By the time the Ravens entered Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs already secured, Jackson had all but wrapped up NFL Most Valuable Player honors. His list of MVP moments was long enough to fill out a page.
So as the team’s regular season wound down and the playoffs neared, The Baltimore Sun took a page’s worth of season highlights to 16 Ravens in the team’s locker room and asked: Which was your favorite?
Tight end Mark Andrews didn’t even need to look at the offerings to make his pick. Guard Marshal Yanda studied the list long and hard, as if it were a playbook, before committing. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser had to flip through Jackson’s highlight reel in his head. “That's a tough one,” he said. “He made a lot of plays.” Punter Sam Koch took the easy way out: “All of them.”
Ultimately, one runaway favorite emerged.
Week 13: Jackson turns San Francisco’s 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams’ feet into a pretzel on an ankle-breaking juke for a 7-yard run.
“And I know this guy,” wide receiver Willie Snead IV said with a chuckle of Williams, whom he battled as an undrafted rookie in training camp with the Cleveland Browns, “so this was kind of sweet.”
Week 14: On another 7-yard carry, Jackson reaches the 1,000-yard rushing mark with a series of head fakes that leaves Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano grasping at shadows and belly-flopping onto the field.
Week 15: After leading a first-quarter touchdown drive that ends with a rare missed extra-point attempt, Jackson guides the Ravens to a touchdown on their next possession against the New York Jets. The offense gets the 2-point conversion, too.
“After I missed the PAT and then we came back out and scored a touchdown and we went for 2 and got it, I was really appreciative that we went for 2 and Lamar and these guys got it,” said kicker Justin Tucker, who called this play a co-favorite. “It made me feel a little less bad about what had happened prior. No one else except me will probably think of that.”
Week 16: Jackson eludes pressure from unblocked Cleveland Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie, steps up in the pocket, pump-fakes as he hops forward, then lofts a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews while his usual footwork is essentially reversed.
“That [stuff] was impressive, bro,” right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “He didn’t have his legs. That [play] was all shoulders and chest. Falling, and he put that [throw] on the money.”
Week 9: With the Ravens tied with the Seahawks late in the third quarter, Jackson convinces coach John Harbaugh to go for it on fourth-and-2 at Seattle’s 8-yard line. Behind a line of blockers including six offensive linemen, three tight ends and one fullback, Jackson waits for daylight, slivers through a crease, then darts into the end zone.
Said center Patrick Mekari: “I think that was like a starting moment for representing who we are and, really, who Lamar is. It kind of just turned the team around at that point. It was awesome. I wasn’t in, but just seeing the passion on the sideline and just the type of game it was, it was probably my favorite moment of the season.”
Defensive tackle Michael Pierce: “The Seattle one was big-time because I think that gave everybody confidence, like, ‘All right, this dude is special.’ If you’re a D-lineman, for somebody not only to gain a yard but to score a touchdown on that play, nobody else is doing that. So that one, for me, was crazy.”
Week 10: Jackson fakes a zone-read handoff to running back Mark Ingram II before keeping the ball himself and following a hole cleared by tight end Nick Boyle. As Jackson breaks into the open field, a wave of Cincinnati Bengals defenders converges on him.
First Jackson zips past safety Jessie Bates III with a quick head fake. Then, with linebacker Nick Vigil and safety Shawn Williams quickly closing in, he plants his left foot, reroutes with his right and spins away from both. Jackson sprints the final 30 yards, skipping past one final defender near the goal line. As he reaches the end zone on his 47-yard instant classic, Jackson raises his hands in triumph.
Andrews: “He’s got that ability to play in the NFL and make guys look like they’re playing in high school. That was probably, for me, the first time — not the first time, but seeing it and just being like, ‘Yeah, he’s like that.’ ”
Tucker: “Because he is Houdini."
Baltimore Ravens Insider Newsletter
Want the inside scoop on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you'll have access to news, notes and analysis from The Sun.
Bowser: “When you get him in open field, man, it's dangerous. You never know what you're going to get. You don't never know which way you're going to go. You just got to place a bet on yourself, and whichever way you go, you go. And whatever happens, happens at the end of the day.”