CHICAGO — Tyler Huntley found out he was going to start at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday when he received a text from Lamar Jackson on his way to board the bus to Soldier Field.
“Go do your thing today. I’m going to be watching.”
A few hours later, Huntley showed the football world that the Ravens can win without the 2019 NFL MVP, rallying Baltimore to an improbable 16-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. Huntley became the fourth quarterback over the past 30 seasons to record a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter in his first career start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
With Baltimore down 13-9, Huntley’s 30-yard pass to Sammy Watkins set up the go-ahead, 3-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman with 22 seconds left in the game.
“I think if I was feeling the pressure, we probably wouldn’t have won this game,” Huntley said after the game. “You got to go with the flow about winning the game. We knew we had to go down there and score.”
Jackson missed the third game of his four-year career because of congestion in his lungs, a source told ESPN. The Ravens had believed Jackson would play after he fully participated in Friday’s practice, but all of the symptoms returned on Saturday.
On the flight to Chicago, Jackson was curled up in a ball in his seat and was feeling so sick that he didn’t realize the plane had landed. He didn’t attend any meetings Saturday night.
The Ravens were hoping that Jackson would improve by Sunday morning, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Jackson “felt worse.”
Harbaugh doesn’t believe this illness will sideline Jackson long term.
“There’s no influenza, there’s no COVID,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m sure if it doesn’t clear up, they’ll keep testing him, but you got to think that it’s going to clear up. We’ll pray for that.”
Jackson was the first player to congratulate Huntley when he walked into the locker room.
With the Titans and Bills losing, the Ravens remain in the hunt for the AFC’s top seed. Baltimore (7-3) moved within a half-game of Tennessee (8-3) for the top spot in the conference because it found a way to win without Jackson, who had accounted for 82.8% of its offense (3,086 of 3,727 yards) this season.
“A lot of times, when you think of the Baltimore Ravens, you think Lamar Jackson, because he’s done so much for us,” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “But man, it was really special to see [Huntley] step up, a couple of guys on defense step up. Just all around, it seems like we didn’t really flinch.”
Huntley, who went undrafted out of Utah in 2019, completed 26 of 36 passes (72%) even though the Bears came after him. He was blitzed on 28 of 44 dropbacks (64%), which is the highest blitz rate by a team this season.
“I know everyone around our facility, this organization knows how good that he is,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “And when he gets his opportunity — which he did [Sunday] — that he was going to perform and shine. But it’s awesome for the world to see. It’s a coming-out party for him, and I can’t be more excited about it.”
The Ravens became the fourth team in the past 40 seasons to record five or more fourth-quarter comeback wins in their first 10 games. This time, it wasn’t because of a magical play by Jackson. It was the heroics of Huntley, who watched 13 quarterbacks get drafted over him in 2020.
Huntley is going to frame his game ball with his jersey.
“Me sitting back where I was, waiting on the call for the draft or whatnot, it just felt like I would never get to this point,” Huntley said. “I’m here. So, I’m blessed.”