SportsPulse: The NFL’s first tremendous wild-card Saturday triple-header didn’t disappoint. USA TODAY Sports activities’ Mackenzie Salmon breaks down the most important tale traces from each and every sport.


After two years of disappointments and any other season’s price of reminders of what he supposedly couldn’t do, Lamar Jackson vanquished the ghosts of postseasons previous.

Turning in an authoritative efficiency, the reigning NFL MVP led his Baltimore Ravens to a 20-13 dissatisfied of the Tennessee Titans within the AFC wild-card spherical of the playoffs Sunday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

Jackson handed for 179 yards and rushed for a game-high 136, together with a 48-yard landing.

Within the procedure, he laid to relaxation the entire knocks leveled in opposition to him since he made his playoff debut as a rookie in 2018.

He can’t play from in the back of, they stated, mentioning the truth that since he become a starter, Jackson and the Ravens are the one NFL crew to by no means win a sport when trailing via 10 issues or extra.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson carries the ball for yardage while Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro chases him in the third quarter of Sunday's AFC wild-card game.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson carries the ball for yardage whilst Titans protection Kenny Vaccaro chases him within the 3rd quarter of Sunday’s AFC wild-card sport. (Photograph: Wesley Hitt, Getty Pictures)

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Smartly, on Sunday, Jackson shook off an early interception and dug them out of a 10-Zero hollow. The Ravens scored 17 unanswered issues in the second one and 3rd quarters to take a lead they by no means relinquished.

He can’t win within the playoffs, they stated on account of his Zero-2 put up season file, together with final season’s 28-12 loss to Tennessee the place he grew to become the ball over thrice and were given sacked 4 instances whilst posting an unsightly 63.2 passer score.

However in his 3rd profession playoff sport, Jackson displayed larger adulthood and backbone, offering seize performs whilst protecting the Titans off stability and galvanizing his teammates to show in a few of their perfect performances.

Broad receiver Marquise Brown had 9 catches for 109 yards; operating again Josh Dobbins had a speeding landing, and fellow again Gus Edwards had key late-game positive factors to assist put the competition out of succeed in. The protection, in the meantime, contained speeding champion Derrick Henry to only 40 yards on 18 carries a 12 months after he gashed them for 195 yards on 30 rushes. And cornerback Marcus Peters had a game-sealing interception of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

However in an indication in their appreciation of his management, the Ravens coaches and avid gamers gave Jackson the sport ball in a short lived locker room birthday celebration.

He had earned it via enduring two years of disappointments and the entire complaint, and via the best way he returned from a November coronavirus-induced layoff to spark a six-game, playoff-berth-clinching win streak after which punctuated all of it with Sunday’s efficiency.

“It is loopy as a result of, I were given my first playoff win, and I am satisfied for myself,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey stated, “however I am virtually extra satisfied for Lamar. It sucks to be in his place every now and then as a result of whilst you lose, it is just his fault. It is no person else’s fault or the protection’s fault. So, it is at all times Lamar’s fault, and whilst you win, it is him as smartly. It is nice when it is at the profitable facet. Nevertheless it sucks as a result of he can play his center out, but when different guys fall quick, and I are aware of it’s a crew sport, however each time it is a loss, it is at all times his fault.”

Certainly Jackson continuously has discovered himself on the heart of unjust complaint all over his younger NFL profession. A lot of it has to do with the truth that he doesn’t glance or play like the normal NFL passer. 

He’s a tender Black guy, making his means on the planet his means. However that implies, he’s seen with a extra crucial eye, particularly when his means doesn’t produce optimum effects or when issues don’t play out the best way the critics imagine they will have to. 

However, it’s steadily lost sight of that Jackson — the youngest participant to win the Heisman Trophy whilst in faculty and the youngest to win NFL MVP honors — simply grew to become 24 and simplest is in his 3rd season. Enlargement takes time.

Enlargement got here in the second one part of the season and persisted to present itself Sunday.

Across the halfway level of the season, the microscope educated ever so fiercely on Jackson as Baltimore misplaced 4 of 5 and 3 instantly from Weeks 10 to 12. Jackson wasn’t as impactful along with his legs or arm. The offense did not scare combatants, and the protection struggled to compensate. At 6-Five coming into Week 13, Baltimore, which posted the most productive file within the league final season, used to be at risk of lacking the playoffs. However Jackson returned from the Week 12 COVID-19 absence hellbent on saving his crew’s season.

As a crew, Baltimore’s coaches and avid gamers centered at the mantra of “End,” and Jackson looked as if it would play with larger aggression and extra freedom. 

“Simply being locked in,” Jackson defined of his late-season mindset. “There have been a number of instances in video games the place we had combatants beat, and our protection would prevent combatants and get off the sector and we weren’t responding. Our greatest factor after COVID used to be, ‘End.’ We do a really perfect task of speaking about it at the box, however we don’t end, so the most important factor used to be us taking benefit (and completing). … We took our time, every play and fascinated with scoring issues and completing drives.”

Jackson and the Ravens for sure looked as if it would acquire momentum as the sport reached its past due levels. The road started to steamroll the Titans’ defensive entrance, paving the best way for time-consuming runs. The protection netted stops on key downs, and there used to be a glance of resignation at the portions of Tennessee’s avid gamers. 

With 1:45 left, proper after the Peters select, Jackson ripped off a 33-yard run to the Tennessee 29, then slid to steer clear of going out of bounds. 3 Edwards runs later, Jackson took a knee to expire the clock and jogged to the locker room, jubilant and relieved to have in the end proved he and his teammates may win within the postseason.

“It feels excellent,” Jackson stated. “I knew we had the potential of doing that, however there’ll at all times be naysayers it doesn’t matter what, so we need to take it one sport at a time. … I don’t truly care what folks say. I’m simply satisfied we were given the win and to transport onto the following spherical.”


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