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The Ravens Closed Out Patriots With Lamar Jackson’s Arm

The former MVP’s ability to pass the ball after last week’s collapse against the Dolphins proved to be the difference. Plus, more on the Vikings’ and Colts’ come-from-behind wins.

More MMQB: How the Dolphins Survived the Bills | Ten Takeaways: Jalen Hurts Dismisses His Doubters | Draft Notes: First-Round QB Prospect BenchedThe Jaguars Could Be for Real | The 0–3 Raiders Might Be Wondering What Might Have Been | MMQB Awards for Week 3’s Best Performances

The Ravens took over at their own 27 with 5:40 left in Sunday’s showdown in Foxborough, leading 31–26, and in a spot where most teams, even the NFL’s most explosive, would be tempted to slip into a four-minute offense to simply run the ball and get out of town with a win.

But Baltimore wasn’t about to do that, not after what happened last week against Miami.

On first down, Lamar Jackson launched a pass deep to his left to tight end Mark Andrews, who was running a corner route, and just overshot him. On the next snap, second-and-10, Jackson laced a pass down that sideline to second-year receiver Rashod Bateman, who caught it past the sticks and raced for a 35-yard gain that moved the ball into Patriots territory.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson

It was Jackson's passing, not his running, that put the Ravens in position to hold off the Patriots. 

The Ravens would score five plays later, but that almost wound up being beside the point—or as much so as a critical fourth-quarter touchdown can be.

There were bigger things at work for John Harbaugh’s group.

“We talked about it—after that game happened, we talked about it Monday and Tuesday,” Jackson told me from the postgame locker room. “We told each other, ‘We can’t let anything like that happen again. When we take the lead, we expect to win the game, finish the game out, close the game out, four quarters.’ We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do. So we better keep our head up and focus on the next opponent, and that’s what we did today.”

Jackson continued, “Basically, Albert, just keeping our foot on the gas and playing our football, how we do. Don’t let up, because it’s the NFL.”

If the Miami experience, and watching a 35–14 lead disintegrate into a 42–38 loss in less than a quarter’s time, left a mark, then consider Harbaugh and his staff’s aggressiveness late in Sunday’s game an effort to close a wound. The touchdown that wound up coming, a nine-yard run by Jackson himself, off right guard on an option keeper, ended up salting away the Ravens’ 37–26 win over the Patriots.

But, again, the drive that got Baltimore there went deeper than just that.

First, it acknowledged the obvious, that the Ravens needed a healing moment after having to hear about the Dolphins game all week—“We got to stay aggressive because that’s what happened,” Jackson said. “We started running the ball, looking for it, like, We got the lead, let’s just run them out of there. But it didn’t happen or go so well. So we wanted to keep our foot on the gas, throw the ball, let our playmakers make catches and do what they do.”

Second, it showed a newfound confidence in Jackson’s ability to throw the ball, something else that, at this point, looks well-founded.

Through three games, Jackson has thrown for 749 yards, 10 touchdowns, two picks and a 119.0 quarterback rating, all while working behind a line that’s been shuffled due to injury and with a still-evolving skill group. What’s more, more of his plays are coming from the pocket, in the dropback game, than ever before.

“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Jackson told me. “My guys are doing a great job of getting open, our line is giving me great protection. So all I got to do is deliver the baby. That’s all.”

That happened consistently Sunday, with Jackson throwing for 218 yards, four touchdowns and a pick, and rushing for another 107 yards and another touchdown on 11 carries. He led the Ravens on scoring drives of 69, 75, 75, 44 and 73 yards. And even if he didn’t acknowledge it much afterward—“It’s a football game at the end of the day. I don’t really look at the history of what’s going on, who they played and who was there; I just want to go out there and win”—it happening in Foxborough matters, too.

It gives the Ravens a potential tiebreaker in the AFC race and, as beating a Bill Belichick defense always is, should be a nice confidence builder for the evolving offense.

And as for what it’s not? Well, I did ask Jackson about his contract situation, and obviously every afternoon he has like Sunday will only bolster his case on that front. But for now, he swears he’s put it behind him and will revisit it only when his season comes to an end.

“I’m playing football right now,” he said. “I said what I said about it, respectfully, but I don't really dwell on the business side. Right now, I’m out doing football.”

And on Sunday, he did football exceptionally well on an afternoon that his team needed, and now, he hopes, it’ll be a launching pad for everyone there.

“Yeah, absolutely, we just can’t get on our high horse,” Jackson continued. “We just got to keep our foot on the gas and keep our head up and keep focusing. We got the Bills coming up at our stadium next, tough opponent, and we got to be ready to play football again just like we did today.”

A few more days like this one, and they’ll really be rolling.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins

Cousins found K.J. Osborn for a 28-yard touchdown to lift the Vikings over the Lions, 28-24.

Like Jackson, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins took a lesson about being aggressive from a rough Week 2, but his was the opposite—he actually needed to dial a few things back.

On Monday night, the Eagles jumped all over Minnesota early, and Cousins, as he saw it, started throwing up half-court shots as if they would close gaps of 14–0 and 24–7 instantly. Football, of course, doesn’t work that way. And Cousins usually doesn’t, either, which is why he’s pretty thankful he got that reminder, even if it came in an unpleasant package.

“I just think there was a feeling that we needed to get back in it quick,” he told me. “We [played like we] needed to kind of jump into full, go-go-go mode to try to get back in the game. And with the way our defense played, getting stops, our special teams blocked a kick, they gave us a short field with a couple turnovers, we really didn’t need to. And there’s a lot of football that goes on; it’s a long game.”

The cool thing is, on Sunday with the Lions in town, Cousins put the lessons of the Eagles’ loss to work right away.

He could because Dan Campbell and Detroit came out flying like the Eagles had six days earlier, connecting the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second with touchdown drives of 70 and 54 yards to make it 14–0. Fittingly, Cousins countered it with an 11-play drive that covered 80 yards, with the Vikings moving the chains six times before hitting paydirt on aone-yard throw to Adam Thielen to cut the deficit in half.

And that one was only a harbinger for things to come.

“The day as a whole was a chip-away type of day. I think we had 30 first downs,” Cousins said. “So we moved the football. We churned it. We just didn’t get the explosives. Explosive plays tend to be how you can strike quick and how you can score a lot of points in this league is when you have big plays, and we just had ... you’re churning productive runs, but we were having a hard time creating an explosive play.

“So really until the last drive, we didn’t have many. And that’s a credit to the Lions. I think the way they defended us and the way they played really made it hard for us to find those, because we were hunting them up. We just weren’t able to get them. But on that final drive, we were able to get a couple that made a major difference.”

And those two just so happened to be at the very end of the game—and a result of coverage built to take away burgeoning superstar Justin Jefferson, specifically, rather than just the big play. It had been that way most of the afternoon, with corner Jeff Okudah assigned to the Vikings’ top weapon, plus safety help over the top.

“They were doubling Justin quite a bit throughout the game in different moments, and in the final drive that was part of their approach,” Cousins said. “And I think it certainly took Justin out of the plan then on that final couple plays, but it probably gave a little bit more room for K.J. [Osborn], a little bit clearer read for me to go to K.J.”

It sure looked that way.

Down 24–21 with 1:10 left, and with the ball at his own 36, Cousins went to work on the matchup that Osborn was getting, with former Viking Mike Hughes in coverage. And after dinking and dunking most of the day, that’s where opportunities started opening up against a defense geared to stop one of the NFL’s best receivers.

“That was [just a double on Justin, it would appear—I haven't watched the film yet but man coverage everywhere else and with the way the safety was playing, it really gave me an opportunity to work K.J. across the field,” Cousins said. “But Mike Hughes was in pretty tight coverage and K.J. kind of had to get through the traffic, and then he made a great play with the ball hitting him, and that kind of got us within striking distance.

“We were kind of off that catch in field-goal range, and my mind went to, I got to make sure I avoid a sack here because now we’re in field goal range. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to tie the game by taking a sack. So the next play that comes in, it’s great if you can attack and try to score and win the game, but you also can’t have a negative play that will take you out of field-goal range.”

After Osborn gained 28 yards on the first throw, and Cousins got the team to the line at the 28 and got Kevin O’Connell’s call, he knew there was a chance for more.

“I was breaking the huddle, sort of aware of the different options I had based on how they would play it,” he continued. “And they did a great job holding their looks all day as well and making it muddy. I just ended up reading it high to low and K.J. was the highest route and so I didn’t really ever have to progress, because I felt him get behind the defense and just kind of put it out there for him.”

And Osborn cashed in on the corner route to put the Vikings ahead for good.

That’ll keep Minnesota in first in the NFC North with the Packers and Bears, and, as Cousins said, keep them there with plenty of work to do.

“There seems to be some lessons learned and some growth that needs to happen to get our execution to the level we need it,” he said. “It’s just better to walk out of a game after a win.”

Which leaves Cousins, O’Connell and the rest of the Vikings in a nice spot.

Colts coach Frank Reich

Reich and the Colts needed a win Sunday and got it with under a minute left to defeat the Chiefs, 20-17.

The Colts didn’t expect to be where they were on Saturday night—at 0-1-1, needing to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to get out of September with a win. But that’s the spot they found themselves in as Indy coach Frank Reich gathered his group at the team hotel, with less than 24 hours until kickoff.

And Reich appealed to them with a simple question.

“What’s your why?”

“Everybody’s kind of got their own why and some of that’s team-oriented, some of that’s family-oriented, whatever the case may be,” Reich said. “But at the end of the day, Albert, we have a vision of the team that we can be. We know we’re not there yet. It wasn’t the start any of us envisioned, but it wasn’t going to mar the vision of who we could be.

“It just needed resolve. You need to crawl back into it, one play at a time, one step at a time, one minute at a time.”

Reich was reprising the theme from earlier in the week. And, man, does it look like it worked, and not just because the Colts ended up upending the Chiefs at home, coming through with a monster drive—16 plays, 71 yards, 8:14 off the clock—to score the 20–17 win. It’s also because of how it happened.

First, Reich’s question sparked action from the captains during the week and on Sunday.

“Matt [Ryan], J.T. [Jonathan Taylor] and Quenton [Nelson], those guys were like a force of nature in the locker room,” Reich said. “And then same thing on special teams; our captain, Zaire Franklin, he’s the same way. This guy’s one of the best all-around leaders I’ve ever been around. And then on defense, we got the same thing. The captains are Shaq Leonard, who’s not even playing but he’s still a force of nature in there, being out on the practice field, and DeForest Buckner was, again, just unflappable and then Kenny Moore.

“So those guys did a phenomenal job of keeping our focus day-to-day.”

Just as important was their own belief that the Colts were a lot better than they’d shown. While Reich didn’t want to make excuses, he did feel like the team’s issues were explainable.

In the opener against the Texans, Indianapolis rolled up 517 yards of total offense and scored just 20 points, which left the team with a tie, but not without a foundation to build off. And as for the team’s Week 2 loss in Jacksonville, Reich said, “People are gonna soon see that Jacksonville is legit. That is a good football team.”

All of that set the stage for dirt to be thrown on the Colts’ graves, with the Chiefs coming to town, and all that dirt wound up getting thrown back at Kansas City.

Indy’s final full possession started at its own 24 with 8:38 left. Those 16 plays, 76 yards and more than eight minutes later, Ryan found Jelani Woods to put the Colts in front with 24 seconds left.

And maybe in those eight minutes, we all got a little look at who the Colts might become.

At the very least, Reich thinks his group has the ability to get there.

“We do,” he said. “We feel like we’ve been taking steps in the right direction; we feel like we took more steps in that direction this offseason. But we’re like other teams. There are new pieces. There’s new schemes. It’s a process. And so we just have to continue to be committed to that process, committed to each other in that journey.”

This week showed they were.

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Jalen Hurts Determined to Dismiss His Doubters
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The Jaguars Could Be for Real
The 0–3 Raiders Might Be Wondering What Might Have Been
MMQB Awards for Week 3’s Best Performances