Instant analysis: Lamar Jackson's historic first start lifts Ravens past Bengals, 24-21

Behind a historic rushing performance Sunday from Ravens rookie Lamar Jackson, the Ravens held off the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-21, to end their three-game losing streak and reassert themselves in the AFC playoff race.

Jackson finished with 117 yards on 27 carries in his first NFL start, both records for a Ravens quarterback, and led an offense that reawakened in the second half to score the game’s final 11 points.

He needed help from the defense. After Bengals kicker Randy Bullock missed a would-be game-tying field goal from 52 yards out, the Ravens (5-5) went three-and-out. Quarterback Andy Dalton took over with 2:45 remaining but couldn’t make it past Cincinnati’s 37-yard line.

Jackson, who finished 13-for-19 for 150 passing yards and an interception, had an up-and-down start to the game. On the Ravens’ first possession, he didn’t throw a pass during an 11-play, 66-yard march to the end zone punctuated by running back Alex Collins’ 7-yard rush.

But the Ravens didn’t score another touchdown until late in the third quarter. A 2-yard score and subsequent 2-point conversion by unlikely star back Gus Edwards (17 carries for 115 yards) tied the game at 21. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s third field goal on as many attempts midway through the fourth quarter pushed them ahead 24-21.

Quarterback Andy Dalton was 19-for-36 for 211 passing yards and two touchdowns for the Bengals, who fell to 5-5.

Jonas Shaffer, reporter: You could call the Ravens’ game a lot of things. Most importantly, it was a win. A really fun win.

No other team would dare to do the things with a quarterback that the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson. For a week, with the help of a resurgent defense and Gus Edwards, it worked. Now the question becomes: How long can they keep it up?

Peter Schmuck, columnist: The Ravens had to win this game and it didn't matter how they did it. What did matter was the performance of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and — finally — a last-gasp defensive stand by the Ravens defense.

The path forward is still difficult, but it would have been all but impassable if the Bengals had staged another late comeback.

As for Jackson, he made some mistakes, but he also ran the Bengals defense to distraction and combined with running back Gus Edwards to rush for 228 yards.

The Ravens returned to .500 and have what should be a very winnable game at home next week against the Oakland Raiders. Until then, their fans can breathe a big sigh of relief and continue to hold out hope for a playoff run.

Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens saved their season, for the time being. Lamar Jackson’s debut was a significant success, despite his third-quarter interception that allowed the Bengals back in the game. The rookie gave the Ravens an instant running game, and they dominated the Bengals in yards, first downs and time of possession.

A Jackson-led offense looks like nothing else in the NFL. Granted, the Bengals are terrible on defense, and a few weeks of opposition scouting might reduce Jackson’s effectiveness. But he presents real problems for defenses accustomed to defending 40 or 50 passes a game. If Jackson leads the Ravens to victory next week against the Oakland Raiders, they’ll face a truly interesting question when Joe Flacco is healthy enough to play.

On defense, the Ravens did a far better job covering the quick passes that have bedeviled them over the past month. The Bengals couldn’t sustain a drive longer than 57 yards all afternoon.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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