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Lamar Jackson Excels in Return From COVID-19

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson says he still can't smell or taste, but COVID-19 didn't seem to affect his ability to play football.

Jackson had one of his best games of the season in his first game back from COVID-19, throwing two touchdowns and running for another in the Ravens' 34-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday Night Football.

Jackson said he had flu-like symptoms, but that he's "good now."

"I wouldn't wish that on anybody, though. It's not good to have," Jackson added.

"It felt like I didn't play for a whole season. I was like, 'It feels good to be back with my guys.' Even in practice, walking into the locker room and stuff, I was like, 'Man, I couldn't wait to see you, your faces.' It was like two weeks that I didn't see those guys. I couldn't wait to get out there and perform for those guys, because I know how much it would mean for us to win games."

Jackson didn't return to the Ravens practice field until late in the week's preparation. He said he spent much of the past couple weeks sleeping. When he was awake, Jackson said he was studying film of the Cowboys because he knew he couldn't play against the rival Steelers.

Missing last week's game in Pittsburgh ate at Jackson. He had four turnovers in the Ravens' earlier loss to them this season at M&T Bank Stadium. He was eager to try to knock them off.

"When I found out I had [COVID-19], I was ticked off, because it was a big game," Jackson said. "I was just going through a lot of emotions, like, 'How the heck did it come now? Why did I have to get sick now?' But it is what it is. I feel like my guys fought that game.

"I'm here now, [my] sickness is gone, [and] I'm not going to get it anymore. We've just got to keep rocking. We played a great game tonight – just got to keep it going."

Jackson's night didn't start well as the Ravens' first drive ended with an interception that bounced off Marquise "Hollywood" Brown's extended hand. Then a muffed snap led to a second-and-18 on the second drive.

But Jackson got the Ravens into a fourth-and-2 and waved the field goal unit off the field, imploring his coaches to let the offense go for it. They did, and Jackson dashed up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown that had Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch completely fooled.

After an interception in the second quarter, Jackson immediately turned it into points when he found wide receiver Miles Boykin wide open in the Dallas secondary for a 38-yard touchdown.

Jackson's best throw, however, was a 20-yard touchdown to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown in the third quarter, in which the Ravens' MVP scrambled to his left and dropped the pass in a bucket in the corner of the end zone.

After the touchdown, Jackson showed the glee that became routine last season, picking up Brown for a hug. It was clear, Jackson was having fun.

"He delivered a great pass. If you don't come down with that one, you can't say too much," Brown said.

Jackson did much of his damage with his legs, running for 94 yards on 13 carries. He was efficient with his arm, completing 12 of 17 passes for 107 yards.

In the process, Jackson became the first player in NFL history with at least 5,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards in his first three seasons.

Considering the lack of practice time and his health coming back from COVID-19, it was a performance to remember for Jackson.

"Well, the one thing you do know about Lamar, you're going to get everything he's got – that's really all you can ask for," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's going to give you whatever he has, and it turned out that he had a lot tonight. That was good to see. I don't think you could predict that.

"He came out to practice. He looked good in practice. He was strong and healthy. I'm just impressed by the fact that he was on top of the game plan so well. He'd been studying, obviously, through the whole time he was away, and he played a great football game."

The Ravens' offense hasn't been as dangerous as last season, and Baltimore's passing game has ranked near the bottom of the league. But Baltimore ran for more yards than it did in any game last year. And when Jackson is playing like he did Tuesday night, the Ravens know they are a tough team to beat.

"I expected exactly what he did. He came out there and played a complete game. He gave us his all – that's the stuff you expect from Lamar," linebacker Patrick Queen said. "He's a great quarterback, a great guy [and] a great leader. We just have to follow behind him and push him to be the best he can be every day and just have his back no matter what."

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