Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are many things: quarterbacks, directors, artists and friends. But right now, one thing they definitely aren’t is rivals.
Mahomes is too good to have a rival. On Monday night he proved he’s playing a game unlike any other, with the same wonder in his eyes he had as a child sweeping flies at the World Series that his father’s Mets played against the Yankees two decades ago.
A false jump pass. Precise throws against the grain. A long ball perfectly positioned in the back of the end zone. A touchdown shot while shooting in the ribs. A six-point softball pitch to a full-back. A six-point lob for a sinister tackle. It all added to the fact that the Big Two of professional football have shrunk to the Big One of professional football.
The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback shot for four touchdowns and 385 yards and ran for a score, while the Baltimore Ravens quarterback shot for a touchdown and 97 yards and ran with no scores. The Ravens lost 34-20 in a way that looked somewhat similar to their flame loss to the Titans in January, convincing none that they represented a good bet to unseat the Chiefs as AFC champions.
The evening was rightly touted as a historic gathering of young megastars who made their teams and league proud through performance and generosity of spirit. Mahomes had a Super Bowl ring and championship MVP award at the age of 24. Jackson became the youngest quarterback to win a championship MVP award at 23. The distance between them, today, is wider than it seems. Mahomes is 3-0 against Jackson and obviously holds a 1-0 lead in the Super Bowl titles.
Monday night featured a showdown between the NFL’s two most exciting franchise players and their distinct styles. Unlike the quarterbacks who called the sport’s latest epic rivalry, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Jackson and Mahomes don’t play exactly the same game. Jackson has great feet and a great arm. Mahomes has great arm and great feet. When they decide to drop the pass and take off with the ball, they take a different approach to the process.
One seems to be tearing the heart out of the defense. The other appears to be playing a practical joke on defense.
“Mahomes does great runs, but his runs are like a free, improvised form,” said Joshua Harris, Jackson’s personal coach. “His running style is also almost a playground; it’s almost like he’s laughing as he runs. He doesn’t feel like he’s really moving, but he’s getting pieces.
“Lamar runs on a mission. He runs with bad intentions and is trying to score. Nobody runs like Lamar runs. I don’t even think running backs run like him.”
Mahomes maliciously ran for a 3-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Jackson rushed 83 yards harder, or 57 more than his counterpart, but never found the end zone. Edge, and a major one, to the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
The good news for Baltimore fans? This was an advertised regular season game and Jackson has plenty of time to catch up with Mahomes to make it a real rivalry. Manning lost his first six fights with Brady, but ended up winning six of the eleven finals, including his last three duels in the AFC Championship Game.
The best news for NFL fans everywhere? Sometimes, in the not-too-distant future, people might look at the classic pocket passerby as they now look at a rotary phone, typewriter, or grainy film of a basketball player taking a two-handed shot.
“In our minds,” Harris said, “when we talk 10 years from now, that generation will be like, ‘What, the quarterback hasn’t raced in the past? What were you thinking idiots? You just wanted him to stand there and get caught at fists? “
Professional football has finally embraced the obvious, more than a few decades too late, allowing Jackson and Mahomes to turn Monday Night Football into a showcase for the two most successful young quarterbacks ever.
Jackson’s inability to beat his friend isn’t due to a lack of trying. Last offseason, he again worked on his game with his tutor, 39-year-old Harris, a former college defender who has been a pitching coach, Air Force soldier, lawyer, English teacher and college. team chaplain – a Renaissance man who helped the Baltimore quarterback redefine the position. Harris thought Jackson hadn’t thrown the deep ball late last year as consistently as he did at the start of the season, so they worked on sloping shoulders for better trajectory and an easier-to-find ball for mid-range receivers. flight. The coach and trainee also worked on aligning Jackson’s feet and using his lower half to achieve maximum speed in the passages traveling outside the numbers.
Harris almost jokingly asked Jackson to ease his fascination with firearm passes. “It’s effective,” Harris told him, “but we don’t always do it.”
Jackson’s stated goal, according to Harris, is “to be Tom Brady with a speed of 4.4”. But if he wants to get down to the top, Jackson knows he needs to win the Super Bowl more than once. And as much as he claims to focus on defending an opposing team, not his quarterback, Jackson had to be motivated by Mahomes’ MVP performance in his Super Bowl win over San Francisco.
“It was a source of inspiration,” confirmed Harris. “But I love the way it formed and shaped in Lamar’s mind. It was, ‘Let me be a part of that club. Dude, that’s great for Pat, now I want to join that same team.’
“Lamar wants to be the best, but he genuinely loves every other player. He’s a fan of Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray. The rivalry is Lamar versus Lamar, and I like that. He’s the guy to be. One of the leaders of this one. revolution and new way to play, and probably the right way to play “.
Archie Manning laughed the other day when he was told the NFL had finally returned to its quarterback style, outpacing his sons Peyton and Eli along the way. Archie ran more his life than he ran for the horrifying New Orleans Saints of the 1970s, but he rushed for 14 touchdowns and more than 500 yards during one season at Ole Miss, and ran a 10.2 in the 100. yard dash. They didn’t time players regularly back then in the 1940s, but when Archie was asked to do so – by an Oakland Raiders scout prior to the 1971 draft – he performed a 4.6 with a cast on his broken arm. Manning wasn’t Lamar Jackson, but he could move.
Archie said he is proud of the success of his former Manning Passing Academy advisors, Jackson and Mahomes, who were among the top 40 college quarterbacks attending the field each year.
“I loved watching Lamar play in college,” Archie said. “This is a different thing that is happening in the quarterback position now and Lamar and Patrick are leading the way. I think there will always be a place in pro football for a passerby in the pocket, for a Brady or a Peyton, but I think what these youngsters that quarterbacks are doing now is great for the championship, I just want them to come down.
“With the athleticism, the size and strength of the linebackers and the certainties, it’s more dangerous now than when I was playing.”
On the rivalry he experienced every day with his son, Archie said that Peyton always felt more competing with Bill Belichick than he was with Brady. But Archie admitted that Peyton’s AFC Championship Game wins over New England minimized the damage inherited from Brady’s remarkable lead in the Super Bowl rings (6-2) and in their 17 straight fights (11-6). .
Lamar Jackson doesn’t have to worry about getting out of that kind of depth – yet. For now, Jackson can’t spend the time or energy to win his rivalry with Patrick Mahomes.
First he has to focus on making it a rivalry.