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May 29, 2024

Jackson’s Dominant Performance Powers Ravens to First AFC Title Game at Home Since 1971

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Jan 21, 2024

The Baltimore Ravens are headed to the AFC Championship game after a dominant 34-10 win over the Houston Texans on Saturday. Led by likely MVP Lamar Jackson, the Ravens pulled away in the second half to secure the franchise’s first conference championship game at home since 1971.

Jackson’s Historic Day Puts Ravens Back in AFC Title Game

Lamar Jackson was once again unstoppable, putting together a historic performance to lead the Ravens back to the AFC Championship game for the second time in his career. Jackson accounted for four touchdowns on the day – two passing and two rushing – making him the first player in NFL history with multiple games of at least 100 rushing yards, 150 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in their career.

Jackson ended the day completing 17 of 24 passes for 254 yards and no interceptions, adding 102 yards rushing on just 8 attempts. His 156.1 passer rating was the second highest mark in NFL postseason history behind only his own perfect 158.3 rating against the Titans back in 2021.

The likely league MVP put the team on his back when they needed it most, scoring two second half touchdowns to break open what had been a tightly contested game at halftime. Trailing 17-10 after two quarters, Jackson helped the Ravens outscore the Texans 17-0 in the second half. His 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave Baltimore their first double digit lead, and he followed it up early in the fourth with a perfect 36-yard rainbow to Mark Andrews to put the game on ice.

“That No. 8 is something special…He’s just elite,” said Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen after the game. “The ‘it’ factor is there. You can’t describe it. He’s got it.” The Ravens will now travel to Kansas City to take on the top-seeded Chiefs next Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Stroud, Texans Proud of Historic Season Despite Loss

While the Ravens move on to the AFC title game, the Texans can hold their heads high despite Saturday’s loss after putting together one of the most surprising seasons in recent memory. Picked by many to finish with one of the worst records in the league, Houston defied expectations all year behind outstanding play from rookie quarterback CJ Stroud.

Stroud – runner up to Jackson for Offensive Rookie of the Year – capped his record-breaking debut campaign with an efficient performance against the stout Ravens defense. He finished the game completing 29 of 38 throws for 241 yards and a touchdown, with several key drops costing him an even bigger day. The rookie showed impressive poise leading the Texans back from an early 14 point deficit, cutting the lead to just 17-10 at halftime after a late scoring drive. But the Baltimore defense tightened up in the second half, forcing punts on four of Houston’s five possessions to salt the game away.

First year head coach DeMeco Ryans had nothing but pride for his team’s effort against the AFC’s top seed.

“This was not a moral victory for us, we’re not handing out trophies just for getting this far,” said Ryans. “But our players should be proud of what they accomplished. No one expected us to be playing in mid-January except the men in our locker room.”

After starting the year 1-3-1, Houston ripped off 10 wins in their next 12 games to claim the AFC South title. Their shocking rise behind Rookie of the Year candidate Stroud also breathed new life into the franchise after trading embattled QB Deshaun Watson last offseason.

“Our guys fought all year…I told them to keep their heads up,” said Stroud after the loss. “We’ve changed the culture here and taken huge steps forward. The future is bright in Houston.”

Key Takeaways from Ravens’ Divisional Round Win

  • Jackson shows he’s the league’s most dangerous weapon – Any doubts about how Lamar Jackson would perform in his long awaited playoff return were erased on Saturday. Jackson simply couldn’t be contained, gashing the Texans through the air and on the ground on his way to leading Baltimore’s second half surge. He became the first player with 100 yards rushing and 150 yards passing in a playoff game since Colin Kaepernick in 2012. There’s not another player in the league you’d trust more right now to put the team on their shoulders with a Super Bowl trip at stake.

  • Baltimore defense clamps down after shaky start – The Ravens bid to reach the Super Bowl will hinge greatly on the performance of their defense, and Saturday provided plenty of reasons for optimism on that front. After a rocky first half that saw Houston rookie CJ Stroud move the ball effectively, Baltimore locked things down after the break. The pass rush came alive with 3 second half sacks, Matthew Judon in particular giving Texans RT Tytus Howard fits. Meanwhile the secondary tightened up their coverage, allowing just 5 completions of 10+ yards over the final two quarters after giving up 6 in the first half. With the Chiefs high octane offense on deck, they’ll need a similar showing in the title game.

  • Special teams miscues prove costly for Houston – Field position played a major role early on Saturday, with the Ravens starting three first half drives past midfield while forcing Houston to play on a long field. The discrepancy was largely due to special teams blunders by the Texans, which included a muffed punt by rookie returner Steven Sims that gifted Baltimore an early short field. Houston also failed to flip the field on several occasions, partially due to low hang times from veteran punter Bryan Anger. In a game where they needed to play perfect complementary football to pull the upset, failing to win the field position battle came back to haunt them.

Team 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter Total
Ravens 14 3 10 7 34
Texans 0 10 0 0 10

What’s Next

All eyes now turn to Kansas City, where the Ravens will battle the Chiefs next Sunday for a spot in Super Bowl LVIII. Baltimore is hoping the third time proves a charm after falling in the divisional and conference title games the past two seasons.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh returns to the site of his most painful playoff defeat, Baltimore’s overtime loss to KC in the 2019 AFC Divisional round. The Ravens entered that game riding a 12 game winning streak as the AFC’s #1 seed before falling to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who went on to win the Super Bowl.

The teams split their last two matchups, with the Ravens routing KC 36-10 in Baltimore back in 2021. But Kansas City earned revenge this season by rallying back from a 17-6 halftime deficit to stun the Ravens 34-28 at Arrowhead in September. Lamar Jackson suffered a late game injury in that meeting however, thrusting backup Tyler Huntley into action for the final two drives.

The Chiefs are early betting favorites after dominating the Jaguars 27-10 in the divisional round, covering as 9 point favorites. But with Jackson operating at an all-world level, Baltimore figures to have as good a shot as anyone at dethroning KC in front of their notoriously raucous home crowd. Ravens backers can take solace knowing this group has already proven they can win at Arrowhead, as Baltimore left with a 34-20 victory over the Chiefs in the 2018 season.

For the Texans, attention will turn to building on the major strides made in 2022. They’ll enter next season hoping to take the next step forward with a year of experience under Stroud’s belt. With extra high draft picks acquired from Cleveland in return for Deshaun Watson, Houston is well positioned this offseason to surround their new franchise QB with more talent. After defying the doubters this year, the DeMeco Ryans era seems off to an auspicious start.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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