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A “Lamarvelous” performance by Ravens as Mr. Jackson brings the heat all day long in Miami

Posted on 09 September 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

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.

 

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LJ

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Let the great Lamar Jackson experiment begin in Miami

Posted on 06 September 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

It has been said that the pioneers take the arrows and settlers take the land.

Make no mistake about it, Eric DeCosta and the Baltimore Ravens franchise has staked its claim to the new territory and against all odds – and perhaps the few analytics a football fan would think they understand about quarterbacks running into linebackers on purpose – plan to run to the Super Bowl in Miami, as opposed to flying.

And where it starts this Sunday amidst aquamarine fish chaos in South Florida is exactly where head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens want this to end in early February – on the turf at the Hard Rock Stadium for Super Bowl LIII.

The NFL has had a few variations of this RPO offense in spurts over the years with running quarterbacks but this would be unprecedented in the modern era – keeping a running quarterback healthy long enough in a ferociously violent game to establish a program and win a championship 20 weeks later.

The boldness of this rather quick transition from a wannabe aerial team under Joe Flacco, with a minor in “balance” and “long field goals” that never made the grade after 2013, to a ground and pound and dazzle (on occasion) does not come without a lingering trail of limited success. Last season, when Lamar Jackson took over a seemingly forever scuffling offense and made magic happen with his feet for two months as the air chilled, it made the exit of Flacco and his exorbitant contract an easy decision for this transition period of Ravens football.

And while most of the football world thought John Harbaugh was a dead-coach-walking last November, he has re-signed on for the new youth movement and “offensive revolution” while also bringing the stability you’d want for a team with a lot to prove on both sides of the ball.

The January reality thud of the Chargers perfecting a defensive game plan (on the road, no less) to impair the Ravens and neophyte Jackson is now “to be continued” but the organization and its football cognoscenti have now built the entire operation around No. 8. The plan is to run the NFL and its defensive coordinators ragged week to week with preparing to play left-handed against a supercharged, speed offense with a quarterback who plays with the fearlessness of a kid who won the Heisman Trophy when he was 19 years old.

The Dolphins have already endured two storms this week – Hurricane Dorian went up the coast but the turmoil of the selloff of Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and the general awfulness of everything about the team of Stephen Ross is expected to settle onto the South Florida turf at 1 p.m. on Sunday. This mess of a franchise in absolute disarray should provide an interesting backdrop for the homecoming of Lamar Jackson, who played his high school ball 45 minutes up the road and might have more friends in the stands than the Dolphins will have fans. Meanwhile, first round draft pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown could walk this Sunday to the former Joe Robbie Stadium from his bright lights, beachy hometown just across I-95 and University.

While so much emphasis and attention will be rightly focused on the offensive concepts that Greg Roman will employ around Jackson and a plethora of speedy weapons, it’ll be a Ravens defense that many will similarly need a scorecard to identify early this Sunday.

Earl Thomas is the new Hall of Fame bully in town. Marlon Humphrey has changed his uniform number and will be moving into a new role as a team leader in a secondary that is stacked yet still depleted with the loss of Tavon Young early in training cap.

Who will rush the passer? Who will set the edge? Who picks up the slack for losing C.J. Mosley and Za’Darius Smith in their prime and the wisdom of Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs pre-snap? Will Matt Judon step into a budding role as a franchise-type that the Ravens will want to pay at the end of this walk season? Can Jimmy Smith still be a difference maker in the secondary?

The preseason showed nothing – on purpose, according to Harbaugh and virtually everyone in the locker room this week in Owings Mills.

These first two weeks of real football – visiting hapless Miami and having the scuffling Arizona Cardinals as a homecoming feast next week – might not allow the Ravens to prove much beyond what should be easy wins if this team is going to be a contender this winter. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has been very confident in his unit but the questions will certainly linger until later in the month when the Ravens see Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger as the leaves begin to brown.

But will the Cleveland football franchise “brown” as well as the AFC North darling and favorite?

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers overcome the losses of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to prosper with addition by subtraction?

The mystery is what makes this league so much fun and why I’ll be on a plane to South Beach this weekend.

Eric DeCosta is building a bold, different kind of program in Baltimore in his first effort after two decades of “In Ozzie We Trust.”

It has been called “an experiment” – trying a college offense in a pro game of adjustments and speed.

I like Lamar Jackson.

I am on the record: I have never thought it was a good idea to have a quarterback who

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