The NFL’s most exciting player sure makes games boring.
Bright lights. National TV. Coliseum rocking. Rams amped.
And splat. Ravens 45, Rams 6.
In order, Baltimore’s possessions ended: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, punt, end of game.
Said Rams safety Eric Weddle: “We got our faces peeled off.”
The culprit was Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who directed four touchdown drives before the football ever touched the ground.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Weddle said. “I never thought in a million years we’d get completely destroyed. It’s tough to put into words. Defense played awful. Couldn’t get off the field. Couldn’t help our offense ...”
Jackson completed nine of nine passes in the first half with three scoring throws, flicking the ball so effortlessly he basically had a dart in one hand and a pint in the other.
To think people used to wonder whether this guy was accurate enough to hold down the job.
A year ago, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was on his way out the door, Joe Flacco was the struggling starter, and Jackson was running the scout-team offense.
The Rams, meanwhile, had a scorching offense, were 10-1 and on a trajectory that ultimately would land them in the Super Bowl.
What an ankle-snapper of a reverse. The Rams are now reeling and the Ravens are revolutionary, with the most electrifying offense the NFL has seen in years. Not that you’d know that talking to Jackson after the game. The quarterback who breaks all the rules (and records) on the field stays strictly within his lane off it.
“That was a physical team, a great team,” he said. “We just came to play tonight.”
It’s not as if this came against a lousy Los Angeles defense. Since trading for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in mid-October, the Rams’ defense had allowed just one touchdown in each of four consecutive games.
In this one, though, it was a field general versus the Washington Generals. Jackson’s final numbers: 15 for 20 for 169 yards and five touchdowns with a lofty passer rating of 139.4. He also ran eight times for 95 yards.
The Rams, like a lot of NFL teams, have a game on the video board during breaks in the action where there are three helmets and one football. The helmets move and spin and rotate, and fans have to follow where the hidden football goes.
That, in a nutshell, is the Baltimore offense.
“What they’re doing on offense, a lot of times I wouldn’t know for a few seconds after they snapped it, if he handed it or he still had it,” said Weddle, who played for the Ravens last season. “Imagine the whole defense. You’re trying to play your rules and play the guy, and these guys are just coming downhill and doubling and getting extra gaps, and you’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, after an interception by former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters — indignity on top of indignity — Jackson was replaced by backup Robert Griffin III.
The Ravens are 15-3 since Jackson took over as their starting quarterback near the end of last season. His 15 regular-season victories are tied with Seattle’s Russell Wilson for the most during that span.
Jackson made a convincing case in this showcase to push the pause button on the season so the NFL can name him its most valuable player right away.
Wilson is fabulous, but Jackson is otherworldly.
After the game, Jackson walked to a wall near the mouth of the locker room tunnel to greet a large cluster of Ravens fans. He gave them his wrist bands, signed some autographs and shook some hands. They serenaded him with chants of “M-V-P.”
“It’s OK, but I’m trying to win the Super Bowl,” he said later. “You take it a game at a time. I’m not worried about MVP.”
It’s entirely possible that Sunday’s matchup between San Francisco and Baltimore will be a Super Bowl preview pitting the NFL’s most smothering defense and most dynamic offense.
That would be a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, when it was 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh versus his older brother, John. Baltimore won that thriller 34-31. Maybe the most memorable part of that game was when the lights went out at the Superdome.
The lights didn’t go out at the Coliseum on Monday night. It just felt that way.