Thursday Night Football provided the perfect stage for Isaiah Likely and other Ravens weapons to break out.
With All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews (shoulder) and No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman (foot) sidelined in the second half and Baltimore trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 10-3, at halftime, the Ravens needed other offensive players to step up.
The rookie tight end who sparkled throughout training camp and preseason had the best performance of his young career when Baltimore badly needed it. Likely made six catches for 77 yards and his first career touchdown, playing a key role in a 27-22 victory over the Buccaneers.
Likely wasn't the only offensive weapon who stepped up. Veteran wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (six catches, 64 yards) had his best game as a Raven. Running back Kenyan Drake (seven carries, 62 yards) added a five-yard touchdown catch and ripped off a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter after Gus Edwards (11 carries, 65 yards) left the game with a groin injury.
Playing shorthanded on a short week, Baltimore prevailed because so many players on their roster rose to the occasion. Lamar Jackson (27 for 38, 238 yards, two touchdowns, 43 yards rushing) had a superb all-around game and Devin Duvernay (31 yards receiving, 33 yards rushing, 72 yards kick returns, 27 yards punt returns) was a multipurpose threat. But for the Ravens, there were many heroes.
"To see Isaiah step up, we saw it in training camp and the preseason games," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Duv's (Devin Duvernay) been doing it all year.
"But D-Rob (Robinson) had a heck of a game for us. Came out and made some big plays for us. Duv did it not just in the pass game, but in the run game as well. All three running backs did a great job. It was an all-around team effort."
Likely's touchdown put the Ravens ahead for good just before the third quarter ended, breaking a 10-10 tie. For Likely, it could be a springboard toward having a bigger offensive role during the second half of the season.
"It felt great," Likely said. "Always giving thanks to God, and really just living in the moment. My motto is just being where your feet are. Not dwelling on the past, looking too far in the future. Just being where your feet are and playing each play like it's your last."
Likely's touchdown catch was set up by Jackson, who escaped pressure by rolling to his right and buying time. Likely kept moving along the back of the end zone and Jackson lofted a perfect pass that hit Likely in stride.
Likely had already made his presence felt before that touchdown, showing the skillset that intrigued the Ravens when they drafted him in the fourth round. Not only does Likely have excellent hands and body control, but his strength makes him a load to bring down at 6-foot-4, 241 pounds.
On a 17-yard catch in the third quarter, Likely shrugged off one defender after making the catch, juked past another Buccaneer, then finished off the play by knocking cornerback Jamel Dean backward before Likely was finally gang-tackled.
Putting the finishing touch on his performance, Likely recovered the Buccaneers' onside kick during the final minute after Tampa Bay closed to within five points. Likely dove on the football, then rose to his feet cradling the ball like a baby. Likely and the Ravens weren't going to let this game slip away.
While Likely and Robinson stepped up in the passing game, Drake helped spark the running game with some decisive runs, including a 40-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Ravens also showed their resiliency with starting defensive lineman Calais Campbell (illness) and starting inside linebacker Josh Bynes (quad) out of action. Backup linebackers A.J. Klein (four tackles) and Devon Kennard (three tackles) helped fill the void, and safety Geno Stone had a team-leading six tackles, continuing to make his presence felt as a starter in place of injured Marcus Williams.
For the first time this season the Ravens (5-3) won their second straight game, thanks to a collective effort under trying circumstances.
"Trying to wear an opponent down, both teams were trying to do that, and our guys prevailed in that," Harbaugh said. "I'm really proud of the guys because at the end of the game, our guys just had a little bit more left."