After Jackson recorded his second career 300-yard passing game in Sunday’s 23-7 win in Denver, Ravens wide receiver James Proche widened his eyes when asked about Jackson’s performance.
“I can’t believe people were saying he couldn’t throw,” Proche said. "That’s crazy, right? That’s wild. Barbaric. That’s like saying water is dry. It’s just crazy, man.”
The Ravens (3-1) are tied atop the AFC North largely because of Jackson’s arm. Considered the best running quarterback in NFL history, Jackson is throwing the better than ever. He’s passed for over 275 yards in back-to-back games after only doing so once in his first 40 starts.
After Sunday’s games, Jackson currently ranks 11th in the league with 1,077 yards passing after finishing 22nd in each of the past two seasons.
Jackson shook his head when asked if he believes he has silenced the critics who say he can’t lead Baltimore to victory with his arm.
"No. There will always be noise,” Jackson said. "You got to block it out and play football.”
The Ravens were hoping Jackson would take the next step as a passer in his fourth NFL season. When Baltimore’s top two backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards) went down with season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season, it became imperative for Jackson to move the offense by throwing the ball.
In Detroit, Jackson threw for 287 yards and set up Justin Tucker’s winning field goal by converting a fourth-and-19 with a 36-yard pass to Sammy Watkins. In Denver, he produced 316 yards, which were eight yards short of his career high.
Teams once thought they could shut down the Ravens offense if they contained Baltimore’s running game. Not anymore.
"It's important to be able to win multiple ways and whatever is required,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. "We know if we have to throw the ball for 300 yards, we can. If teams are going to stack the box and make it hard on us to run, which is good football, we know that Lamar can get the job done.”
The Ravens knew the Broncos were going to dare them to pass by stacking the box. In scouting the Broncos, Jackson noticed how Denver’s linebackers were right behind the defensive line.
"We watched it on film over and over again,” Jackson said. "We knew we had to beat them with these kinds of passes and these types of play calls, and we did.”
In training camp, the Ravens’ coaches and players talked about the importance of making teams pay for trying to slow down their run game. It seemed like a big challenge for a passing game that ranked last in the NFL last season.
But Baltimore has been in attack mode through the air all season. On Sunday, Jackson connected on the longest pass of his career (in terms of air yards), when he threw a spectacular 49-yard touchdown pass to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. Jackson’s 19 completions of 20-plus yards ranks third in the NFL this season, trailing Tom Brady and Derek Carr.
“We obviously wanted to limit his opportunities to carry it and scramble,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “We did that, but they were able to complete the long passes which negated that.”
The Ravens now face the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), when their passing attack could be even stronger. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, a first-round pick, might make his debut after missing the first four games following groin surgery.
“The sky’s the limit,” Jackson said of the passing attack. "We’ve just got to keep it going. One play at a time, one practice at a time. Just stay locked in and focused on our duties.”