SEATTLE — Lamar Jackson slipped. He tripped. He fell over himself. At one point, the Ravens quarterback, so bothered by the condition of the showers-soaked CenturyLink Field turf Sunday afternoon, switched to cleats with screwed-in spikes. Then a Seattle Seahawk linebacker caught him from behind. He wasn’t going to let that happen again. Back to the faster footwear he went.
Through six games, the Ravens and their top-ranked offense have needed less from Jackson’s legs this season. He has proven a more-than-capable passer. But Jackson knows the value of speed, and maybe never more so than in the Ravens’ most important game of the season. In Sunday’s defining moments, Jackson took off, those legs pumping, the offense moving with him, the team’s fortunes rising throughout a 30-16 win.
When the Ravens faced fourth-and-2 from the Seahawks’ 8-yard line in the third quarter, it was Jackson who asked to go back out onto the field, then followed the heft of maybe the team’s heaviest formation all season and found the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown. When the Ravens faced third-and-8 from deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter, it was Jackson who found a seam in the Seahawks’ pass rush and took off down the left side for 30 yards. Ten plays and almost eight minutes later, a short field goal gave them the game’s first double-digit lead, a little breather before a Week 8 bye.
With a resurgent defense led by playmaking cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Earl Thomas III, in his first game at Seattle since parting ways this offseason, the Ravens (5-2) won a game marked by first-half struggles and second-half dominance. Their win is their first ever in Seattle and extends their lead in the AFC North to 2½ games. The New England Patriots are up next, but they’ll have to leave Baltimore with a Sunday night win to remain unbeaten.
That means stopping Jackson. Every week, his Ravens teammates said afterward, more and more people realize just how hard that is.
“People just don’t really want to give Lamar the respect he deserves,” said cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who effectively put the game away with a fumble recovery and 18-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Football is a game of a lot of aggression, a lot of emotions. We had a little snap count infraction with our center [Matt Skura in the third quarter]. When I saw Lamar like, ‘Come on, man. We got it.’ I felt like from there, there was something different that came out of Lamar. He gets the first down and gets up pumped. That’s a quarterback I really like to see. We’re looking at you. At the end of the day, when we snap the ball, it’s going in your hands every play.”
As a passer, Jackson finished just 9-for-20 for 143 yards, his stat line hurt by a few low throws and some dropped balls. Tight end Mark Andrews, one of his top targets, dropped a would-be touchdown and had just two catches on eight targets for 39 yards. But Jackson had his second straight game (14 carries for 116 yards) with 100-plus rushing yards and a touchdown, too, the first quarterback in modern NFL history to do so.
It was a performance that Thomas said warranted further NFL Most Valuable Player consideration, especially given the competition. Seahawks star Russell Wilson, the league’s best quarterback entering Week 7, finished 20-for-41 for 241 yards, a touchdown and his first interception, along with three carries for 27 yards.
“Anytime you come in a hostile environment like this, you’re making powerful plays like that — all it does is just energize the sideline,” Thomas said of Jackson. “Like, that guy is the truth.”
The game profiled as a matchup of two of the NFL’s four most efficient offenses, according to Football Outsiders. But it unfolded like the kind of slugfest the Ravens often found themselves in over the second half of last season.
The Ravens’ early attack was restrained to the rare big completion — a 50-yard bomb to rookie Miles Boykin on their second play from scrimmage, a 33-yard catch by Andrews off play-action — and the occasional scramble. Jackson’s three scrambles for 43 yards accounted for two of the Ravens’ five first-half first downs and nearly half of their rushing total.
Even when that offense was efficient, it faltered in the red zone. The Ravens had second-and-3 from Seattle’s 7-yard line on their opening drive and settled for a field goal. Their next time in scoring range, they got a first down at the Seahawks' 12, but moved up just 2 yards. Another field goal.
For the second straight week, the absence of rookie wide receiver and deep threat Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was pronounced. A newcomer helped fill the void. Never mind that he’s a cornerback.
Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale had joked Thursday that even if Marcus Peters wasn’t ready for Sunday’s game by Friday, he’d hope the two-time All-Pro cornerback would lie to him. Peters later said he had, in fact, studied up.
It helped that Peters had already played the Seahawks two weeks earlier, in a Week 5 meeting with the Los Angeles Rams. He saw the game’s pivotal play coming because he’d seen it two weeks ago. After feinting a move downfield, then coming back to the right flat, he picked off Wilson’s second-quarter pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens’ offense was struggling and their defense was hanging on, but they had a 13-10 lead. They went into halftime tied.
The second half was theirs, though, statistically and psychologically. When Jackson ran 13 yards on third-and-long in the third quarter, bringing up fourth-and-2 from the Seahawks’ 8, Harbaugh called kicker Justin Tucker on for a gimme field-goal attempt.
Jackson approached Harbaugh as he jogged off the field. “I told him we were going for it,” Jackson recalled afterward. “Instead of bringing Tuck in, I’m like, ‘Bro, not this time. We’re not kicking no field goal, because if Russell Wilson gets the ball again and we didn’t score, it might look ugly.’”
That was all the convincing Harbaugh needed. The Ravens lined up Jackson in the shotgun. The play: “Quarterback power,” with no running backs even lined up, just a bunch of blockers in front of him. The result: a big hole on the line’s right side, an 8-yard touchdown, a 20-13 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
When the game ended and Thomas embraced old Seahawks teammates near midfield — notably, though, not former coach Pete Carroll — Seattle had edged the Ravens in total offense (347 yards to 340) and time of possession (30:06). But the Seahawks had been held in check for much of the second half, not scoring until less than two minutes remained.
There were no such answers for Jackson, not when Seattle needed to find them. Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said Jackson “won the game for them today.” And if the shoe fits, wear it.
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“This guy is a competitor of the nth degree,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, I don’t know how to describe what a competitor Lamar Jackson is. He wants to win at everything all the time, and we feed off that. He carries that. I think that’s who we are as a team. That’s why he fits us so well. And it showed today. You saw that fire.”