It’s unfair to say things came easy for Lamar Jackson in 2019. He just made everything look easy.
This season hasn’t been such a breeze for the reigning NFL MVP.
Last season, the Ravens could go for it on fourth down and even though everyone knew what was coming, it was unstoppable. On Sunday, Jackson was stopped short when it mattered most.
The Ravens called Jackson’s number on a fourth-and-3 right after the two-minute warning. Everyone knew Jackson would be running. He did, and Vince Williams got to him. Jackson was swallowed up by more Steelers defenders well short of the first down. Jackson almost saved the Ravens after that, getting the team to the Pittsburgh 23 in the final seconds after the Steelers couldn’t run out the clock, but an incompletion on the final play sealed a big 28-24 win for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are 7-0. The Ravens, who were 14-2 last season, are 5-2 and in a big hole in the AFC North race. It’s not all on Jackson, but this was a big game for the Ravens and an MVP has to play like it in games like this one. Jackson didn’t.
Jackson made crucial mistakes. He threw a bad pick six to start the game to linebacker Robert Spillane. He lost a fumble deep in Steelers territory. Another interception by linebacker Alex Highsmith when the Ravens led 17-7 led to a big Pittsburgh touchdown.
Jackson also made some big plays when the Ravens were down, and almost pulled out a great comeback, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.
Jackson’s inability to carry the Ravens to a win looked worse when the opposing quarterback, one who has never gotten an MVP vote, did come up with the plays his team needed.
Ben Roethlisberger was 4-of-10 for just 24 yards in the first half. That tied his fewest yards in a first half in his career. High winds didn’t help Roethlisberger. The Ravens defense is going to shut down many quarterbacks. But it was still jarring to see Roethlisberger do practically nothing in the first half of such a big game. Even longtime Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen wondered.
Roethlisberger came alive in the second half. He kept counter-punching when the Ravens regained the lead. He threw touchdowns to Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool, the latter giving the Steelers a 28-24 lead. Roethlisberger made all the plays the Steelers needed for an enormous win.
Jackson was a great player last season and still is very good. But he hasn’t had the same magic he did a year ago. That’s the difference between the Ravens running away with the AFC North last year, and looking at a two-game deficit to the Steelers in 2020.
Here are the winners and losers for Week 8 in the NFL:
The Saints escape with a win: That line has been written a lot this season: “The Saints escape with a win.”
Nothing is easy for New Orleans this season, but they keep winning. The Saints are 5-2 after a 26-23 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Chicago got a touchdown and field goal in the final four minutes to force overtime, and the Saints defense got the one stop it needed in the extra period and a long run by Alvin Kamara set up a Wil Lutz field goal for the win.
The Saints have won four in a row. The first win in that streak was by 6 points, and the next three wins were all by a field goal. Whatever works.
Seattle Seahawks’ NFC West hopes: The Seahawks had a huge day on Sunday. They were the only NFC West team to win.
The Seahawks took care of business against a San Francisco 49ers team that had looked a lot better the last two weeks. They got up big and held on to a 37-27 win. Couple that with a Los Angeles Rams upset loss at the Miami Dolphins, and the 6-1 Seahawks are looking good. They have a half-game lead over the Arizona Cardinals, who had a bye this week, and are two games ahead of the third-place Rams in the loss column.
Seattle has a great quarterback in Russell Wilson and two electric receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. It will be tough to catch them in the division.
Dalvin Cook: If you have Cook on your fantasy team, you probably don’t need to look at the live scoring this weekend. You won.
Cook had an unbelievable day for the Minnesota Vikings in a 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers. He had 183 total yards and four touchdowns ... about midway through the third quarter. His 50-yard touchdown after a short pass put the Vikings up 28-14.
The Vikings might have long odds to make the playoffs, but Cook is still worth watching. And he practically dealt the rival Packers a huge loss by himself on Sunday.
Philip Rivers: He hears the critics. He has commented on slights against him before.
When everyone was giving up on Rivers following a tough loss at the Cleveland Browns, he really heard it. He had 371 yards and three touchdowns in a comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6. After a bye, Rivers was still hot. He had 194 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of an easy 41-21 win over the Detroit Lions.
The Colts are tied for first place in the AFC South. And Rivers is the main reason, which nobody would have predicted a few weeks ago.
Brian Flores: When Flores made the quarterback switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tua Tagovailoa, it opened him up for criticism. The Dolphins were 3-3, a game out of first place in the AFC East, and a losing streak would have made it look like a bad move.
Instead, the Dolphins rallied around their rookie quarterback. Thanks to huge defensive and special teams touchdowns, the Dolphins rolled the Los Angeles Rams 28-17.
Tagovailoa wasn’t great, with just 93 yards. But the Dolphins’ future is Tagovailoa. In the present, they have to play well around him while he learns, and that’s what happened Sunday.
Patrick Mahomes: It was just the Jets, but let’s not take Mahomes’ greatness for granted.
Mahomes threw for 416 yards and five touchdowns before Chad Henne came in for mop-up duty in an easy 35- 9 win over the Jets. The Jets are the NFL’s version of a second bye week, but it was still a great performance by a quarterback who has already established a place in NFL history, even in just his fourth season.
Mahomes did it all. After his fifth touchdown to Tyreek Hill, Hill was shaken up. So Mahomes gave him a piggyback ride to the Kansas City sideline.
Mahomes will face a tougher defense in every other game he plays this season, but a five-touchdown day — which included a fun Dan Quisenberry submarine TD toss to Travis Kelce — is still a great accomplishment. We’re just used to seeing special things from Mahomes. It’s still worth appreciating every week.
Anthony Lynn: You can’t keep blowing games when you should have a win in the bag and keep your job.
The Los Angeles Chargers have lost a disturbing amount of games under Lynn that they seemingly had wrapped up. Another one came on Sunday. The Chargers led 24-3 in the first half, they led by 10 with less than eight minutes left, and lost. They lost on the final play when Drew Lock hit K.J. Hamler for a touchdown, after a questionable pass interference all in the end zone.
The Chargers are masterful at one thing, and that’s blowing leads. At some point that will lead to the Chargers making a change at head coach. It’s inexplicable how one team keeps having these types of losses.
New England Patriots, who really should be sellers: The Patriots gave it all they had and it still wasn’t enough.
The Buffalo Bills didn’t play well and were on the verge of what would have been a horrific and disheartening loss, but Cam Newton fumbled in the final minute with the Patriots in field-goal range and knocking on the door of a go-ahead touchdown. The Bills recovered to seal a 24-21 win.
The Patriots have lost three in a row and are 2-5 on the season. They’re 3.5 games behind the Bills in the AFC East and looking up at the Miami Dolphins, too. Bill Belichick has admitted what everyone can see: This is a team in transition.
The trade deadline is Tuesday. As much as it will hurt the Patriots to throw in the towel on the season, it seems that selling seems to be the prudent move. Newton’s fumble might have ended the Patriots’ season.
Ronnie Stanley and the Ravens: This past week, Stanley signed the largest total contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history, worth more than $98 million from the Ravens. On Sunday, he was carted off with a season-ending ankle injury, according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
When you whine that NFL players are greedy, remember that their livelihoods can be significantly impacted or even end on any play.
Money aside, Stanley missing time is a huge blow to the Ravens. If we’re ranking Ravens players, Stanley is probably second to Lamar Jackson. And if we’re not taking into account the value of quarterback, Stanley has an argument to be first. He’s that good at his job. The Ravens have big goals this season, but losing Stanley might change their ceiling this season.
Cleveland Browns: The weather was awful, but the Browns have to win games like Sunday if they want to make it back to the playoffs.
The Las Vegas Raiders will be one of the teams jostling for a playoff spot with the Browns, and now they have a huge tiebreaker edge after a 16-6 win. The Browns’ offense disappeared in its first full game without Odell Beckham Jr. The wind was brutal and a big reason the Browns went nowhere. Against a below-average Raiders defense, they couldn’t even get in the end zone.
There’s a long way to go for the Browns this season but they might regret Sunday’s loss.
Tennessee Titans’ grip on AFC South: There’s not much margin for error in the NFL. The Titans went from 5-0 to not being in sole possession of first place in their own division in an eight-day span.
While the Colts were handling business in Detroit, the Titans were oddly flat in Cincinnati. The passing game went nowhere, with A.J. Brown mostly being held down. Derrick Henry was fairly quiet, too. It wasn’t a fluky loss to a 1-5-1 Bengals team. The Titans were thoroughly outplayed.
The Colts and Titans are now tied for first place at 5-2. The Titans still have the ability to run away with the division, but a lot has changed in a little more than a week.
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