Ravens coach John Harbaugh reacted like a lot of fans probably did watching Lamar Jackson scramble around before finding wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the back of the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
The quarterback covered 25.3 yards, according to Next Gen Stats, first stepping up in the pocket before spinning away from the enclosing pressure, rolling right, dancing back left and finally letting rip a 12-yard pass before defenders Aidan Hutchinson and Derrick Barnes could corral him. His 9.24 seconds to throw was the third-longest on a touchdown pass since Next Gen Stats began tracking such data in 2016.
“I’m like, ‘I can’t believe he got flushed out of the pocket,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Why wasn’t the first route open? Or maybe the route wasn’t run the right way somewhere,’ and I’m mad. And then I’m thinking, ‘Well Lamar is getting away,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Find somebody. Somebody get open.’ And then the ball goes up, it’s a touchdown, and I scream for joy — inside; I don’t want anybody to see that. But it’s the same.
“I will say this; in the red zone, especially — really everywhere — [from] a defensive perspective, the extended play is real. It’s something that you have to actually prepare to stop. And the teams that do it better are the teams that are tougher to defend. So, the ability to defend those is big.”
So was Jackson’s performance: 21 of 27 passing for 357 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran nine times for 36 yards and another score. It was enough for him to be named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday.
It was the ninth time Jackson earned the honor but the first since Week 5 in 2021, when he completed 37 of 43 passes for a career-high 442 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for a team-high 62 yards on 14 carries in an overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts on “Monday Night Football.”
His play Sunday against Detroit was just as mesmerizing, if not frustrating, for the Lions.
On the second play of the game, Jackson acted as if he were going to run after a fake handoff before pulling up and hitting receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for an 11-yard gain over the middle. In the third quarter and with the Ravens on their own 9-yard line, he again looked as if he might run, rolling right after faking a handoff before dumping off a short pass to running back Gus Edwards, who had slipped behind the defense and rumbled 80 yards for the longest catch of his career.
“Lamar gave us problems,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We could never apply enough pressure.”
Even when they did, it didn’t matter.
Jackson’s 246 yards passing when under duress, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is the most by any quarterback since 2009 when they began keeping track of pressures. Also, his 298 passing yards from outside the pocket this season is the third-most in the NFL behind only Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
Outside the pocket, Jackson has also thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“It all stood out,” Harbaugh said of Jackson’s latest performance. “One time, he came all the way back and he hit ‘Bate’ [Rashod Bateman] to the right on a deep in [and] stop route. It was the fifth read in the progression. He, A, had time to do it, [and] B, he had the wherewithal [and] the understanding. He’s good enough to get to his fifth read. That’s pretty great.”