With the first and last picks of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Browns and the Ravens found their quarterbacks of the future. In Week 17, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson faced off for the first time, a 26-24 Ravens win as Baltimore clinched the AFC North and a home playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers for Wild Card weekend.
It’s been a long time since the Browns and the Ravens have had truly dynamic talents at the quarterback position, and it should set the division up for a fun rivalry for the next few years.
Mayfield and Jackson each have different strengths as quarterbacks, The skills that made them both first-round picks were on full display in a tight game to close the season.
Baker Mayfield had moments that showed why he was the first pick in the draft
Mayfield posted his second highest yardage output of the season against the Ravens’ defense, throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns in the season finale. Unfortunately, his three touchdowns also came with three interceptions, but he did show off the skills that made him such a coveted prospect back in April.
Mayfield made some plays under duress that kept the chains moving for the Browns. Right before halftime, Mayfield bought time in the pocket and launched a perfect pass down the middle of the field to Rashard Higgins that set the Browns up right outside field goal range.
Cleveland eventually ended up kicking a field goal to try and cut the lead to 20-10, but Greg Joseph missed the field goal going into the break.
When Mayfield got time to throw, he was spectacular. He was on fire when Baltimore didn’t blitz — look at this throw to David Njoku late in the third quarter. Njoku had to box out Marlon Humphrey at the catch point, but Mayfield still put this throw on the money as it fell right into Njoku’s hands.
That throw put Cleveland in a position where they were able to kick a field goal to make the score 23-17.
The touchdown pass that put the Browns within three points of the lead was a dime too. It was a short slant pass on the goal line, but these types of passes have to be pristine given the amount of traffic and moving bodies in such a small space. Mayfield fired a pass into the arms of Antonio Callaway who was able to stroll in for touchdown.
Lamar Jackson’s playmaking ability kept the Ravens afloat
The Ravens raced to a 20-7 early in the game on the legs of Lamar Jackson. With just under five minutes left in the first quarter, Jackson exploded for a 25-yard touchdown run on an option play.
In the first half alone, Jackson ran nine times for 64 yards and two touchdowns and picked up five first downs on his nine carries. That included this 24-yard scramble to put the Ravens on the Browns’ side of the field in the first quarter of the game.
Jackson was also able to make a few plays through the air while showing off his trademark speed. When the Ravens needed to milk some clock and secure scoring position early in the fourth quarter, Jackson found fellow rookie Mark Andrews for a big gain to give the Ravens a first and goal.
The Ravens weren’t able to score a touchdown, but they did get a field goal that would be all they needed to put the game out of reach for the Browns.
Health and circumstance permitting, the next decade of Ravens and Browns football should be tightly contested. We haven’t seen the best versions of Mayfield and Jackson yet, and they’re already giving NFL fans a high level of play in their own special ways.
As Ben Roethlisberger moves on towards the end of his career and the Bengals make a decision on Andy Dalton in the post-Marvin Lewis era, Mayfield and Jackson have a chance to be the faces of the division.
Round one of Mayfield-Jackson was a high stakes games with a lot of flash — hopefully they can keep this up for the foreseeable future.