Ravens players see the fire in Lamar Jackson this postseason

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson called the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs “another game.”

It is the biggest home game in the 28-year history of the Ravens, but Jackson’s description illustrates how he has tried to approach each game this season: “locked in.”

Baltimore has not hosted an AFC Championship Game in 53 years; the Ravens have never hosted one. The city’s excitement has reached fever pitch with pep rallies and parties in anticipation of the showdown between Jackson’s Ravens and Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs.

Jackson is trying to stay grounded and focused on beating Kansas City, and not the high stakes of the game where the winner advances to the Super Bowl.

His teammates have no doubt Jackson is ready for the biggest moment of his six-year career.

“Like, [Roquan Smith] was saying, ‘Pressure busts pipes, [and] we’re in the diamond-making business’ [and] all that,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “Like, I don’t feel that Lamar feels pressure. And it’s [that] just certain people encounter certain moments in their lives where they’re like in their flow state – it’s their time – and I feel like it’s [No.] 8’s time.

“He’s just … You can just see it in his eyes, you can feel it in his aura [and] his energy. So, I don’t really know about pressure. You’ve got to ask him. He’s got a bad stomach, but I don’t know if [he feels] pressure. But other than that, he’s solid, man. He’s locked in. Like I said, I really just feel like it’s his time.”

Jackson has been one of the NFL’s most dominant players during the regular season, leading the Ravens to a 13-4 record and the top seed in the AFC. He wants to be just as dominant in the postseason, where he was 1-3 before last Saturday.

Jackson led the Ravens on scoring drives on four consecutive possessions in the second half of a 34-10 trouncing of the Houston Texans in the divisional round. He  completed 16 of 22 passes for 152 yards with two touchdowns. He also finished with 100 yards rushing with another two scores.

He became the first player in Ravens playoff history with a rushing and passing touchdown in the same game.

Jackson’s teammates are anticipating another big game against the Chiefs.

“I’m expecting the same thing he’s been doing – [he’s the] MVP,” wide receiver Zay Flowers said. “He’s the MVP, and he’s going to go out there and do what he’s got to do. I know he’s locked in, and once he’s locked in, everybody around him is locked in.”

The Ravens players, on offense and defense, have noticed a change in Jackson this season. He’s become more of a leader and has developed a positive partnership with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, whose creativity matches Jackson’s.

“I feel like the year as a whole, I have only been here two years, but I feel like there is a little something different there,” safety Kyle Hamilton said. “This year, [Lamar Jackson] is a big leader for us. Everybody on this team looks to him for energy and good vibes, and he brings that every single day. No matter what is going on in the building, no matter what is going on in the game, he is going to be the same Lamar. I feel like he has carried that even further into the playoffs.

“It is about being more consistent with what you have been doing. I feel like guys respect that a lot more. I feel like that is something that he has done.” 

Jackson has appeared at ease with his interactions with the media this week. When asked about playing against Mahomes, he joked: “I don’t like competing against him at all.”

Although this a game that could lead to the ultimate prize he’s seeking — a third Super Bowl title for the Ravens — he’s keeping it in perspective.

“[There is] no different feeling. It’s another game – a higher-level atmosphere game,” Jackson said. “That’s about it. The atmosphere is going to be different.” 

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