Step aside, Russell Wilson, there's a new NFL MVP front-runner.
While Wilson struggled on Sunday, his counterpart, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, put together another superb performance while leading his team to a 30-16 win over the homesteading Seattle Seahawks. The Ravens' defense complemented Jackson's efforts by scoring two touchdowns and handing Wilson his worst game of the season to date.
Why the Ravens won
Jackson's clutch plays throughout the day was one of the key differences between two offenses that struggled to get the ball into the end zone. While Seattle's defense had their moments, Jackson simply could not be stopped when the Ravens needed him to make a big play.
Jackson's playmaking ability enabled Baltimore to go on 11 and 13 play drives that chewed up nearly half of the second half game clock. His 30-yard-run on third and eight at Baltimore's 12-yard line set up Justin Tucker's third field goal of the day while giving Baltimore a double-digit lead with 3:50 left.
Baltimore's defense also deserves a significant amount of credit for the outcome of Sunday's game. Not only did the Ravens hold Wilson to 20 of 41 passing, they held Chris Carson, who had rushed for 100 yards in each of Seattle's last three games (all wins), to just 65 yards on 21 carries. Their two touchdowns off two turnovers — the second one a Marlon Humphrey return off of D.K. Metcalf's fumble late in the fourth, put the game on ice.
Why the Seahawks lost
As stated above, the Seahawks' defense was unable to contain Jackson, who now has three 100-yard rushing performances this season. Conversely, Seattle's running game, while not awful, didn't do enough to help opening up things or Wilson, who threw for just 241 yards against a Baltimore defense that has come to life after allowing 73 points in consecutive losses earlier in the season. The Seahawks also failed to come up with enough big plays that they were the beneficiary of during their three-game winning streak. After converting on eight of their first 11 third downs, Seattle converted on just two of their final six third downs.
Wilson struggled with his accuracy, completing less than half of his pass attempts. It's clear that the Seahawks miss Will Dissly, the team's talented tight end who may miss the remainder of the season with an Achilles injury. Seattle's offensive game plan was also pretty vanilla, with Seattle often settling for minimal gains by Carson.
Seattle, up 10-6 and looking to add to their lead, instead found themselves trailing after Peters picked off Wilson and returned it 67 yards to the end zone with five minutes left until halftime. The Seahawks, after falling behind 3-0 early, had scored on each of their last two possessions and had just forced Baltimore three-and-out prior to Peters' pick. While Seattle would recover, tying the score before halftime on a Justin Myers' field goal, the Seahawks lost their mojo following Peters' pick (they took far fewer shots downfield in the second half), as Baltimore parlayed their momentum into 17 second-half points.
Play of the game
Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh initially sent out his field goal unit after a 13-yard run by Jackson on third and 15 set up a fourth and goal on Seattle's 8-yard line. But after calling a timeout, Harbaugh sent his offense back on the field with the score tied at 13. Harbaugh's decision was rewarded by Jackson, who scored on a designed quarterback run. The Ravens never trailed again and would lead by as many as 17 points late in the game.
"I told him, 'We're gonna win for you. I know you were here for years; this was your original home. And we got your back. I'm gonna put you on my back, put the team on my back if I've got to. We're gonna win.'" -- Lamar Jackson on his pregame promise to Baltimore safety Earl Thomas, who spent the first nine years of his career with the Seattle Seahawks. Thomas won a ring as a member of Seattle's Legion of Boom defense in 2013.
"Oh my gosh, let's not even get to that. I need to soak that in. Unbelievable. The guy's a playmaker, and the guy's a tremendous leader. He's only going to get better, that's what I think. He's only going to get better." -- Marcus Peters, who was traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Ravens last week, on being Lamar Jackson's teammate in Baltimore.
Baltimore (5-2) will enjoy a Week 8 bye before hosting the undefeated New England Patriots on "Sunday Night Football," Seattle (5-2) will head to Atlanta next Sunday to take on the 1-6 Falcons.
Relive all the action in the live blog below.