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Lamar Jackson Saved the Ravens’ Season From Going Down the Toilet

Baltimore appeared to be cruising to a much-needed win over the Browns … then Jackson left the game with cramps. Chaos ensued.

AP Images/Ringer illustration

Just when things finally seemed to be going right for an underperforming Ravens squad, shit hit the fan. Early in the fourth quarter against the Browns on Monday Night Football, Baltimore held a 14-point lead in a game it needed to win. After weeks of uneven performances, the Ravens offense looked sharp, their defense was doing just enough, and Lamar Jackson was showing flashes of his former MVP form. Then, Jackson mysteriously ran to the locker room due to cramps, and the Ravens’ entire season was in danger of going down the toilet.

The Browns scored a touchdown on a 12-play, 75-yard drive, and the Ravens faced a nightmare, turning to third-string quarterback Trace McSorley to relieve Jackson for the ensuing Baltimore possession. Immediately, the Ravens offense went three and out, thanks to an errant McSorley pass and a drop from Marquise Brown. Baltimore punted, and the Browns marched down the field yet again, scoring another touchdown—and connecting on an improbable two-point conversion attempt—to claim a one-point lead, 35-34.

The Ravens got the ball again and started to move the ball downfield, thanks to a McSorley completion and a handful of solid runs from J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. But on a third-and-2 from the Cleveland 41-yard line, McSorley shifted around in the pocket and looked poised for a run up the middle before his heel slipped on the turf (a consistent problem for players all night) and his knee buckled. With usual backup Robert Griffin III on the injured reserve, it looked for the moment like the Ravens would have no quarterback to take snaps—until Jackson returned from the locker room just in time.

Jackson came back onto the field facing a do-or-die fourth-and-5. On the ensuing snap, he was flushed out of the pocket, and just when it looked like he could run for the first down, he dropped a bomb to Brown, who had struggled with drops for much of the night. Luckily for the Ravens, on this play Brown’s hands were Charmin soft:

The 44-yard score gave Baltimore a five-point lead, and the Ravens went for two. J.K. Dobbins pushed it in to put his team up by seven.

But the Browns weren’t done. On its ensuing drive, the Cleveland offense exploded down the field, gaining 75 yards in just four plays. Baker Mayfield dumped the ball to Kareem Hunt for a 22-yard score, tying the game at 42. It looked like the Ravens were once again in danger of watching their playoff hopes circle the drain.

But the Browns left too much time—64 seconds—for the Ravens offense, which quickly pierced through the Cleveland defense. Jackson found tight end Mark Andrews for back-to-back 14-yard completions, quickly moving the offense down the field. After a couple more completions, the Ravens were in field goal range—and they happen to have the best kicker in NFL history. Justin Tucker wiped away the Ravens’ concerns with a 55-yard, go-ahead field goal.

Still, the drama wasn’t over. Facing a three-point deficit, the Browns had a chance to run one last play, a frenzy of laterals that ultimately ended in a safety. Given that the Ravens were favored by three points coming into the night, their ultimate 47-42 victory counts as a sort of backdoor cover for sports bettors.

There is no overstating the importance of the victory to the Ravens’ playoff push. With the win, the Ravens move to 8-5 and now have a 74 percent chance of making the postseason, per The New York Times’ playoff simulator. Had they lost, those odds would have stood at just 28 percent—a swing of nearly 50 points. That makes this one of the most consequential games of the season so far.

Before the late-game drama, this was a game of runs. Not just because of the back-and-forth scoring from both teams, but because of the way both offenses kept the football on the ground for much of the game. Nick Chubb had 82 rushing yards and two scores, and the Ravens’ emerging duo of Dobbins and Edwards combined for 102 and three touchdowns. The Browns’ Kareem Hunt also had a score on the ground, as did Mayfield. But it was Jackson in particular who had the biggest runs of the night, including this 44-yard scamper in the third quarter:

Jackson played his ass off in the game. He ended up totaling 124 yards on the ground on just nine carries—including two touchdowns. He added another 163 yards and a score through the air. It was a gutsy performance for the third-year pro looking to regain his MVP form and put the Ravens back into the playoffs. Considering the stakes and the late-game chaos, this was the game of the season so far. It’ll go down in the annals of NFL history.