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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson’s historic performance in rout of Rams was unbelievable — even for Hollywood

Lamar Jackson arrived in Los Angeles with a Hollywood script, something approaching rags to riches: Young quarterback endures hurtful criticism after devastating loss, improves by leaps and bounds in dedicated offseason, leads blue-collar offense to unprecedented heights, wins fans the world over.

What the Ravens star did Monday night, on the road, before a national TV audience, against a Los Angeles Rams defense considered one of the NFL’s strongest, would probably have been been laughed out of the room by studio executives. Too unbelievable. Not enough drama.

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In a 45-6 win at LA Memorial Coliseum, just over 10 miles south of this city’s iconic Hollywood sign, Jackson was more Avenger than mere mortal. In maybe his most well-rounded performance of this breakthrough season, he was 15-for-20 for 169 yards and a career-high-tying five touchdowns. (His passer rating was a not-quite-perfect 139.4, but even the Mona Lisa has imperfections.) He had eight carries for 95 yards. He led the Ravens (9-2) to their seventh straight win, tying the franchise single-season record, a stretch in which they’ve outscored opponents 251-102.

“I just feel like you’re seeing a guy that’s just going out there who is still hungry and still learning,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “He’s getting better. I think that’s what you’re seeing.”

Every big play seemed to break a record or mark a new accomplishment, separating Jackson further and further from the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson in Most Valuable Player consideration:

  • The Ravens reached 47 touchdowns for the season, tying the franchise’s single-season record in 11 games.
  • Jackson became the first player in NFL history to eclipse 3,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in his first two seasons.
  • Jackson became the first player in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes and rush for 50 yards in back-to-back games.

“We’re trying to win the Super Bowl and we’re taking it a game at a time,” Jackson said. “The MVP, if it comes, it comes. I'm not worried about MVP. If it comes, it comes, I'll be satisfied, but I'm trying to win a Super Bowl. That's a team award; that's what I want."

It was pure, unfiltered domination, the likes of which would’ve made for lousy “Monday Night Football” programming — if Jackson weren’t so darn compelling. The Ravens defense forced a three-and-out on the Rams’ opening drive, and then they were off to the races.

They needed nine plays to go 60 yards and score. Then seven plays for 61 yards and another score. Their offense would not stop, could not stop. The Ravens reached the end zone on their six drives with Jackson in at quarterback, the first team to do so since the 2008 New Orleans Saints.

It was the kind of night that was fun for the whole Ravens family. Even after center Matt Skura left the game late in the first quarter with a sprained knee, the attack continued to operate as if all it needed was the patchy grass beneath its feet.

Running back Mark Ingram ran for 111 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, trucking former Ravens safety Eric Weddle on one memorable third-quarter sequence. Gus Edwards had 14 carries for 55 yards and kept early drives alive with key short-yardage runs. Even little-used running back Justice Hill got playing time in a 2-minute-drill drive late in the first half that included more runs than passes but still scored with ease.

It was maybe the NFL’s most impressive team running performance all season. The Rams (6-5) entered the game with the league’s third-most efficient rush defense, according to Football Outsiders. They hadn’t allowed more than 167 yards all season. The Ravens had 173 at halftime.

“I never thought, in a million years, we’d get completely destroyed,” Weddle said after the Rams allowed a season-high 480 yards. “It’s tough to put into words. The defense played awful. We couldn’t get off the field. Couldn’t help our offense. You’ve got to give credit to the Ravens. We knew they were a tough match, as one of the best teams in the league. They showed why they’re the best.”

Jackson spread the love through the air, too. Rookie Miles Boykin was the unlikely leader in receiving yardage (54 yards), while first-round draft pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown had five catches for 45 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns. Wide receiver Willie Snead IV had two catches, both for scores. Four other players caught a pass, including Ingram, who — surprise, surprise — found the end zone, too.

All of which overshadowed a Ravens defense that made the defending NFC champions look less potent than the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Jared Goff, one of the NFL’s highest-paid players, finished 26-for-37 for 212 yards and two interceptions. Their ground game finished with less than 3 yards per carry. Former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, traded at midseason for Ravens linebacker Kenny Young and a late-round pick, had his third pick in five games.

As Rams fans filtered out into a dark California night, wondering at the powerlessness of superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald (one tackle) and all-everything cornerback Jalen Ramsey (one pass defended, one heated postgame confrontation with Peters), Ravens fans were left to salute their new hero. They chanted “M-V-P” for Jackson, who savored another blowout from the sideline, dancing with teammates as backup Robert Griffin III got another cameo.

“I think this is a unique group of guys,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They really are close. They really do love one another. They have a certain belief, I think, in one another and things greater than that. They have faith. They trust. And they work, you know? They go to the next play. They keep it simple that way. So it's just like you said: There is something special here, but you know what? There's nobody crowned in November."

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There are also few teams with the Ravens’ margin for error, now seemingly as big as the Chesapeake Bay. Over their past five games, the Ravens have run away from Wilson's Seahawks in Seattle, dented the New England Patriots' once-impenetrable defense, routed the Houston Texans and Houston MVP candidate Deshaun Watson and now hammered a desperate Rams team with an uber-athletic defense.

That was not enough for Harbaugh, at least publicly, to call his team the NFL’s best late Monday night. “San Francisco, I mean, these guys are the best team in football,” he said. “They're playing at the highest level right now.”

On Sunday afternoon, the 49ers will visit M&T Bank Stadium for what might be the game of the season, a possible Super Bowl preview. San Francisco (10-1) will bring an elite defense and the NFC’s best record. The Ravens will counter with a historic offense and a defense that hasn’t been too shabby, either. They will be favored. And with Jackson on their side, why wouldn’t they be?

49ers@Ravens

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 45, 5

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

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