Lamar Jackson's spectacular day was ruined by the final score.
For three quarters, Jackson blitzed the Miami Dolphins with the all-round ability that makes him so special.
This was Jackson's emphatic response to the Miami blitz packages that frustrated him last season during a 22-10 loss in Miami. There's no surefire game plan to contain Jackson, and his growth as a quarterback continues to trend upward. He threw for three touchdowns while completing 21 of 29 passes for 318 yards. He rushed for 119 yards, including an electrifying 79-yard touchdown run that was the longest run of his career. He played with poise in the pocket was ready for what the Dolphins had coming.
However, everything changed in the fourth quarter, with Baltimore holding a 35-14 lead. The Ravens didn't put the Dolphins away and paid dearly. Miami stunned the Ravens 42-38 in their home opener, outscoring the Ravens 28-3 in the fourth quarter, and leaving Jackson to explain a loss that was hard to fathom.
Stats don't matter to Jackson. Winning does. So while he was pleased with how the offense operated most of the game, he was disgusted by the outcome.
"We've got to finish," Jackson said. "They played their tail off. They kept playing. That's what we've got to do."
For many parts of this game, Jackson ignited the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium as the first chants this year of "MVP, MVP" reigned down. His most spectacular play was his third-quarter touchdown run. After faking a jet sweep handoff to Devin Duvernay, Jackson saw a gaping hole and took off. It became a footrace to the end zone between Jackson and Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, the last player with a chance to catch him.
Howard dove for Jackson's feet, but he missed the tackle. Nobody was catching Jackson, not on this day, and he tumbled into the end zone.
It was the 11th time Jackson has rushed for at least 100 yards, the most of any quarterback in league history. He also had a 75-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman in the first half, making Jackson the first quarterback in league history with a rushing touchdown and throwing touchdown of at least 75 yards in the same game.
On his touchdown pass to Bateman, the second-year wide receiver made a strong release to break away from Howard on a slant pattern and Jackson hit Bateman in stride. There was nothing but open space in front of Bateman, as the Dolphins had sold out with eight defenders in the box, daring Jackson to beat them with his arm. He did, and Bateman turned on the jets to outrace everyone to the end zone.
In the second quarter, Jackson found Demarcus Robinson on a 12-yard crossing pattern for a score, and one of several pinpoint passes that Jackson made into tight windows. Jackson's work on throwing mechanics during the offseason is paying dividends, and he has never thrown the ball with more accuracy or consistency.
However, this game was another reminder of how quickly momentum can change in the NFL. Jackson wasn't the only quarterback having a special day. Tua Tagovailoa threw for a career-high six touchdowns (36 for 50, 469 yards) and when the Dolphins mounted their fourth quarter charge, Baltimore's offense didn't help stop the bleeding. In four fourth quarter possessions, the Ravens produced just three points and never ran the ball effectively to take more time off the clock.
Jackson also squandered an opportunity to score another touchdown early in the second quarter, when he was stopped just short of the goal line on third-and-goal, then fumbled the snap from center Tyler Linderbaum on fourth down to end the drive.
"Just a mishap from me and my center – that's all; nothing major," Jackson said. "It was major, because we didn't get the touchdown, but we moved on from it, and it's not going to happen again."
But unless Baltimore starts running the ball with more success, there will be a heavy load on Jackson to carry the offense. Jackson was disappointed that the offense was shut down late in the game.
"They (the Dolphins) didn't make any crazy changes on defense," Jackson said. "We've just got to execute.
"Like I told you guys, we were going to have something for them if they did the same thing (blitzing). You saw it. They were bringing that zero blitz and our line did a heck of a job protecting."
However, the bottom line for Jackson was that the Ravens didn't win. His highlights will look good, but he felt lousy afterward.
"I want to win," Jackson said. "That (quarterback touchdown) record don't mean nothing if you're not winning.
"We've got to keep our head up. We've got 15 more games left. We're not going to let this game define us."