Lamar Jackson may be a work in progress, but his work Sunday brought more impressive moments.
The Ravens won their second straight game with Jackson as their starting quarterback and he accomplished several milestones. Jackson threw his first touchdown pass as a starter. He also scored his first rushing touchdown as a starter.
After relying on his legs heavily during his first NFL start with 27 carries (including three kneels), Jackson ran the ball just 11 times (two kneels) during the Ravens’ 34-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
He hurt Oakland with his throwing, finishing 14 for 25 for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He then hurt Oakland with his running (71 yards), particularly in the second half after running the ball just twice in the first half.
Should the Ravens stick with Jackson as their starter, he has produced enough film to traumatize opposing defensive coordinators. During a stretch of the season when the Ravens need wins desperately, Jackson’s presence has provided an undeniable spark.
“It’s the Lamar show,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree said. “You just have to sit back and watch, because he’s electrifying. … He’s got a winning spirit. Everything he does, he does well. I’m just a witness and a receiver at his disposal.”
“Lamar is definitely fun to watch,” Ravens running back Ty Montgomery said. “He’s great to be around, real loose, and when he’s on the field there’s a great energy. That’s what I love about him. He plays fast, trusts his instincts, and it’s definitely fun to be a part of.”
Jackson critiqued his performance more harshly, harping on his two first-half interceptions. Asked how he thought he threw the ball, Jackson said, “I threw two interceptions, one more than last week, so I was a kind of ticked off.”
Does he feel like he has done enough to lead the offense?
“I don’t feel like I’ve done enough,” Jackson said. “There’s always room for improvement. We’re in a good spot right now. We just have to keep winning.”
The statement about winning rings true, with the Ravens (6-5) fighting for a playoff spot and back above .500 after a three-game losing streak threatened to ruin their season. Despite his two turnovers, Jackson made winning plays.
He made pinpoint throws that led to big plays – a floater over the middle on a crossing pattern to John Brown for 25 yards and a perfect deep ball to a wide-open Mark Andrews for a 74-yard gain. Jackson also tossed another perfectly thrown deep ball to Brown that was nullified by a penalty.
It should be noted that Jackson’s two wins have come against the Bengals and Raiders, who have two of the NFL’s worst defenses. But Head Coach John Harbaugh has been impressed with Jackson’s ability to generate positive plays with his arm, as well as his legs.
“I thought he threw it well,” Harbaugh said. “I have to see the tape, I guess, to know for sure, but he threw the ball well I thought. I think he has proven himself in college and all that kind of stuff. Just because you can run really well doesn’t mean you can’t throw.”
Jackson’s first interception was probably his worst throw of the day. He had time in the pocket, but his pass to Brown was thrown into heavy traffic and was tipped by Raiders safety Erik Harris into the arms of teammate safety Reggie Nelson.
Jackson’s second interception was the product of a terrific play by Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley, who volleyed a pass intended for Michael Crabtree. Conley’s deflection allowed Raiders safety Marcus Gilchrist to catch the ball in the end zone, wiping out a Ravens scoring opportunity shortly before halftime.
However, those mistakes didn’t rattle Jackson. Instead, they motivated him. He came into the locker room at halftime wanting to throw more, not less.
“I was like, ‘Man, we have to throw some more,’” Jackson said. “You all have to let me make up for that and get the ball to those guys. And I feel like I missed open passes that I should have hit.”
When the Ravens relied more on their running game in the second half, Jackson was a huge part of it. On his 5-yard touchdown run, Jackson rolled to his left and accelerated through an alley to reach the end zone with relative ease. When Jackson accelerates, it does not take him long to reach where he wants to go.
“He played very well today,” Conley said of Jackson. “He really gives them a dual threat. He can beat you with the run, he can beat you with the pass.”
Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree was not a difficult throw, on a slant pattern where Crabtree broke wide open. But Jackson was also accurate on the previous play, when a potential touchdown pass to Brown slipped through his hands. Again, Jackson was not shaken when Brown did not make the catch.
Some of Jackson’s teammates sensed him playing with more confidence this week.
“I feel like he has taken more of a leadership role,” said running back Gus Edwards, who topped 100 yards rushing (118 yards) for the second straight game. “I love how he has the next-play mentality. If he makes a mistake out there, it’s the next play.”
With the Ravens holding a fourth-quarter lead, Jackson helped ice the game with a 39-yard run that showcased his speed. For the second straight game, Jackson’s last few snaps came from the victory formation. As his teammate Andrews said, he would rather catch passes from Jackson than try to defend him.
“It’s amazing how athletic he is and how good of a quarterback he is,” Andrews said. “He’s able to do so much that makes defenses stay up all night.”
Check out the best photos from the Ravens' Week 12 game against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium.