Lamar Jackson presented the Cincinnati Bengals with a can’t-win dilemma: Try to prevent the versatile quarterback from running, or stop him from passing?
Turns out, Cincinnati was powerless to do either.
Jackson rambled, shimmied and passed his way through the winless Bengals while guiding the Baltimore Ravens to a 23-17 victory on Sunday.
Alternatingly jutting left and right, up the middle and occasionally toward the sideline, Jackson carried 19 times (including three kneel-downs at the end). His most notable runs were a 36-yarder on the opening drive, a 21-yard score and a 16-yard foray up the middle on a third-and-14 in the fourth quarter.
Regardless of where Jackson went, the Bengals (0-6) were usually a step behind.
“It’s hard because you got all your skill guys covering down the field, eyes on their man,” safety Jesse Bates said. “And then you got the D-line, and they’re just rushing against basically a running back. It’s pretty tough.”
The Bengals (0-6) aren’t the only team to struggle against Jackson, although they’ve had their fair share of problems against the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner.
Jackson now has three career 100-yard rushing games, tied with Billy Kilmer for most by a quarterback in his first two seasons since 1950. Jackson’s first 100-yard game came last November against Cincinnati, in his first NFL start.
In this one, Jackson avoided trouble when possible but also took a few hard hits when forced to stay between the hash marks. Each time, he popped up with enthusiasm, ready to do it again.
“The most frustrating thing for the defense is, you got the play covered — and he just finds (space),” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s an elite athlete. We’ve played a couple good athletes, (but) he’s one of the rarest I’ve ever seen in person. Just one little crease and he’s got 30 yards on you.”
Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to pass for at least 200 yards and rush for 150 in a single game. Tapering off his downfield runs at the end, Jackson finished tantalizingly short of Michael Vick’s single-game record of 173 yards rushing by a quarterback.
“Having your name mentioned with his is pretty cool,” Jackson said.
“To his credit, he’s all about winning the game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Setting records is not what he’s thinking about now.”
Jackson was also adept when throwing, going 21 for 33 without an interception. But on this day, his legs counted most.
“Lamar was able to get out and run because of the way they were playing,” Harbaugh said.
Cincinnati jumped on top when Brandon Wilson took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a score, but Jackson responded quickly. Baltimore (4-2) finished with 497 yards of offense, and the Ravens retained sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
The Bengals, meanwhile, remain in search of their first win under Taylor.
Andy Dalton went 21 for 39 for 235 yards and scored on a 2-yard run with 1:28 left. But Cincinnati failed to a produce an offensive touchdown over the first three quarters in a third straight game.
Baltimore compiled a 212-6 advantage in yardage and an 11-0 margin in first downs during the first quarter. Jackson led the way with 106 yards through the air and 85 on the ground.
The Ravens scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions, a 21-yard run by Jackson and a 1-yard plunge by Mark Ingram. The quarter ended just before Justin Tucker kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead.
Late in the half, the Bengals moved to the Baltimore 21 before Marlon Humphrey intercepted a deflected pass. The Ravens gave it back when tight end Mark Andrews fumbled while trying to hurdle a defender, and Cincinnati cashed in with a field goal.
Wilson’s kickoff return for a touchdown was only the 11th allowed by the Ravens in their existence, and the first since Joe McKnight of the Jets went 107 yards on Oct. 3, 2011. It was also the first opening kick TD in the NFL since Pharoh Cooper’s 103-yarder for the Rams against the Jaguars on Oct. 15, 2017. Finally, it was the first by Cincinnati since Bernard Scott against Pittsburgh in 2009.
Bengals: CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) was carted off in the first quarter and did not return. … G John Miller left in the second quarter with a groin injury. He did not return. … OT Cordy Glenn (concussion) was inactive for the sixth consecutive week.
Ravens: Rookie WR Marquise Brown and MLB Patrick Onwuasor, the team’s leading tackler, were inactive with ankle injuries.
Bengals: Cincinnati takes another shot at getting its first victory next Sunday in a home matchup with Jacksonville.
Ravens: Baltimore faces the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, the first meeting between the teams on the West Coast since 2011.
Source: Associated Press – DAVID GINSBURG