Jackson threw five touchdown passes among only 23 throws to reinforce his front-runner status in the league MVP race as the Ravens notched their 10th straight victory and improved to 12-2. They could secure a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs this weekend with a loss by either the New England Patriots or Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens would clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed if both the Patriots and Chiefs lose Sunday.
It became official that Jackson, the second-year sensation taken 29 spots after Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the opening round of the 2018 NFL draft, is the most dynamic runner with the football ever to play quarterback in the NFL. He ran for 86 yards on eight carries Thursday and now has 1,103 rushing yards this season, 64 more than Vick’s 1,039 for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.
“It’s pretty cool,” Jackson told Fox after the game. “I don’t know when I broke it. … I was trying to be locked in the whole, entire game. The goal is to win, not break a record, where I’m from. But I’m happy and my teammates are happy for me. It’s Michael Vick. So it’s amazing. I’m grateful.”
Jackson had been listed as questionable on the Ravens’ injury report with a quadriceps injury but started, as expected, and broke Vick’s record on the Ravens’ opening possession.
Former Ravens coach Brian Billick wrote on Twitter early in the game: “Jets just got realization that every other opponent had this season … whoever played ‘scout team Jackson’ during the week doesn’t do it any justice.”
Jackson had 64 first-half rushing yards on five carries. That prompted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to write on Twitter: “Me vs Lamar, 40 Yard Dash on natural grass but he has to wear rollerblades. Who’s buying the PPV?”
But it always was clear that Jackson was a gifted runner with the ball. What has made him so special this season has been his rapid development as an NFL passer, that after some questioned before he entered the league whether he should be moved to wide receiver.
Jackson’s five touchdown passes matched his single-game career high, accomplished three times this season, and were thrown to five different receivers: wideouts Miles Boykin, Marquise Brown and Seth Roberts, tight end Mark Andrews and tailback Mark Ingram. Jackson leads the NFL with 33 touchdown passes this season.
“It’s really something that I’m sure Lamar, as he says, he’ll look back on some day fondly,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said at his postgame news conference. “But right now he’s got other things to think about.”
The familiar chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P” filled M&T Bank Stadium and Jackson, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards, gave way to backup Robert Griffin III during the fourth quarter.
“Man, he’s special, man,” Ingram said as he stood alongside Jackson during a postgame interview with Fox. “I’ve been telling y’all since I don’t know how many weeks ago that he’s the MVP front-runner. But now I’m gonna tell y’all he is the MVP. You know what I mean? He’s great. He does everything necessary to be a great QB. He puts it all on the line for his teammates. Humble. And we’re blessed, man. We’re thankful. We’re happy for him. And we’re just gonna keep going.”
Ingram also ran for a touchdown for the Ravens.
“They’re that fast,” Jets Coach Adam Gase said of the Baltimore offense. “They run their offense well. … You’ve got to make a decision in real time. It’s not easy.”
Darnold threw a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Jamison Crowder for the Jets, who also scored a touchdown on a blocked punt. But Darnold threw an interception and lost a fumble. The Jets had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point. They failed to convert on fourth and one from the Baltimore 7 with the game still competitive in the first half. The Jets’ hopes for a .500 season were extinguished as they dropped to 5-9.
But this night wasn’t about Jets’ failures. It was about the ongoing brilliance of Jackson and the Ravens. They clearly are the team to beat in the AFC playoffs and perhaps in the entire NFL postseason. Jackson has won two division titles in his two NFL seasons since Ozzie Newsome, the former general manager of the Ravens, made him the final player chosen in the first round of last year’s draft.
Harbaugh turned over the team to Jackson last season and has allowed the young quarterback to be himself. The Ravens said farewell to Joe Flacco, their former Super Bowl-winning quarterback, in the offseason. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman designed an offensive system in which Jackson can thrive. His teammates clearly like and respect him.
And when Ingram was allowed to ask Jackson a question during their shared TV interview after the game, Jackson made it clear in his response that he and the Ravens are growing increasingly convinced a Super Bowl title will be theirs in this ever-more-gratifying season.
“We’ve got a lot of season left to play,” Jackson said. “We’ve got two more banners to hang up.”
(Final score: Ravens 42, Jets 21)