BALTIMORE (AP) — Only minutes removed from watching his team roll to its 10th consecutive victory, coach John Harbaugh showed up to the post-game news conference wearing a white hat proclaiming Baltimore to be AFC North champions.
No small accomplishment, winning that tough division two years in a row.
“We’re very proud of that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s our first goal. Not our top goal.”
Indeed. After Lamar Jackson ran and passed the Ravens past the New York Jets 42-21 on Thursday night, the shirt he wore reflected the feeling of just about everyone associated with the team that owns the best record in the NFL.
“THE NORTH IS NOT ENOUGH,” yelled the sentiment in capital letters.
Yes, the Ravens have another division title after they clinched a playoff berth four days earlier in Buffalo. With a victory next week in Cleveland, the Ravens will be assured the top seed in the AFC, a distinction that comes with home-field advantage leading up to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl. That’s the target. Victories in December are merely steps in that direction.
“We just have to keep it going,” Jackson said.
“The job is not over,” safety Earl Thomas said. “We got a couple more goals in front of us.”
Jackson threw five touchdown passes and scurried into the NFL record book. He’s only started 21 games as a professional, yet Jackson looks like he’s been doing it forever.
“I’m thinking in the back of my mind sooner or later he’s going to have a young, second-year growing pains game,” veteran guard Marshal Yanda said. “And the kid keeps playing winning football.”
Baltimore (12-2) took control with touchdowns on its first three possessions and Jackson made it 28-7 in the third quarter with a 24-yard scoring pass to rookie Marquise Brown following a turnover by New York (5-9).
Jackson ran for 86 yards (on eight carries) to break Michael Vick’s single-season record for a quarterback (1,039 for Atlanta in 2006). Jackson has 1,108 yards rushing.
On this night, however, Jackson did most of the damage with his right arm. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards and increased his NFL-leading total of touchdown passes to 33, tying the franchise season record set by Vinny Testaverde in 1996.
After Jackson’s pass to Brown, many in the crowd of 70,545 chanted “MVP! MVP!” There was a reprise of the mantra late in the third quarter when Jackson hit Seth Roberts for a 33-yard touchdown. The score came after Jackson connected with tight end Mark Andrews for a 36-yard completion on a fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 29.
Jackson celebrated the first down by dancing downfield with his arm pointing toward the New York goal line. Not once throughout his exceptional performance did Jackson show any sign of being slowed by a quadriceps injury that made headlines in the days leading up to the game.
The Jets, meanwhile, hardly looked like a team that had won four of their previous five games. Sam Darnold threw two touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder but the second-year quarterback also tossed an interception and lost a fumble.
The first turnover ruined a potential scoring drive near the end of the first half and the latter miscue immediately preceded Jackson’s TD pass to Brown.
“When we got our opportunities, we had to score touchdowns. We just didn’t do it,” coach Adam Gase said. “We didn’t finish the job.”
Darnold went 18 for 32 for 218 yards.
“Experience. It’s coming,” Gase said. “It’s coming. He’s improving every week.”
The Jets’ other touchdown came on ablocked puntin the fourth quarter.
New York’s defense came in ranked second in the NFL against the rush, but the unit was no match for the league’s top running game. The Ravens amassed 218 yards on the ground, including 76 by Mark Ingram.
Jackson broke Vick’s rushing mark on Baltimore’s opening possession while guiding the Ravens on an 84-yard march. The dual-threat quarterback ran three times for 27 yards and completed all three of his passes for 41 yards before Ingram ran in from the New York 6.
Jackson supplanted Vick in the record book with a 5-yard run from the Jets 11.
It was more of the same on Baltimore’s second drive. A 29-yard run by Ingram and a 25-yard impromptu jaunt out of the pocket by Jackson preceded a 5-yard touchdown pass to rookie Miles Boykin.
Darnold threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to get New York to 13-7 before the Ravens rolled to their third TD in three possessions. A 43-yard pass interference penalty against the Jets set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to Andrews, and Ingram tacked on a 2-point conversion.
Jets: WR Jeff Smith hurt his ankle. … Before the game, New York placed TE Ryan Griffin (ankle) on IR. … S Jamal Adams (ankle) and CB Brian Poole (concussion) were inactive. .
Ravens: OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion) was inactive.
Jets: Another game against an AFC North foe looms Sunday for New York, at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ravens: The last team to beat Baltimore was the Browns, 40-25 on Sept. 29.
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