EDITOR’S NOTE: If you blinked while watching the Baltimore Ravens’ miraculous 47-42 ESPN Monday Night Football victory over the host Cleveland Browns yesterday, you might have missed something crucial. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s dramatic return from a locker room bout with cramping to deliver a go-ahead touchdown pass to receiver Marquis Brown was just the first of a flurry of scores in the final two minutes. Here, ESPN MNF sideline reporter Lisa Salters and MNF director Jimmy Platt provide their perspectives on the dramatic finish.
Lisa Salters from the Reporter's Perch. . .
By Allison Stoneberg
Ever-vigilant as the eyes and ears for the broadcast booth and viewers, Monday Night Football reporter Lisa Salters played a key role in documenting what her teammate Brian Griese called the “game of the year so far.”
It was the fourth quarter. The Ravens had just scored and the Browns were on the field when Salters’ producer Eric Lundsten alerted her that Lamar Jackson had run off the field. At first, she didn’t think it was unusual, Salters told Front Row, because when players run off on their own it usually means they need to use the bathroom.
A few minutes went by. Now, Salters thought, this is unusual. She checked in with the Ravens’ staff via text and received a quick reply that Jackson was O.K.
More time passed and it was 4th-and-6 for the Browns. Still, Jackson was not on the field. Salters sent another text to the Ravens and connected with MNF producer Phil Dean.
“I think we need to tell viewers [Jackson is not] on the field and he hasn’t been out here since the Browns started this drive,” Salters said.
Dean agreed, and Salters gave that report. A short time later, the Ravens let Salters know Jackson was being treated for cramping, so she provided another report. While on camera, Salters was relying on Lundsten to keep his eyes on the tunnel.
“Eric told me, ‘If I wave my hands, it means he’s coming out right now,’” she said.
Still waiting for Jackson, Salters focused on the facts she had and had a suggestion for Dean.
“We can give some context to this,” Salters said. “We have more information we can give that can help paint a picture.”
Salters knew Jackson was just a week removed from coming off the COVID list, and in the production meeting with Jackson on Sunday night, he told Salters and the crew he did nothing but sleep for 10 days after testing positive, and he was much more tired than usual in last week’s game against the Cowboys. Salters shared this report with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t expecting COVID to be an issue in the game, but turns out it likely was,” Salters said. “Ultimately [Jackson] did come out in heroic fashion in a pretty crucial situation.”
Salters and Lundsten continued to monitor Jackson throughout the rest of game, and then Salters interviewed him following the Ravens’ victory.
Ever mindful not to speculate when Jackson was in the locker room, Salters relied on the facts at hand and the homework she had done in advance to document the game.
She said the situation reminded her of what a long-time ESPN veteran once shared: “Luck favors the prepared.”
Jimmy Platt from the Director's Chair. . .
By Derek Volner
“Keep an eye on Camera No. 27!” Monday Night Football director Jimmy Platt said through his headset and to everyone in the truck. “If you see [Ravens QB] Lamar [Jackson], we are going to him.”
The remote camera outside the Ravens locker room suddenly became the most important tool in ESPN’s arsenal as the Ravens took possession with just more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter, trailing 35-34 and the reigning NFL MVP had retreated to the locker room as he dealt with cramps.
Then, the moment happened.
Ravens backup quarterback Trace McSorley was hurt on the field and a 4th-and-5 was looming. And camera No. 27 fixed its lens on Jackson as he emerged from the locker room.
“We are trained to remain business as usual, but you get a heightened sense of awareness in the moment,” Platt told Front Row. “’Go slow, go slow’ is what I kept saying to myself.”
The Ravens, though, they moved fast.
A 44-yard touchdown strike from Jackson to Marquis Brown had play-by-play voice Steve Levy proclaiming “tremendous!” and the Ravens had their lead, and their leader, back.
“At that point, the storylines from a reaction stand point were clear: Lamar, [Cleveland Browns quarterback] Baker Mayfield and the Browns fans,” explained Platt after an early morning flight out of Cleveland. “I knew the raw emotion the Browns fan would display over the final two minutes would be a key part of the story.”
And Platt was right.
In the stands – and in the truck – the rollercoaster of emotions continued as the Browns tied the game with a touchdown of their own.
Then, as Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker’s game-clinching kick went through the uprights, Platt stuck to the plan: Shot of Jackson, shot of Mayfield, shot of the Browns fans.
An entire story in three shots.
Moments later, analyst Brian Griese would declare it “the game of the year” while Platt focused on three distraught Browns fans.
“That’s the beauty and agony of sports,” Platt said with a chuckle.