Every week, we hear about how Aaron Rodgers has no help and that's why the Green Bay Packers aren't good this season. Rodgers plays that up by gesticulating wildly after every incomplete pass, which shifts blame to his teammates or coaches. TV cameras have managed to find Rodgers every time he does it.
Lamar Jackson had less help on Monday night than Rodgers has had this season. His top two running backs, top receiver and top tight end — perhaps the best TE in the NFL — were out. Jackson just made everyone around him better and led a victory.
The Baltimore Ravens might be the NFL's best team that isn't often mentioned as being a contender. They are 6-3 after pounding the New Orleans Saints 27-13. Had it not been for three blown leads, we might be talking about the Ravens the same way we do the Buffalo Bills or Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC. The main reason for the Ravens' success is Jackson, who was given a skeleton crew to work with on offense and made it work.
There were no excuses. Just a great player finding a way to win.
Ravens got contributions from many players
Here's the list of Ravens who caught passes from Jackson on Monday night, against a Saints defense that had shut out the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8: Isaiah Likely, Josh Oliver, DeSean Jackson, Demarcus Robinson, James Proche II, Mike Davis, Kenyan Drake, Devin Duvernay, Justice Hill, Patrick Ricard.
No matter how much you study NFL depth charts, there was probably at least one or two "Who is that?" moments for everyone watching whenever Jackson would complete a pass. Did you remember the Ravens just picked Jackson up off the scrap heap? That Davis was still deep down the roster? Who Oliver (17 receptions in three seasons) even was?
The Ravens were without running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, receiver Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews. They were all out with injuries. They still put up more than 300 yards and 27 points.
The Ravens weren't prolific on offense but they were good enough. Jackson hit Likely for a touchdown to get the scoring going. They ran it effectively as they usually do, and Drake had two rushing touchdowns.
The Ravens have been very good just about every season John Harbaugh has been their coach. There's a reason. They have an identity and they're comfortable with it.
Ravens D comes up big
The Ravens defense had an even bigger say in the win.
Baltimore added linebacker Roquan Smith in a trade since their last game and they activated pass rusher Tyus Bowser, who had been recovering from a torn Achilles suffered in last season's finale. Baltimore looked like an elite defensive team most of the game. In the third quarter, the Saints started to get some momentum on a long drive. But a well-timed third-down blitz got cornerback Marlon Humphrey home for the sack and the Saints had to settle for a field goal.
Justin Houston had a huge night for the Ravens. He had 2.5 sacks and then got an interception in the fourth quarter off a tipped pass. The score was 20-6 when he grabbed that interception and that pretty much ended the game. Drake scored shortly after to put the Ravens ahead 27-6.
The pass rush was on top of Saints quarterback Andy Dalton all night. As a result, the Saints offense rarely moved the ball. The Saints got a strange touchdown late when tight end Juwan Johnson somehow stayed in bounds down the sideline on a 41-yard score. The game was well decided by then.
In a league that is dying for consistent, good teams, maybe the Ravens can emerge. Their win on Monday night was a statement. Even when they're not close to fully healthy, they're still pretty good.