CARSON, Calif. — He had precise stride his document as an NFL starter to 5-1, and passed for a career-high 204 yards. And now, after a season-defining street victory which will properly maintain transformed the Baltimore Ravens from playoff wannabes to AFC North champions, Lamar Jackson used to be asked to assess the convey of his team of workers — and he wasn’t operating from the reality.
“Oh yeah — we’re the exact deal,” Jackson suggested me as he stood by myself at his locker Saturday night time at StubHub Center, about half-hour after the Ravens‘ 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. “And the thing is, we now maintain restful received plenty to work on, and we are able to get critically better.”
Facing a Chargers (eleven-four) team of workers coming off consecutive comeback street victories towards formidable foes, and thus being heralded as a official Huge Bowl contender, the Ravens (9-6) picked a splendid time to be appropriate. Had Baltimore lost, its path to a likely wild-card berth used to be stuffed with be troubled. With the procure, the Ravens can now clinch a playoff location by defeating the Cleveland Browns at dwelling next Sunday, and any stumble by the Pittsburgh Steelers (eight-5-1) — who play the NFC-leading Saints in New Orleans on Sunday — would give them a gap to take the division.
Carried by the NFL’s high-ranked defense, and energized within the route of the last month-and-a-1/2 by their subtle-to-protect rookie quarterback, the Ravens now maintain appropriate reason to trust in their potentialities for postseason grandeur.
“Or now not it is type of like a pitcher with a no-hitter — we’re now not gonna focus on about it,” stated the eldest and most decorated Baltimore put participant, 16th-three hundred and sixty five days dilapidated prance rusher Terrell Suggs, who helped lead a sustained assault on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “That is a splendid procure, and momentum is contagious. Whilst you get momentum, it would snowball. But we restful haven’t painted our Sistine Chapel but.”
If the Ravens maintain a Michelangelo, it is eleventh-three hundred and sixty five days head coach John Harbaugh, whose future with the team of workers had been the topic of great speculation since sooner than the originate of the 2018 marketing campaign. To be in a region to silence the chatter, the team of workers issued an announcement Friday night time declaring that Harbaugh would return for the 2019 season and that the two sides were “engaged on an extension to his existing contract.”
If the scheme used to be to decrease the stress on Harbaugh and his avid gamers sooner than their largest game of the season — properly, it labored. As he stood within the nook of the south ruin zone about a hours sooner than the game, the coach used to be free and upbeat, acknowledging that his team of workers had but to construct a signature victory in 2018.
“We have been shut,” he stated. “We precise haven’t been in a region to ruin through. Obviously, time is operating out, and we want to offer that.”
Then the game began, and the Ravens compelled the teach from the jump. On the predominant play from scrimmage, Rivers (23 of 37, 181 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions) threw deep down the precise sideline for receiver Mike Williams, but cornerback Brandon Carr ripped the ball out of the air and landed on the Baltimore forty eight-yard-line.
On the following play, rookie operating support Gus Edwards took a handoff from Jackson, ripped through the center of the road and rambled Forty three yards to the L.A. 9-yard-line. The Ravens, nonetheless, would settle for the predominant of Justin Tucker‘s three field targets, environment a tone for an night time on which they may regularly permit the Chargers to loiter around.
No matter dominating the predominant 1/2, Baltimore carried handiest a 6-3 lead into the third quarter — then squandered it almost without lengthen, with operating support Kenneth Dixon fumbling the ball away on the predominant play from scrimmage, and the Chargers reaching the ruin zone with three consecutive Melvin Gordon runs to take a 10-6 lead.
That despatched many — OK, some — of the 25,571 followers at StubHub Center precise into a frenzy. And it merely introduced out Jackson’s internal take a seat back.
Taking up at his occupy 15-yard line, Jackson connected with receiver John Brown on a 17-yard throw. Then Jackson took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff to Dixon and lofted a pleasant contact prance to rookie tight ruin Set Andrews, who caught it in drag on the Chargers‘ 40-yard-line, stiff-armed safety Jahleel Addae to the turf 10 yards later and saved precise on going for a 68-yard touchdown.
“What? That used to be a loopy stiff arm,” Jackson stated. “When I let it prance, I knew what time it used to be.”
Acknowledged Andrews: “The throw used to be implausible — for this reason I was in a region to take it and rating. Folks inform, ‘He’s a operating quarterback.’ They’re contaminated. He’s a quarterback.”
As alongside with his outdated starts, Jackson (12 of 22, 204 yards) compelled the Chargers to address him as a operating threat, carrying 13 times. Excluding for a 27-yard stride on a third-and-2 play leisurely within the predominant quarter, he used to be in actual fact contained, netting precise 12 yards on his other 12 carries. Nonetheless, the specter of Jackson as a ball-service opened up opportunities for Edwards (14 carries, 92 yards) and Dixon (eight carries, 28 yards) and helped region up generous matchups by procedure of play-action.
“Our defense is balling out of regulate, and Lamar’s controlling the game,” stated dilapidated receiver Michael Crabtree, who had one procure for 20 yards. “He’s a baller, bro. You like to to procure passes; you adore to maintain to maintain 100-yard video games. But a procure is a procure. And if we lost, it used to be gonna be contaminated contaminated.”
Asked about Jackson’s impact on opposing defenses, and the procedure in which the Ravens are the usage of it to their serve, Crabtree laughed and stated, “You cannot designate what that you simply can well now not realize. The article is, if I suggested you, I’d maintain to execute you.”
No matter being manhandled by the Ravens‘ defense all night time, the Chargers restful had lifestyles with three minutes left within the game, after they took over on the Baltimore 39 (following a 24-yard punt return by Desmond King) trailing handiest sixteen-10. Having pulled out come-from-within the support of victories at Pittsburgh and Kansas Metropolis in its outdated two video games, LA now had a golden different to ruin the trifecta.
“That used to be the moment,” Harbaugh stated later. “And our defense used to be gripping.”
After a retaining penalty pushed L.A. support 10 yards, Rivers fired an eleven-yard prance to his trustiest goal: 16th-three hundred and sixty five days tight ruin Antonio Gates, a future Corridor of Famer who lunged forward to the Baltimore 38. Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (who had two of the team of workers’s four sacks) swooped in and punched the ball out precise sooner than Gates’ knee hit the turf, and cornerback Tavon Young picked up and sprinted sixty two yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
“That used to be the game precise there,” Jackson stated.
It used to be a tour de power efficiency by a Ravens defense that allowed precise 198 yards and, at game’s ruin, remained the league’s high-ranked unit in phrases of scoring (17.5 formula per game) and total yards allowed (284.1 per game). And but, that stellar defense wasn’t appropriate sufficient to retain the Ravens from a four-5 originate. It wasn’t till dilapidated quarterback Joe Flacco suffered a hip ruin — and Jackson, the team of workers’s first-spherical protect out of Louisville, used to be compelled into the lineup — that Baltimore began to get its drag.
Now, Flacco is once extra healthy, but the Ravens are happily riding with Jackson, while opposing defenses fight to protect Baltimore’s stride-heavy assault.
“He used to be a anguish within the ass all camp for us,” Suggs stated of Jackson. “I’m blissful he is somebody else’s problem now.”
Acknowledged Young: “I’m blissful he is on our team of workers … cause who would are looking to play towards him?”
“You restful maintain to quit him,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn stated of Jackson. “And yes, he can throw.”
Flacco used to be the starter support in early October when the Ravens dropped a 12-9 decision to the Browns in time past regulations. Winning the rematch is all that stands between Baltimore and its first playoff appearance since 2014 — but Harbaugh may well per chance be the final coach to take such an granted.
Undergo in mind: Closing December, the Ravens vital handiest to procure a dwelling game towards the Bengals to attain the postseason, but Cincinnati — which had already been eradicated from competitors — pulled off a dramatic, 31-27 victory on Andy Dalton‘s 49-yard touchdown prance to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-12 with forty four seconds final.
“I perhaps will now not maintain to raise that up great, because everybody right here is awfully responsive to it,” Harbaugh stated as he left the locker room Saturday night time and walked toward the team of workers bus. “We have received to play our handiest game of the three hundred and sixty five days on Sunday — that is the backside line. We’re in a appropriate put. I indulge in the formula we fight. Now we want to be at our very handiest.”
That’s the deal — and let the document inform that on a extremely valuable Saturday night time in Southern California, issues received very exact for the Ravens and their rookie quarterback.