone even staying competitive.
Why the Rams lost
McVay's offense is broken. We could get more specific here and point only at Goff, but let's start broadly. Is it problematic that Wade Phillips' defense, the same one that bottled up the Super Bowl champion Patriots for most of the big game last February, surrendered 480 yards and 45 points in prime time? Duh. But we all knew Jackson was going to pile up yards no matter what. Maybe Aaron Donald could've actually made a play or two Monday night, but this game was always going to be about whether McVay could finally find a way to get his QB in rhythm. Newsflash: He could not. Goff actually connected on some nice throws into tight coverage in the first half, even after taking a few hard hits in the pocket, but once again, with so-so pass protection and a completely inept ground game "headlined" by 22 yards on six carries from Todd Gurley, he was asked to do too much when, in reality, he's best served as an engineer of McVay-catered circumstances. You can obviously point fingers all over the place and debate whether the defense's early crumble pinned Goff and Co. into a one-dimensional corner, but no matter what, the Rams tanked under the bright lights.
The Ravens may have scored six touchdowns in their big win, but momentum had completely swung their way as early as midway through the opening quarter. After gaining just two yards and going three-and-out on their first drive, the Rams punted away, only to watch Jackson lead a nine-play TD drive capped by the first of two Marquise Brown scores. The ensuing drive was a chance for McVay's squad to respond with a punch of its own, but then came a corner blitz by Jimmy Smith that saw Goff get slammed into the ground for an eight-yard loss. The sack ended up dooming the drive, forcing a second straight three-and-out and setting up an inevitable Ravens response -- Jackson's second TD to Brown on an oh-so-smooth offensive series. From that point on, it was all Ravens, all the time.
Play of the game
Jackson didn't score on this second-quarter scramble, tripping over his own feet just before the goal line, but he still proved why he's such a lethal threat on the ground and the obvious favorite to claim this year's MVP award:
"No, it's grown men out here, they trying to feed their family.''
Lamar Jackson to ESPN's Lisa Salters after the game when asked if he felt like he could do anything he wanted to do against the Rams defense on Monday night.
The Ravens (9-2) will return home on Sunday, Dec. 1, for an afternoon Week 13 showdown with the San Francisco 49ers (10-1), who just dismantled the Green Bay Packers and might very well be the class of the NFC. (Super Bowl preview, anyone?) The Rams (6-5), meanwhile, will hit the road for a divisional matchup with the Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1) on the same day at 4:05 p.m. ET.
Relive all the action from Monday night's divisional clash right here: