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The Monday Night Football game on Oct. 11, 2021, between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens, was exciting — for a while.
The Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, was hurried and harassed and unable to use his legs to gain big chunks of yardage. Meanwhile, Colts quarterback, Carson Wentz, was brilliant, leading his team to a 19-point lead in the second half.
Nearly every sportswriter praises Lamar Jackson for his comeback win, 31-25. Even though he played well, he was facing a different team in the second half.
Games Like This Have Happened Before, but Usually at Levels Inferior to the NFL
Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich had a perfect game plan. However, Coach Reich abandoned his scheme and played a game designed not to lose. As a result, the defense lost its aggressive attitude.
Other defensive backs were added, and pass rushers sidelined. As a result, Jackson was never hurried again and freely ran whenever he chose.
The offense, which had a balanced attack, both running and passing in the first half, now relied primarily on the running game. Unfortunately, this conservative approach failed miserably. They had become a different team, and only one man can be blamed, Coach Reich.
When a team is playing its best, coaches should not make changes.
Reich lacked confidence in both his offense and defense. The Colts had never played better, and he allowed a fear of losing to suppress his faith that his team was playing at their highest level.
In professional sports, coaches are expected to perform miracles with athletes who make millions of dollars each year and often have egos larger than their talent.
However, in the case of Reich, he was a professional quarterback and an assistant coach. His experience alone should have allowed him to understand the pitfalls of playing football with a passive defense and a one-dimensional offense. Instead, he proved that his team would fail to reach the playoffs, and his season would be a failure.
Congratulations to the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh. He never lost faith in his team or his quarterback, and they lead the AFC North with a record of 4-1.
Op-ed by James Turnage
ESPN: Down 19 points, QB Lamar Jackson rallies Baltimore Ravens to epic comeback win over Indianapolis Colts; by Jamison Hensley
The Guardian: ‘I was just calm’: Lamar Jackson leads Ravens to wild comeback over Colts
Images Courtesy of All-Pro Reels’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License