'Boom!' Ravens' Lamar Jackson is 'a home run just waiting to happen'

TAMPA, Fla. -- On Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens headed to the locker room at halftime without a touchdown and without their top two targets in the passing game.

But they did have quarterback Lamar Jackson.

"Lamar is truly a home run just waiting to happen. You never know when it’s going to come,” Ravens right guard Kevin Zeitler said. "It could be the darkest time — but boom! He is the sun coming just like that.”

Thursday’s 27-22 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a reminder about how Jackson can turn a mess into a masterpiece, of sorts. After being held to a field goal in the first half for just the third time in his five-year career, Jackson completed all eight of his passes after halftime, including two touchdown throws, and ran for 42 yards in the second half.

The home-run play that set the tone for Baltimore’s most productive second half of the season was a 25-yard run on the Ravens’ first snap of the third quater. Keeping the ball on a run option, Jackson ran past three Tampa defenders lunging at his legs before spinning out of a tackle 18 yards down the field. He traveled 59.8 yards of distance on that run, according to NextGen Stats.

Jackson and the Ravens produced 24 points after halftime, scoring on all four of their drives before a kneel-down at the end.

“I think he put the game on his shoulders,” Ravens outside linebacker Justin Houston said. "You saw the plays that he made. They were big-time plays. I think he didn’t panic at all. I think he showed what he’s about and what he [does] best and he did it.”

In the first half, Jackson was erratic, throwing behind receivers and at their feet. He didn’t do anything running the ball, gaining one yard on two attempts. The situation looked even more dire after tight end Mark Andrews (right shoulder) and wide receiver Rashod Bateman (left foot) were both declared out early in the second half.

Down 10-3 at halftime, Jackson led the comeback by relying on a couple of newcomers in rookie fourth-round tight end Isaiah Likely and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, who was signed as a free agent this summer. Likely finished the game with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown while Robinson totaled six receptions for 64 yards. Jackson completed +27.8% of his passes over expected in the second half, his highest CPOE in a half since Week 12 of 2019.

"I think it’s disappointing, frustrating, whatever you want to say, but there’s nobody in the locker room screaming; nobody’s upset,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said about the locker room at halftime. "Everyone just kind of locks in, [we] talk about what we need to do and come out and try to do it in the second half. Lamar probably does lead the charge on that.”

Jackson, who won back-to-back starts for the first time since October 2021, usually leads that charge with big plays. His 10 runs of at least 15 yards rank third in the NFL behind Nick Chubb (12) and Saquon Barkley (11). His 15 touchdown passes are tied for third behind Patrick Mahomes (20) and Josh Allen (17).

For the past two weeks, Jackson has been emphasizing finishing. He wanted Justin Tucker to kick more extra points than field goals. In that second half, Baltimore reached the end zone on its first three possessions.

Asked how close the Ravens are to clicking, Jackson said, “I feel like we’re very close; we’re right there, but there’s still room for improvement. The little mistakes, we’re still making them out there. [If] we change those, then I feel like the sky’s the limit for us.”