"Yes, he couldn't have thrown it any better than that," said Marquise Brown on Lamar Jackson key third down play in the fourth quarter.
Two games into the 2019 season, quarterback Lamar Jackson has a clear one-two punch at receiver.
In Sunday’s 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, tight end Mark Andrews and rookie wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown combined for 16 catches, 198 yards and one touchdown.
Andrews became the first Ravens player to record consecutive 100-yard receiving games since 2016, while Brown’s 233 receiving yards are the most through any player’s first two NFL games since former Raven Anquan Boldin had 279 with the Cardinals in 2003.
Brown’s most impressive reception came on 3rd-and-11 with 3:05 to play when he caught a 41-yard pass that essentially sealed the team’s victory.
“We’ve got to get the first down," Jackson said, “and there’s man-coverage on him. No safety help over top, and he ran a great route. I just had to make a great throw. He came down with the catch. I had other options, but that was the best one to go to at the time.”
The two Oklahoma products’ skill sets — Brown a deep threat who stretches a defense, and Andrews a big-bodied receiver who works over the middle of the field — have already complemented each other.
On Andrews’ 27-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, the Ravens used Brown as a decoy to free up Andrews. Brown was placed into motion and Jackson faked a pass to Brown before finding a wide-open Andrews along the sideline.
“It was a great play call,” Andrews said. “That’s a schemed-up thing. That was something that we saw that we thought we could try to exploit in their defense. Credit to the coaches for seeing stuff like that. It’s not easy to do that to create plays like that and just basically walking into the end zone. I’ll give [the coaches] that one.”
Andrews’ connection with Jackson dates to last summer, when the two rookies began developing a rapport in training camp and preseason games with the second- and third-team units.
They brought that relationship into games when Jackson took over as the team’s starter last season, and now this year. Andrews has become a security blanket for Jackson, who found Andrews on Sunday for three third-down conversions.
“That’s the money down,” Andrews said. "I pride myself on being able to get open and make plays. I think they have a lot of trust in me in those situations.
“The way [Jackson] plays the game and the way I run routes and the way I see the game is super similar. We just go out there and play ball and take what the defense gives us. Our chemistry has grown a ton just since last year.”
Brown’s prominence in the passing game has come as a bit of a surprise, considering the team brought him along slowly from Lisfranc (foot) surgery during the summer.
The No. 25 overall draft pick in April played sparingly in the team’s final two preseason games — both of which Jackson didn’t play — and he surfaced on the team’s injury report heading into last week’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
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The Ravens and Brown made sure to eliminate any concerns over the receiver’s health, targeting him early in the team’s 59-10 win victory.
Brown, in just 14 snaps, recorded four catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said that Brown’s debut was “fairly unprecedented” but added, “I’m not really surprised that he makes those kinds of plays, because we see it in practice."
In Sunday’s win, Jackson once again sought out Brown early, completing three passes to him on the team’s first possession. Brown finished with a team-high 13 targets as Jackson only targeted two other wide receivers, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV, four times total.
As Brown was quick to remind reporters last week, he’s still dealing with pain from foot surgery and hasn’t reached his top speed yet.
His continued rehabilitation — as well as his room for growth — combined with the comfort level Jackson has shown with Andrews, have led to Jackson’s improvement as a passer and his historic numbers through two games.
“It’s not just that he can run fast,” coach John Harbaugh said of Brown. “He’s a receiver. He’s a young receiver. He knows he has a lot to learn. He works really hard at it. He’s dedicated, and he just needs to keep improving.”