Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes prepare for historic showdown

OWINGS MILLS — Lamar Jackson likes to say he doesn’t face the opposing team’s quarterback, rather he plays against the defense.

This week, though, Jackson has been asked often about facing Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday at 3 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.

The winner advances to the Super Bowl, but the matchup has historic significance.

It will be the first AFC title game in NFL history matching two starting Black quarterbacks. It’s also the first time a pair of MVPs under age 30 will face off in the postseason.

Jackson is proud to be a part of history but his focus is on the game He joked that he was not looking forward to the showdown.

“I don’t like competing against him at all,” Jackson said, drawing laughter from the media. “But, yes, he’s a great quarterback. [He’s] definitely a Hall of Famer. It’s a no-brainer. He’s definitely a Hall of Famer. But I believe [it’s] just two greats – up-and-coming greats – just going toe-to-toe, like a heavyweight fight [and] heavyweight matchup. That’s just what I see.”

Jackson had his finest season as a pro, throwing for a career-high 3,678 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions, finishing with the NFL’s fourth-best rating (102.7). He added 821 yards rushing with five scores, becoming the only quarterback in NFL history with multiple seasons to reach the 3,000/800 milestone.

Mahomes is a fan.

“He’s going to be the MVP for a reason,” Mahomes said of Jackson. “He goes out there, he leads his team, he scores, he runs, he throws. He does whatever it takes to win, and that’s what the greats do.”

Mahomes had another solid season with 4,183 yards passing, which ranked sixth in the NFL, with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He is 13-3 in the playoffs and has advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past six seasons.

Mahomes knows Jackson and the Ravens present a difficult test.

“It’s challenging. The way he’s able to just be a competitor and score the football, obviously, and then their entire team,” Mahomes said. “It’s a tall task. You’ve got to go out there and play your best football, and if you make any mistakes it seems like the game’s going to go the other way. We’ve been able to play in a couple of games, not in a few years now, but I’ve admired watching him from afar and know that it’s gonna be a great challenge for us every time we go up against him.”

Jackson might have to be prepared for a shootout with Mahomes, who has gone 3-1 against the Ravens, throwing for 12 touchdowns with two interceptions for a 119.1 quarterback rating. Mahomes played exceptionally well again last Sunday in a thrilling 27-24 victory over the Bills in Buffalo.

Now, he’s coming to Baltimore, but Jackson has confidence in his defense.

“There is no pressure at all on my shoulders or on my mind,” Jackson said. The defense just has to do what they’ve been doing all season, and we’ve got to do what we’re supposed to do – put points on the board – and we will have nothing to worry about. Just everyone [has to] do their job. [The Chiefs are] a great team – no doubt about it – [in] all phases – special teams, offense, defense – but if you’re scoring points, and you’re stopping the opposing team, you’ll have a fair chance to win. And that’s just what we need to do.”


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