Within a minute Sunday, it was clear the Detroit Lions didn’t know what they were up against.

On the Ravens’ second play from scrimmage inside M&T Bank Stadium, offensive coordinator Todd Monken called for a read-option. As quarterback Lamar Jackson waited for running back Justice Hill to approach the mesh point, Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson reflexively bolted into the backfield. When Jackson kept the ball and headed for open space, Detroit looked like it was expecting that, too. Inside linebacker Alex Anzalone had shifted over after the snap, replacing Hutchinson as the edge-setting defender, ready to chase Jackson down if necessary.

What the Lions probably did not expect was a pass. This was not a read-option but, rather, a run-pass option, and a unique one, at that. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Ravens had attempted 10 passes out of RPOs over their first six games. This one would be the first with Jackson throwing on the move.

With rookie Zay Flowers occupying Lions defenders near the sideline closest to Jackson, fellow wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. settled comfortably into an open patch of grass about 5 yards downfield. Jackson found him easily for an 11-yard gain. The Ravens had their first of 23 first downs in a 38-6 blowout win.

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It was only fitting that subversion and misdirection powered one of the Ravens’ most unexpectedly dominant games in recent memory. When Monken wasn’t flummoxing a stout Lions defense with unexpected play designs, Jackson was improvising moments of out-of-structure brilliance.

“We just wanted to focus on ourselves and play to our potential,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said Sunday. “We knew we were playing a good team, but I think when we put the focus on ourselves and play to our potential, we’re an elite offense, and I think we showed it today.”

Jackson has seen every type of look imaginable over his five-plus years as a starter. Almost nothing seems to surprise him. That doesn’t mean that he can’t surprise defenses, though. Monken’s game plan Sunday was full of curveballs:

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“The schemes were great,” coach John Harbaugh said Sunday. “I felt like they did a great job, and Todd deserves credit.”

The Ravens relied on more than just schemes for big plays, though. At times Sunday, the offense’s best course of action was to just let Jackson turn nothing into something:

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“That’s just Lamar,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Being Lamar, it’s just some of his innate talents. How he sees the game is pretty special.”


Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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