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Lamar Jackson continues to rewrite record books and narratives as a passer

His historic passing performance on MNF marks the latest in a narrative rewriting season for the former league MVP.

Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Eat your heart out ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and the ‘anonymous league sources’ who actually believed for a second that this would be the year that Lamar Jackson would be “figured out.” The former league MVP has propelled and carried the Baltimore Ravens to a 4-1 start on the strength of his ability as a passer, not runner like many would’ve assumed heading into this season.

When the Ravens lost all three of their top running backs less than two weeks before the 2021 season even started, the wide assumption was that there would be an even greater onus on Jackson in the run game. He’d finished as the team’s leading rusher and became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 or more yards over the last two seasons, so that preconception was completely reasonable one to believe.

However, through the first five games of the year, Jackson appears to have taken a quantum leap as a passer as the Ravens running game has struggled to find consistent success. The development of his ability to throw the ball took center stage in front of a nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football in a thrilling 31-25 comeback win over the former Baltimore professional football franchise.

After a sluggish and sloppy start that still only saw him throw three incompletions in the first half, Jackson rallied the Ravens from down three scores in the second to force overtime and ultimately win by carving up the Indianapolis Colts defense with surgical precision. He predominantly worked from inside the pocket where he was poised and distributed the ball well amongst his targets.

“I was just locked in. I was just calm,” Jackson said. “Everything was just moving slow, and I was just taking it a play at a time. That’s what it was.”

A week after arguably his best passing performance to date, Jackson not only set new career highs and broke franchise records as a passer in Week 5 but he also made NFL history.

Jackson finished 37-of-43 for 442 passing yards, including over 300 in the second half and overtime combined. He nearly threw as many touchdown passes (4) as he had incompletions (6) on the night and his completion percentage of 86.04 was the highest of all-time among 400-plus yard passing performances.

“It’s one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “And it wasn’t easy.”

His competency as a passer was heavily debated, scrutinized, and doubted all offseason but through the first quarter of the season, Jackson’s overall passing statistics are better than some notable, more widely celebrated, and frankly overhyped young signal-callers. He has been a more potent and productive rusher than some of the top running backs in the league as well.

Through the first two years of Jackson’s tenure as the full-time starter, the Ravens rarely trailed in games thanks in large part to a record-shattering rushing attack. However, in the few games where they did find themselves down by double digits, they weren’t nearly as successful and boasted a losing record.

Prior to this game, the biggest comeback that Jackson had been able to complete since becoming the starter was 11 points, which came in Week 2 of this year against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens trailed by as many as 19 points late in the third quarter against the Colts before scoring 22 straight to tie and extend the game.

Jackson has been lethal throwing over the middle of the field but one particular area of his passing development that was constantly brought up coming into the year was his success or lack thereof throwing outside the numbers. He has answered the call and silenced the critics on that front in 2021 as well.

With the victory, Jackson has the most career wins before the age of 25, improved his record in the month of October to 8-0 and gave the Ravens sole possession of first place in the AFC North heading to Week 6. It’s crazy to think he can still improve exponentially as a passer but that’s the reality that we all have the pleasure of living in and one that his teammates are excited to bear witness to up close.

“Man, it’s special. He’s just scratching the surface on how good he can be,” veteran defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I think he’s still 24 years old. I mean, this is crazy – what he’s capable of doing. I know he’s notorious for what he can do with his legs, and I feel like he got a lot of disrespect on his arm talent, and I think a lot of people are eating their words right now.”