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Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson producing an MVP spin

The Miami native might just end the season where he started - On The Road To Miami Gardens
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of the team's 49-13 win over the Bengals. [FRANK VICTORES | AP]
Published Nov. 11
Updated Nov. 11

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson turned in another stellar performance, including a spin move that rivals something you would see on a Madden game.

In propelling Baltimore (7-2) to a 49-13 victory against the Bengals (0-8), Jackson completed 15 of 17 — a club-record completion percentage — for 223 yards and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, his second of the season.

Only one other quarterback in NFL history, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in 2007, has produced two perfect passer rating games in a single season.

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But what seemed to be the talk of the league was Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run that included a jaw-dropping 360 degree move. Jackson spied Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil and pirouetted, leaving Vigil so flummoxed he helplessly fell to the ground.

The AFC North leaders have won five in a row for the first time since 2013, with Jackson leading the way with his passing as well as his running. No one has really stopped him this season, but it’ll be interesting to see how he matches up against the Texans and Deshaun Watson, who come to Baltimore next week. Houston may not know how to stop Jackson, but the Ravens vs. Watson?

Here’s a tip: Take the over.

Another AFC Central team to watch

Pittsburgh is without its superstar quarterback in Roethlisberger and has long since said goodbye to multi-purpose running back Leveon Bell and talented but turbulent receiver Antonio Brown.

If the season ended Sunday, however, the Steelers would qualify for the playoffs. Sure, it would be the sixth and final seed, but that’s still an impressive feat for a team that lost its first three games and four of its first five.

Pittsburgh entered Sunday having won three in a row, but it appeared poise to lose to the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. Yet they some how pulled out a 17-12 win even though the offense handed the Rams nine points with a scoop and score by former Lakewood standout Dante Fowler and a safety by Aaron Donald.

It helped that Mason Rudolph threw for 242 yards, but make no mistake, it’s old-fashioned Steelers defense that’s making the difference. It was appropriate, then, that a defensive stand is what secured the win for the Steelers, thanks to an interception off a Joe Haden tip to Minkah Fitzpatrick interception. Pittsburgh traded a first-round pick to Miami for Fitzpatrick and the move now appears brilliant.

The Steelers face the Browns Thursday night.

Remember this guy?

Raiders coach Jon Gruden has his team moving towards contention after a Thursday night win over the Chargers. [D. ROSS CAMERON | AP]

Remember how some Bucs fans pined for Jon Gruden to return as head coach? Remember how he eventually chose the Raiders, making it clear he had not forgotten being fired by Tampa Bay? Remember how he went 4-12 in 2018, trading away talented players? Remember how Oakland appeared to be an even bigger dumpster fire in the preseason with all the baggage Brown brought to the team? Remember how those same Bucs fans said, “I’m glad we didn’t hire that guy.”

Well, don’t look now, but the Raiders won Thursday night and the team ahead of it in the AFC West standings, Kansas City, lost Sunday. Now Oakland (5-4) stands a half-game behind the Chiefs (6-4). Gruden appears to have hit on a winning formula with resurgent quarterback Derek Carr and rookie of the year candidate Josh Jacobs. The Raiders likely will be favored at home against the Bengals next Sunday and at the Jets on Nov. 24. Then comes a rematch against Kansas City, which plays at the Chargers and then gets a week off. The Chiefs easily won the first game in Oakland 28-10, but this looks like a very different Raiders team.

Mahomes deserves apology

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes came back from a knee injury that likely would have kept normal human beings on the sideline for several more weeks. And, he returned in style, throwing for a season-high 446 yards with three touchdowns.

But the Titans beat Kansas City 35-32. His teammates should start writing the “I’m sorry” letters on the flight from Nashville to Kansas City.

The Chiefs gave up 188 yards rushing and two touchdown runs to Derrick Henry, missed an extra point and botched two field goals.

They also had nine penalties for 80 yards, five for 50 in the first quarter including an offensive pass interference by Tyreek Hill that wiped out a 16-yard TD pass from Mahomes to Travis Kelce. That would’ve put the Chiefs up 14-0. Instead, they settled for the first of four made field goals on six attempts by Harrison Butker.

“We need to make plays when it counts, including myself,” said Hill, who finished with 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. “I don’t point fingers at anybody. We’re an offense, we’re a unit, and we’re in this together so it’s all of us.”

Still, Mahomes continues to make remarkable plays — a leaping 69-yard toss to Mecole Hardman stood out — and set impressive records. Mahomes has 8,007 career passing yards and 68 career touchdown passes, the most by a quarterback in his first 25 starts in NFL history. When that’s not enough to earn a victory, it makes you wonder. Kansas City has lost two of its last three.

“We obviously hurt ourselves with penalties in the first half,” Mahomes said.

Wait, the Falcons won a game?

Grady Jarrett (97), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) and defensive end Vic Beasley (44) celebrate a big stop in their 26-9 win over Atlanta. Jarrett recorded 2 1/2 sacks. [RUSTY COSTANZA | AP]

As Bucs fans looked forward to the second half of the season, they identified the games against Atlanta as likely wins. Why wouldn’t they? The Falcons entered Week 10 with one victory, their running game had been non-existent, their defense had been lost and their coach appeared to be on his way out the door. But you know what they say about Falcons eggs that haven’t hatched.

Atlanta upset the Saints 26-9 in New Orleans. It’s a stunning outcome in every way imaginable: New Orleans rarely loses at home, it was coming off a bye week (but so were the Falcons) and it had won six in a row. Atlanta had lost six in a row, but it somehow held the Saints without a touchdown.

It didn’t help that New Orleans gave up six sacks. Atlanta’s defense had recorded only six combined sacks in its previous seven games. The Saints also gave up 12 penalties for 90 yards. Half of those infractions produced Falcons first downs and four extended drives on third or fourth down.

From the Bucs perspective, it’s the worst outcome. The Falcons may gain confidence for their Nov. 24 and Dec. 29 games.

“Winning is always a good tonic, regardless of how the season is going,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Obviously, our backs are against a wall with where we put ourselves at this point in the season. I’m proud of the way that we’ve taken that first step.”

On the flip side, the Saints will bring more intensity into their game against Tampa Bay next Sunday.

“They played better than us,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “This league is too good week-to-week where you can go in and not be focused and ready.”

A very worthy 49ers-Seahawks MNF game, ‘No Joshing’

The unbeaten 49ers (8-0) play host to the Seahawks (7-2) in the most exciting 2019 Monday Night Football matchup to date, and the game may be made more exciting by receiver Josh Gordon making his debut in a Seattle uniform.

Coach Pete Carroll hasn’t fully committed to Gordon playing, but he boasted about how well he’s looked since joining the Seahawks off waivers. New England released from the injured reserve list and 27 teams had to pass on him until Seattle got a chance to pick him up. Why did they give the troubled star a chance? Why did Gordon hope the Seahawks would nab him? Turns out he had formed a long-distance relationship with quarterback Russell Wilson over the years, and Wilson hasn’t been disappointed.

“He’s been great since he’s gotten here,” Wilson said. “He’s been studying like crazy. He sits up (front) and takes tons of notes. He’s highlighting like crazy. He’s in his playbook non-stop. He’s a true pro. He’s been in different systems and stuff like that. I think that helps him. I think he’s really fired up to be here. We’re fired up to have him.”

Meanwhile, the Niners hope to keep their winning streak without tight end George Kittle and linebacker Kwon Alexander. Kittle will be sidelined with knee and ankle injuries, and Alexander is out for the year with a pectoral injury.

Et Cetera

Saquon Barkley finished Sunday’s loss to the Jets with 1 rushing yard on 13 carries. Not only is this his career low in rushing yards, it’s the fewest rushing yards by any non-QB on 10-plus carries since the Saints’ Reggie Bush had minus-5 yards on 11 carries in a Week 9, 2006 win over the Buccaneers. … With Indianapolis’ Brian Hoyer starting in place of Jacoby Brissett and Detroit’s Jeff Driskel subbing for injured Matthew Stafford, exactly 16 of the league’s 32 teams have had multiple starting quarterbacks this season. Driskel, who once beat out Brissett for the starting job at Florida, went 27-for-46 for 269 yards and a touchdown, but the Bears won 20-13, snapping a four-game losing streak. The Lions have now lost five of their last six. … Up 14-3 in the first quarter against the Bengals, Baltimore lined up Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III and Mark Ingram in the backfield together. Jackson ran an option and pitched to RG3 for 9 yards and a first down. With all three having won college football’s highest honor, Ingram called it the “Heisman Package.”

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