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‘Expect the unexpected’: Lamar Jackson dazzles as Ravens erase deficit to stun Colts in overtime, 31-25

When the game was over and the comeback was complete, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson took his helmet off and threw it as high as he could. There was nothing left to say, nothing left to do, nothing but surrender to the emotions of a record-setting night, an improbable comeback, a stirring win.

It was overtime in Baltimore, and the scoreboard read: Ravens 31, Indianapolis Colts 25. It didn’t matter Monday night that the Ravens had trailed by 19 points in the third quarter or by 16 in the fourth, or that their defense could hardly stop quarterback Carson Wentz, or that some fans had left a now-raucous, charged-up M&T Bank Stadium 45 minutes earlier in search of a smoother route home.

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Because the Ravens had Jackson, and that was enough. On a night that squashed any lingering doubts about his passing ability, he finished 37-for-43 for a team-record 442 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions. His last pass, a 5-yard dart to wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown just five minutes into an overtime period few foresaw, completed the third-largest comeback in team history.

“It’s one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson, the first NFL player in NFL history to finish with 400 yards passing, four touchdown passes, no interceptions and 50 yards rushing in a single game. “And it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like we came out just up and down the field. We had to overcome and fight through some things. ...

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“All the guys who made plays and the offensive line [deserve credit], but it starts with Lamar. He deserves the credit.”

The unlikely victory — the Ravens’ win probability was as low as 4% with just over six minutes remaining in regulation, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats — was suffused with all the chaos of an increasingly disorienting season. The Ravens will stay home for a much-anticipated Week 6 matchup Sunday with the Los Angeles Chargers (4-1) clutching a 4-1 record and sole possession of first place in the AFC North. Three of those wins were decided within the final 70 seconds. The one loss came in overtime.

Monday’s game might have been the zaniest of them all. The end had more twists than a soap opera finale, combining the overtime stakes of the Ravens’ Week 1 trip to Las Vegas, the late-game swings of their Week 2 comeback against Kansas City and the special teams drama of their Week 3 win in Detroit. The Ravens’ 10-play, 68-yard march downfield to end the game against an injury-depleted defense was in some ways the night’s most predictable sequence of events.

“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind,” Jackson said afterward, but the Colts (1-4) were the better team for most of Monday night. That could not keep them from being sucked into a whirlpool of wildness. They left the field kicking themselves — perhaps no one more ruefully than their kicker. With less than five minutes remaining, Indianapolis’ Rodrigo Blankenship had a chance to extend a 25-17 lead and all but obliterate the Ravens’ hopes of a comeback.

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Instead, defensive lineman Calais Campbell shot through the line to block his 37-yard field-goal attempt. That gave the Ravens an inch of hope. They took it a mile. Jackson led his third straight touchdown drive of 75 yards or more, taking the offense to the end zone in 11 plays. His 4-yard pass to tight end Mark Andrews with 46 seconds remaining narrowed the Colts’ lead to 25-23, and another pass to Andrews over the middle for the 2-point conversion evened the score.

“[Jackson’s] always growing. He’s always getting better,” said Andrews, who finished with 11 catches for 147 yards, a Ravens single-game record for receiving yards by a tight end. “A game like this, he’s just so efficient. He just sees the game so well. He leads guys and puts them in the right spot, puts the ball in the right spot. Some of the throws he’s able to make today, it’s just like, he makes our job easy.”

On a dreadful night for the Ravens defense (season-high 513 yards allowed), there was still plenty of time to give up a game-winner. Helped by an untimely personal-foul penalty on cornerback Tavon Young, who appeared to be instigated into committing unnecessary roughness, the Colts got as far as the Ravens’ 29-yard line. But Blankenship, thrown off by a hip injury that flared up before the game, missed wide left from 47 yards as time expired.

The home crowd exploded in delirium. When the Ravens won the coin toss, they went wild again.

“Expect the unexpected,” Harbaugh said.

For a while, it seemed like the Ravens’ night would hinge on a read-option decision that ended one possession. Or maybe on the touchdown run that punctuated the next one.

The third-quarter drives were in some ways a referendum on all the Ravens could not do and all that the Colts could — to that point, anyway. To keep hope and a drive alive, the Ravens, down 16-3, had needed a winding third-and-3 scramble from Jackson that gained 12 yards but must have covered 40. They’d needed another third-down conversion after a false-start penalty a few plays later. And on first-and-goal from the 1, Jackson had fumbled on a keeper after deciding against a handoff for running back Latavius Murray, who likely would’ve scored.

After a long huddle, the officials ruled that what came next — a fumble recovery by inside linebacker Darius Leonard at the 3, a lateral to cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, a sprint to a defensive touchdown — actually amounted to a Ravens turnover, Indianapolis’ ball at the 19. Leonard’s lateral was ruled to be a forward pass.

And that made what came afterward all the more unbearable for the 75,000-plus in attendance. The Colts needed just six plays to take back what was theirs. When running back Jonathan Taylor rumbled in from 4 yards out for a 22-3 lead, Harbaugh said he started to do the math in his head about what a comeback would require.

“You’re not giving up,” he said. “First of all, we have Lamar Jackson. Next of all, we have a bunch of guys just like Lamar Jackson, with heart, spirit, soul, persistence and all the other things — faith. Faith and favor, man, they’re tied together.”

“I was just praying we’d get another opportunity in my head,” Jackson said. “I didn’t really want to show everybody I’m praying. It’s good to pray now, but I was just like, ‘Man, we just need another opportunity, because I know what we can do.’ ”

The Ravens’ passing outburst started to feel routine by game’s end, with Jackson finding Brown (nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns) and Andrews almost whenever he wanted. The Colts, missing top cornerback Rock Ya-Sin before the game and losing starter Xavier Rhodes late in the collapse, could rarely get to Jackson or get in front of his passes.

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The Ravens’ play on the other end was more surprising. Indianapolis’ offense had its way with the Ravens’ secondary. That was not the expectation, not with Wentz having just recovered from a pair of sprained ankles, not with the Colts having the NFL’s 26th-ranked passing offense, according to Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics. But when the Ravens’ pass rush could not get past an offensive line missing two starters, they were often in trouble.

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Wentz’s season high through his first four four games was 251 yards. He cleared that a minute into the third quarter, his 42-yard touchdown to Pittman leaving cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Marlon Humphrey in their wake. Averett was flagged for pass interference on the play, but that couldn’t deny Pittman or the facts of a long night. He allowed nine completions on 11 targets for 184 yards, Wentz’s favorite target throughout a 402-yard, two-touchdown night.

The Ravens’ run defense didn’t distinguish itself, either. Taylor, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Wentz ran for 123 yards, easily surpassing the Ravens’ total. The Ravens’ 86 yards included just 24 combined yards from running backs and ended a 43-game streak of 100-plus rushing yards, tied for the NFL’s longest ever.

The Colts looked like they’d run away with a lead early. After forcing a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, they turned a third-and-long into a breakaway screen pass. Taylor wasn’t touched on the 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The closest the Ravens got to taking someone down were a couple of awkward bumps as defensive backs ran into one another.

During an uneven first half for the Ravens’ offense, even their best drive proved more bitter than sweet. They covered 80 yards over nine plays in the second quarter, by far their longest before halftime, but were stopped 5 yards short of the end zone after Jackson missed Brown in the end zone. Kicker Justin Tucker’s 23-yard field goal ended the shutout — and a drive in which the Ravens lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins and left guard Ben Cleveland to a hamstring and knee injury, respectively.

“Quite frankly, they executed better than us,” Harbaugh said of the Ravens’ first half. “We didn’t play as well as we can.”

That changed in the second half. For Jackson, anyway. He did not finish with a perfect passer rating (140.5), but he set NFL records with his accuracy (86% completion rate, the highest for a passer with 40-plus attempts). He did not lift the Ravens to 100 rushing yards, but he was as elusive as ever in the backfield and open field. He did not end the game in regulation, but he did force overtime and won it there.

At his postgame news conference, he was asked: Was it his best game ever? “I don’t know,” he said. “We got the win. That’s all I care about.”

Week 6

CHARGERS@RAVENS

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 3

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