Jackson faces biggest test yet
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Since taking over as the starting quarterback, rookie Lamar Jackson has revitalized the Baltimore Ravens running attack and kept opposing offenses off the field by dominating time of possession.
He will need do that again this week to help slow down the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs, who lead the NFL with 37 points per game.
“It will be very helpful if we could do that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “They score in a variety of ways very quickly so time of possession would be very helpful for us.”
Jackson has emerged as a playmaker in place of Joe Flacco, who has been sidelined with a hip injury since Nov. 4. Flacco was not expected to be a full participant in practice on Wednesday, but Harbaugh said Flacco’s activity will be “ramped up” later this week.
Until then Jackson is poised to make his fourth consecutive start. He has led Baltimore to three consecutive victories, but faces his biggest challenge this week in a raucous Arrowhead Stadium.
“I just feel like those guys are going to have read my lips sometimes,” Jackson said about adjusting to the crowd noise. “I heard Kansas City can be very loud. I’m going to have to do my job and speak up.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been impressed by the young quarterback. Jackson will look to make plays against a Kansas City defense that is allowing 122 yards rushing per game.
“He can run like a running back. He’s as fast as a receiver and he can throw like a son of a gun. That’s a good combination to have,” Reid said.
The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games and hold the sixth and final postseason spot in the AFC. Baltimore (7-5) also is within a half-game of the first-place Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
This upcoming game features the Ravens’ top-ranked defense against the Chief’s No. 1 offense. The players, however, are just focused on winning and not any statistics.
“We’re a confident group and we feel that we can match up with anyone,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. “With our scheme and the players we have, we should be able to go out and play great defense. Obviously, this offense is the best in the league. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re up for it. We’re excited to go into a playoff-style game.”
In Week 13, Baltimore held the ball for 39:39, compared to just 20:21 for Atlanta. The Falcons ran just 13 plays in the second half.
That dominance helped the Ravens defense stay fresh and make big plays, especially in the fourth quarter. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw for the fewest passing yards (131) in a game he played from beginning to end over his 11-year career.
The Ravens left Atlanta with a 26-16 victory.
Baltimore faces a tougher test this week against Kansas City (10-2) and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown for 3,923 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Mahomes has several key weapons at his disposal, including receiver Tyreek Hill (1,119 yards, 11 touchdowns) and tight end Travis Kelce (1,082 yards and nine TDs).
Harbaugh and his players are looking forward to the opportunity to play against the best team in the AFC.
“Kansas City is very loud. It’s a great environment,” Harbaugh said. “It’s one of those environments you love going into in this league. It’s what you do this job for. Yes, it’s an awesome place to play. It’ll be loud, they’ll be into it (if) their team is winning. This’ll be a big game. We’re looking forward to that. That’s something that you really kind of relish.”