BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson does hardly anything slowly on the football field, but he is slowly and surely erasing every narrative critics have used against him.
One such narrative was that as the leader of a run-first, ball-control offense, Jackson couldn’t rally his team from behind. He doesn’t have the arm for a quick-strike rally, the thinking went.
“Can’t say that anymore,” tight end Mark Andrews said.
Jackson destroyed that notion against the Indianapolis Colts Oct. 11, passing for a franchise-record 442 yards — including 335 after halftime — and rallying the Ravens from a 19-point deficit for an improbable 31-25 overtime win before a national “Monday Night Football” audience.
“It’s one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said.
Jackson finished 37-for-43 for 442 yards and four touchdowns, including two fourth-quarter scoring strikes to Mark Andrews, each of which was followed by a two-point conversion catch by Andrews.
Jackson’s second score to Andrews came with 39 seconds left, and the ensuing two-point conversion tied the game at 25.
Jackson then threw a game-winning, 5-yard score to Marquise Brown in overtime, capping a run of 22 straight points for the Ravens (4-1).
The Colts (1-4) had a chance to win on the final play of regulation, but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who was dealing with a hip injury, was wide left from 47 yards. The Ravens’ Calais Campbell had earlier blocked a 37-yard field-goal try by Blankenship, opening the door for the game-tying score.
The Ravens won the toss in overtime and Jackson efficiently marched the Ravens 68 yards in 10 plays for the winning score. He went 6-for-6 on the drive, and the Ravens never even faced third down on that possession.
The Colts had led virtually the entire game after taking a 7-0 lead on a 76-yard swing pass to running back Jonathan Taylor just three minutes into the game. The Colts built their lead to 22-3 on Taylor’s 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
That drive had started after Jackson fumbled inside the Colts’ 5-yard line, and though things looked bleak for a Ravens team held to three points over the first 44 minutes, Harbaugh said there was never any panic.
“[We’re] not giving up,” Harbaugh said. “… First of all, we have Lamar Jackson.”
Here are five takeaways from the win, the fourth in a row for the Ravens:
1. Teams have not figured out Lamar Jackson.
Not only did Jackson set the Ravens franchise single-game record with 442 passing yards, breaking the mark of 429 set by Vinny Testaverde in 1996, but according to ESPN, he became the first player in NFL history to record a completion percentage of better than 80 percent while throwing for more than 400 yards.
Before this season, some national pundits predicted this would be the year teams figured out Jackson, that they would find ways to contain his running game and then force him out of his comfort zone as a passer.
What Jackson has shown is that his generational talent can beat you whichever way he needs to, and while it might not always look pretty, he’s probably going to end up one step ahead and walking off the field a winner.
The Colts bottled up the Ravens’ running game, as they finished with just 86 yards on 25 carries. That snapped the Ravens streak of 43 straight games with at least 100 yards rushing, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-1977) for the longest in NFL history.
But just as he showed last week in a win at Denver, when he sliced up the Broncos with passes to all levels and all areas of the field, Jackson carved up the Colts with his arm. In the second half and overtime, Jackson went 29-for-32 for 325 yards and led the Ravens to touchdowns on each of their final four possessions.
Through five games, Jackson leads the AFC in yards per pass attempt (9.1) and yards per rush (6.1).
“Man, it’s special,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”
Teams most definitely have not figured him out.
2. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews took over the game, like bonafide playmakers should.
The Ravens ended last season ranked No. 1 in rushing and No. 32 in passing, and after the season Brown said that the Ravens needed more balance. The knock on the Ravens’ passing game — for years, really — has been the lack of bonafide playmakers, and that included Brown, who has yet to top 800 yards in a season.
Brown, though, is on pace for the most prolific season for any Ravens receiver in history, and he and Andrews simply took over the game against the Colts.
Brown used a double move to get wide-open on a 43-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that gave the Ravens some life, and then he scored the game-winner in overtime. He finished with a career-high nine catches for 125 yards, all coming after halftime. Brown has gotten effective at juking defenders after the catch and turning upfield, something he hadn’t done in his previous two seasons.
Andrews, meanwhile, had gone eight games without a touchdown, the longest such drought of his career, but then scored two touchdowns and two two-point conversions in a span of 10 minutes. On a six-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter, Andrews caught three passes, including a one-handed grab near midfield and then a 5-yard touchdown, which was followed by a two-point conversion.
Andrews, who said he was playing for the memory of his late grandmother who passed away last week, finished with 11 catches for 147 yards, the most ever in a game by a Ravens tight end.
He showed that he is worth every penny of the four-year, $56 million extension he signed with the Ravens a couple of weeks ago.
It’s worth noting that these two have flourished while first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman remains sidelined on injured reserve. He is expected to make his season debut next week.
3. Calais Campbell is having a Pro Bowl-caliber year at age 35.
The late-game heroics of Jackson, Andrews and Brown wouldn’t have been possible if defensive end Calais Campbell didn’t get a big paw up and block Rodrigo Blankenship’s 37-yard field goal with 4:37 left. That kept the Colts lead at 25-17 and set up the Ravens’ game-tying score.
After the game, Campbell credited second-year defensive lineman Broderick Washington for creating the block. Campbell explained that in practice this week, Washington had lined up next to Campbell and predicted that he could get enough push on the line to create an opening for Campbell to penetrate. That’s exactly how Campbell was able to get a hand on the kick.
One play before that, Campbell had stuffed Jonathan Taylor for a 4-yard loss, one of his four tackles in the game.
Campbell hasn’t recorded a sack yet this year, but he has been perhaps the Ravens’ most consistent defensive player. The Ravens have needed it, too. Derek Wolfe has been out all season, and the Ravens were short two linemen for the Detroit game while they were on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
That has put more pressure on Campbell, but he has delivered every time, and there he was, in his 14th NFL season, in the trenches of the field goal block unit, delivering one of the biggest plays of the game.
4. The Ravens need to fix their tackling problem or it will cost them games.
Lost in the euphoria of the Ravens win was another subpar tackling performance, and it’s a large enough sample size now that it has to be a concern.
The Colts rolled up 513 yards of offense, including a 76-yard touchdown on swing pass to Jonathan Taylor, and a couple of other plays in which a 6-yard gain turned into 26 or more because of bad tackling.
This isn’t new. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce shed at least five tackles en route to a touchdown in Week 2, Detroit running back D’Andre Swift broke a slew of tackles in Week 3, and Denver running back Javonte Williams broke tackles and then dragged Marlon Humphrey for 10 yards in Week 4.
The Ravens are fortunate they won all those games anyway.
Patrick Queen has taken a lot of criticism for missing tackles, and after Jonathan Taylor slipped through a tackle attempt by Queen early in this game, Humphrey was seen giving Queen an earful. But Queen isn’t the only culprit. When a player breaks four or five tackles en route to a touchdown, as Kelce did in Week 2, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Whether it’s because hitting in OTAs and training camp has been de-emphasized, or because the Ravens just have gotten away from technique, this is an issue that is going to cost the Ravens if they don’t get it fixed.
5. The Colts played not to lose. So they did.
For nearly three full quarters, the Colts and head coach Frank Reich had done virtually everything right against the Ravens. They were a step ahead on both sides of the ball, they were winning the battle in the trenches, and they built a 22-3 lead. They had an answer for everything the Ravens tried.
In fact, when Lamar Jackson fumbled inside the 5-yard line, it appeared that Jackson wanted to keep on a read-option and go around right end. It’s a play the Ravens have used before, but the Colts seemed to expect it, and safety Julian Blackmon stuffed it and forced a fumble.
Offensively, Carson Wentz (25-for-35, 402 yards) was slicing up the Ravens defense much of the night.
That’s what made their play-calling in the fourth quarter so curious. Leading 25-17, the Colts marched from their own 25 to the Ravens’ 17-yard in a span of six plays. Then they took their foot off the gas. They ran three straight times, the third of which Calais Campbell stuffed for a 4-yard loss. That led to a 37-yard field-goal try by Rodrigo Blankenship that was blocked.
The Ravens proceeded to march down the field for the game-tying score.
“The third down, I wish I had that call back,” Reich said. “That was a conservative call. … In hindsight, because it didn’t work, do I wish I would have called a pass? Probably. But … I didn’t want to get sacked. I didn’t want anything crazy to happen. I thought I felt good at the opportunity to gain some yards and get a kick. But in hindsight, it wasn’t the right call.”
In that entire sequence, it felt as if the Colts were simply playing not to lose. So ultimately, that’s what they did.
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