It was over early on Sunday afternoon in Miami. The Baltimore Ravens ran left and threw right and did almost everything perfectly.
I won’t be the guy who points out that they bobbled the opening kickoff.
The legendary performance of Lamar Jackson and the offense will be talked about until the next time a quarterback around here goes 9-for-9 with four touchdowns to start a day and ends it with a “perfect” passer rating of 158.3 in a 59-10 road win over a team and a franchise in a world of aquamarine hurt.
Books might one day be written with this as Chapter 1. And I might be the only one writing them again but I can say I was there in Miami on that steamy Opening Day when the purple mystery was unleashed on the NFL.
Look, Lamar ran the ball like crazy last year. He took over an offense that wasn’t his – in midflow with the season on the line and the job of the head coach in limbo – and made it work every week for two months until the Chargers gave him fits and sent him home.
But everyone in the NFL sphere knew it was going to take more than the mentality of a running back and pitching the ball around backwards to win consistently. And Lamar is so insulted and driven by that. It clearly stands in the center of motivating him, this criticism of his ability to read defenses and beat an NFL team with his arm.
“Not bad for a running back,” said the 22-year old with the purple Heisman chip on his shoulder.
Apparently, Sunday was what it looks like when he’s mad.
Lamar Jackson feels like a winner.
Whatever the “it” factor and aura that permeates greatness – all legends are constructed and created of those events when athletes do things that no one has ever seen done – Lamar has that kind of ability.
I’ve been to Miami a lot of times (and by the way, the stadium still sucks, Stephen Ross). I’ve seen a handful of World Series games, three Super Bowls, the Rolling Stones and a couple of playoff football games. I was even there the night that they put Dan Marino into the Hall of Fame in the rain.
I won’t soon forget the Lamar Jackson Show on a 94-degree day in Miami Gardens.
Sunday was a kid coming back to his home turf and showing what he’s learned so far. It was as impressive as anything you’ll ever see in a professional sporting event – a 59-10 win with QB rating perfection and a seat on the bench at 3 p.m.
Looking up at the scoreboard when the score was 28-0, it was clear we were seeing No. 8 do the things that needed to be done if that Chargers fiasco in January is not to be repeated. And eight months later, whatever that “Lamarvelous” performance was to begin the 2019 season at Hard Rock Stadium, it should roll into some legitimate expectations in Baltimore for the rest of the year.
The Ravens appear to be a good NFL team with one of the most exciting players in the sport emerging with a unique skill set.
When it became apparent that the outcome wasn’t going to be in question – and I’m not sure if that was when it was 28-0 or 35-3 – I tweeted that Ryan Fitzpatrick would provide a fair test the rest of the day for the defense. And Fitzpatrick did until he was pulled for Josh Rosen, who every team in the NFL preferred over Lamar Jackson just 18 months ago.
And Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale couldn’t have a paid a more wily veteran than Fitzpatrick, who would gunsling and fearless his way throughout the heat of the afternoon, challenging a young-ish defense that is trying to learn to communicate and gel.
It’s one thing to have preseason or backfield “friendlies” during August. But the game moved at a different speed in the heat of Miami and the Ravens as a team really answered that call.
It could’ve gotten sloppy or chippy or stupid late in a blowout win. It didn’t.
Lamar to Andrews looks special. Mark Ingram looks like a leader. Earl Thomas looks like a franchise kinda player with plenty to prove in his November.
All of the toys of Eric DeCosta were brought out of the purple garage for a spin.
I was the idiot asking Marquise “Hollywood” Brown some South Florida geography questions at his locker last week. On Sunday, he ran toward both oceans and away from anyone who can’t get him on the ground immediately.
Hollywood Brown. No one can catch him!
When the only thing you’ve done wrong all day is field questions about running up the score on the road with fake punts, you’ve had a helluva day.
And no coach named “Harbaugh” has ever pulled the foot off the gas. And, I’m sure he’s said at some point repeatedly, “I don’t even know what that means!?”
If you don’t want a fake punt run at you when it’s 35-3, then defend the play.
Now, the Arizona Cardinals will visit Baltimore to deal with the next round of purple mystery mayhem at the hands of this Lamar offense.
What will we see next week that we didn’t last week?
Youth is being served in Baltimore. Defenses are going to be physically tested – as will the passing prowess of Lamar Jackson under duress once better teams start appearing on the other sideline.
This is the part where I mention that the Miami Dolphins will get blown out of a dozen games this year with that ragtag outfit.
Kansas City on the road in two weeks will prove more. Hapless Cleveland will be playing for their season by the time they limp in here in a few weeks. And the Pittsburgh Steelers looked quite vulnerable late in the Foxborough evening under the lighthouse.
Now, it’s time to dazzle the home crowd against Kyler Murray on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Make no mistake about it – it is a fun time to be a Baltimore Ravens fan. Lots of hope and fun and unknowns.
The purple bandwagon will welcome you back onto the boot.
We still have some room.