Lamar Jackson Wins Third Straight Start. Now Will He Remain the Starter?


Lamar Jackson's first NFL road start sure was a wild one.

The Ravens' rookie quarterback is now 3-0 as Baltimore's starter after a 26-16 victory in Atlanta. That, by far, is the most important thing.

But along the way Sunday, there were mistakes and eye-popping plays aplenty, which shouldn't be all that surprising considering the circumstances, but will turn up the heat on the Ravens' quarterback debate.

Should the Ravens, riding a three-game winning streak, go back to veteran Joe Flacco if he's cleared to play? Or should they ride the hot hand of the rookie? Or both?

Head Coach John Harbaugh still isn't tipping his hand. Harbaugh was asked whether Jackson has done enough to remain the starter.

"Sure, absolutely. He's done enough. He's played great – he's 3-0, he's played well," Harbaugh said. "What direction we'll go, we'll see."

Harbaugh pointed out that Flacco was not cleared by doctors to play in Sunday's game in Atlanta. Thus, it's still a question of who the starter is when both are completely healthy.

Jackson finished 12-of-21 passing for 125 yards and ran the ball 17 times for 75 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown. There were plenty of good plays, but his lack of ball security and exit from the game to check if he had a concussion put the Ravens in a pickle.

Jackson had three fumbles in the first half. One was picked up by Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley and returned 74 yards for a touchdown, giving the Falcons a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

"[My teammates] saw I was mad. That's not our job to turn the ball over. Our job is to put points on the board and keep the ball in our hands as much as I could," Jackson said. "When that happened, they saw I got a little ticked."

Jackson said cornerback Jimmy Smith said the defense had his back, and Jackson responded that he would put the ball in the end zone.

"The main thing about Lamar to me is his poise," Harbaugh said. "He just really handles himself well. He doesn't get overwhelmed by any of it. He makes a mistake, he recognizes it for what it is. He doesn't overthink that, he just wants to do better. He doesn't want to let his teammates down. That's genuine."

In terms of throwing, it was the fewest passing yards Jackson has had yet in his three starts. He made several excellent plays with his arm, particularly when rolling out to buy himself time. But Jackson also missed an open deep touchdown pass to wide receiver John Brown in the first half and overshot him again on a long pass in the second half.

On the flip side, Jackson was once again dynamic when running. There likely isn't another quarterback in the NFL that would have scored on his 13-yard touchdown, in which he exploded past defenders, shook off a tackler, then took a big hit as he crossed the goal line.

Perhaps most important, Jackson's running helped the Ravens protect a second-half lead as he rushed for 62 yards after halftime, picking up key first downs to keep the clock ticking and Atlanta's high-powered offense on the shelf.

Jackson led two key field-goal drives in the second half. At the end of the first, however, he took a kick to the head from left tackle Ronnie Stanley. That sent Jackson to the sideline to be evaluated for a possible concussion, for which he eventually had to be taken to the locker room.

"They needed to hurry up and get me out of there," Jackson said.

Robert Griffin III entered the game and mostly handed the ball off on a 14-play drive that covered 60 yards and ate more than eight minutes. Jackson was cleared and returned to the game with the Ravens leading by six points.

Jackson put together a 13-play drive that took 6:38 off the clock. He had five carries for 33 yards, including a 16-yard gallop on third-and-3. Jackson also hit running back Ty Montgomery for an 8-yard gain on third-and-7.

Justin Tucker booted a 47-yard field goal, giving the Ravens a nine-point lead and some breathing room in the fourth quarter, which was extended when the defense scored on a fumble recovery on the next series. But the defense shared credit with Jackson.

"Obviously, the offense helped us out," safety Eric Weddle said. "The time of possession has been huge for us the past three weeks, keeping us rested, keeping us fresh in the fourth quarter. … It's complementary football that we're playing and we've just got to keep it rolling."

So will the Ravens change the formula if Flacco is cleared to play? That will be much debated in the week(s) ahead in Baltimore, but Harbaugh said it won't be an issue internally.

"There will be no quarterback controversy in our locker room," Harbaugh said. "Our guys want to win and they know all three guys can win. Whatever way we decided to go, it's only going to make our team the strongest it can be. Maybe we play all three, maybe we play one of them. I don't know. We'll figure that out."

Check out the best shots from Sunday's Week 13 game in Atlanta.

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