Lamar Jackson takes on a ton of responsibility for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s the team’s best passer through two games and his best rusher. He is the signalman, the face of the franchise and the engine of the offense.
But Sunday, in the most tense moment of their young season, the Ravens took the ball from the hands of the MVP.
The result was a 30-yard touchdown and the decisive moment in a 33-16 victory over the Houston Texans that solidified Baltimore’s place as one of the NFL’s biggest title contenders.
On a fourth and a 1 at the Texans’ 30-yard line early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens decided to line up Jackson on the sidelines as a wide receiver. Running back Mark Ingram was able to take the snap. Once he did, he found a gaping hole on the left side of the line and ran through it to the end zone, allowing Baltimore to extend their lead from 10 to 17 points.
The team was waiting for the right storyline to pop that play call.
“It’s something we’ve been practicing for several weeks,” said coach John Harbaugh. “It’s something that offensive coaches, led by [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman, proposed. We have had a lot of representatives on this.
The preparation paid off. Perhaps the Ravens also confused the Texans’ defense by removing Jackson from the center-back as Houston didn’t line up in a good position to defend a run down the left side of the line. .
Beyond sending Jackson to the sideline, Baltimore also reconfigured its offensive line on the play to create a significant lag and provide additional muscle for Ingram to run behind.
Right tackle Orlando Brown moved to the left side of the line before the snap, settling between left guard Bradley Bozeman and left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Another offensive lineman, Patrick Mekari, came on and lined up to Stanley’s left. Tight end Nick Boyle was also on this side of the field, one place behind Mekari’s.
This meant Baltimore had five blockers positioned on the line of scrimmage to the left of center.
This group easily walled off the Texans’ entire defensive line, leaving Ravens back Patrick Ricard one-on-one against safety Justin Reid. Ricard, who tops Reid by around 100 pounds, smothered his opponent into the ground with relative ease.
“All the credit goes to the nine guys who blocked for me,” Ingram said. “I just got to see the hole, hit the hole and finish the race. I am grateful for the O line; the coaches called it a great diet. I just had to take the shot and follow my readings.
As simple as Ingram’s explanation might sound, the play transformed the complexion of the game. If the Texans had stopped the Ravens and regained possession, they could have reduced the lead to one point and forced Baltimore to move. towards the last minutes of the match with a tight score.
Instead, Ingram entered the end zone and Justin Tucker’s extra point helped Baltimore win 17 – three full possessions.
“It was a big game in the game, it was a turning point,” said Harbaugh. “It gave us a bit of a break.
And it came in the rarest way: without Jackson touching the ball.
Aaron Kasinitz covers the Baltimore Ravens for PennLive and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AaronKazreports. Follow PennLive’s Ravens coverage on Facebook and Youtube.