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Opinion: Ravens-Browns Best MNF game ever

I’m not sure writers in hollywood could have imagined what happened in Cleveland last night. This game was not only an instant classic but it was the best ever to be featured on Monday Night Football.

Coming into Monday night this game was full of storylines. On one side we had the surprising 9-3 Browns. A team that hadn’t had a winning season prior to this year since 2007 and hadn’t made the playoffs since 2002. On the other side, you had a 7-5 Baltimore Ravens team who in the last 3 weeks have had over 30 players and staff placed on the Covid-19 list. The implications of the game on the teams playoff chances couldn’t of been higher. The Ravens sitting just outside the playoff picture needed a win to have a chance at making the postseason, while the Browns couldn’t afford a loss if they wanted to win the AFC North.

The storylines didnt just stick to the franchises though, a number of the players have a past together worth mentioning. Starting with the quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson will always be linked together for a number of reasons. They won the Heisman Trophy in back to back years, in 2016 the award went to Lamar Jackson at the University of Louisville, while the following season Oklahoma senior Baker Mayfield took home the award. This game would be the first time in over 20 years Monday Night Football featured two Heisman winning QBs. In 2018 Baker Mayfield was drafted #1 overall by the Browns while 31 selections later the Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round. On Jackson‘s side of the field Monday night were three of Mayfield best friends during his time in Oklahoma. WR Marquise Brown and TE Mark Andrews were Baker‘s favorite passing targets in college and OT Orlando Brown was roommates with the Cleveland quarterback.

While the drama of the pregame backstories were enough to get everyone to tune in, the game was incredible. The game began with the Browns marching down the field and scoring a touchdown within the games first 6 minutes. The Ravens answered with a 6 minutes drive for themselves that was capped of with a Lamar Jackson 5 yard touchdown run. The teams again traded touchdown rushes in the second quarter to even the score 14-14. The Ravens would then go on to score a 17 yard Jackson scramble for a touchdown before the end of the half to take a 21-14 lead at the break.

Coming out of the half the Ravens received the kick off and a few plays later Jackson took off 44 yards downfield to set up a Gus Edwards 19 yards TD run. Baker Mayfield, now down 14 points, led the Browns on an 11 play 75 yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 8. After forcing Baltimore to punt the ball, Baker Mayfield did not see an underneath LB Tyus Bowser who made an unbelievable diving one-handed interception. The Ravens punched the ball in the end zone on the next play and took and commanding 34-20 lead.

Here’s where things really start to get interesting. After the Ravens short touchdown drive, reigning MVP Lamar Jackson heads to the locker room needing an IV for severe cramps. Realizing this, Cleveland goes on back to back 12 play 70 yard touchdown drives to take a 35-34 lead with under 7 minutes to play. Trace McSorley, now in for the injured Jackson, completed a big 10 yard pass to Willie Snead to get the Ravens into Browns territory with under 4 minutes in the game. On a 3rd and 2 from the Cleveland 41 yard line, McSorley falls down awkwardly in the backfield and suffered a severe knee injury as the clock hit the two minute warning. As the Ravens scramble to find an emergency quarterback, Lamar Jackson came sprinting out from the locker room straight onto the field to run the crucial 4 and 5. After scrambling to his right, Lamar connects with WR Marquise Brown for a 44 yard touchdown giving the Ravens the lead. After a successful two point conversion Baker Mayfield comes back out on the field needing a touchdown to tie the game. Mayfield completed 4 straight passes ending with a 22 yard strike to Kareem Hunt for the game tying touchdown with only 1 minute remaining on the game clock. With the game tied Lamar Jackson then hit former Oklahoma Sooner, Mark Andrews, twice before setting up Justin Tucker to kick the game winning field goal for the Ravens. After a last second lateral attempt gave the Ravens a late safety, the game ended with a Baltimore win 47-42.

In my mind this Ravens-Browns game eclipsed the now second best Monday Night Football game ever, Kansas City vs Denver in 1994. The matchup placed an aging Joe Montana against one of my all-time favorites John Elway. The game was almost equal in excitement but, admit it, Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform was just weird for everyone.

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