QB Lamar Jackson runs 27 times to lead Baltimore Ravens to win in his NFL starting debut
- The Baltimore Ravens earned a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
- Rookie QB Lamar Jackson, in his first NFL start, rushed 27 times for 117 yards for Baltimore.
- Jackson also completed 13 of 19 passes for 150 yards with an interception.
BALTIMORE — In the days leading up to his first NFL start, Lamar Jackson experienced a stomach ache and insomnia.
When the rookie quarterback finally got on the field, Jackson inflicted a whole lot of pain on the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jackson juked and sprinted for 117 yards, Gus Edwards ran for 115 and the Baltimore Ravens ground out a 24-21 victory Sunday to end a three-game losing streak.
Flashing the moves that enabled him to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy at Louisville, Jackson zipped in and out of the pocket for 27 carries. Though the Ravens (5-5) relied heavily on the run, Jackson also completed 13 of 19 passes for 150 yards with an interception.
“We came out with a win, so it was pretty good, I guess,” Jackson said. “I had butterflies before the first tackle, but after the first tackle, it was game on.”
Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco did not practice all week and was inactive with a right hip injury. That created an opening for Jackson, the 32nd overall pick in the NFL draft.
But Jackson missed practice Thursday with a stomach ailment that led to a trip to the hospital, where he was treated and released. Then, sleep eluded him Saturday night.
“I think I stayed up all night,” Jackson said. “I was ready to play last night.”
Before Sunday, Jackson occasionally took snaps in running situations and replaced Flacco in the fourth quarter of two blowouts. Having to carry the load by himself, Jackson responded with a solid performance in a game the Ravens had to win.
“It wasn’t pretty, wasn’t perfect, but it was us,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It was the Ravens, and we won the football game.”
Down 21-13 in the second half, Baltimore rallied to hand the sinking Bengals (5-5) their fourth loss in five games.
Edwards, an undrafted rookie free agent, scored on an 11-yard run and barreled in for the conversion late in the third quarter. Jackson then directed a 55-yard drive that ended with a field goal by Justin Tucker with 8:12 remaining.
“My teammates had my backs, and I had theirs,” Jackson said.
Cincinnati’s Randy Bullock missed a potential tying 52-yard field goal with 3:59 left, and Andy Dalton’s fourth-down pass from the Baltimore 37 with 1:42 to go was knocked away by Marlon Humphrey.
“I definitely thought we were going to go down there, we were going to score and win the game,” Dalton said.
This was a tough defeat for the Bengals, who were soaring at 4-1 in October but now stand at .500 for the first time after letting Jackson run rampant.
“We weren’t able to get him stopped enough,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday after the unit allowed 500 yards in three straight games, an NFL record in the Super Bowl era. Lewis took control of the defense, which was better this time around despite allowing 265 yards rushing.
“I thought they played hard,” Lewis said of his defense. “I thought they played better and did a good job on assignments.”
Jackson ran 10 times for 64 yards and five first downs , Alex Collins scored on a 7-yard run to cap the opening drive, and the Ravens took a 13-7 halftime lead when Tucker drilled a 56-yard field goal.
It all came apart for Baltimore in the third quarter. Jackson threw his first NFL interception , a pick by Shawn Williams, whose 22-yard return set up a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Lengel for a 14-13 lead.
On the next series, Jackson was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 45. Dalton turned the gamble into a touchdown, hitting John Ross on the right side of the end zone for a 22-yard score.
But the Ravens rallied.
KEEP ‘EM GUESSING
Though Jackson lacks experience, he certainly knows how to keep a defense guessing. More than Flacco, anyway.
“It’s like two different offenses,” Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. “With Joe Flacco, he just stands back there and isn’t very mobile but throws the ball hard. This guy (Jackson) is very unpredictable.”
But can he win a game with his arm?
“I don’t know how well he throws the ball,” Burfict said. “But I guess we’ll find out.”
Also on Sunday, Robert Griffin III made his debut with Baltimore after being on the inactive list for the first nine weeks. Griffin lined up as a receiver in the second quarter but did not touch the ball.
READY AND RESTED
The Ravens improved to 9-2 after a bye under Harbaugh, and they’re 14-3 since 2002 following an extra week off.
Bengals: WR A.J. Green (toe) was inactive after dressing for warmups.
Ravens: OT James Hurst (back) was inactive for a fourth straight week. … OT Ronnie Stanley twice limped off the field. He’s had ankle issues lately.
Bengals: A matchup next Sunday against visiting Cleveland should be particularly meaningful for former Browns coach Hue Jackson, hired as an assistant by Cincinnati on Tuesday.
Ravens: A three-game homestand concludes for Baltimore against the struggling Oakland Raiders.