BALTIMORE -- On a day when Lamar Jackson produced his most rushing yards in a game, the Baltimore Ravens' 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals came down to a throw and a team's belief in its quarterback to deliver that clutch pass.
Jackson's perfectly thrown 41-yard strike to Marquise Brown in the fourth quarter Sunday reverberated more than his five touchdowns and perfect passer rating a week ago.
The Ravens faced third-and-11 with three minutes remaining, and they could have chosen to run the ball to take off time on the clock. Instead, Baltimore put the ball, and essentially the game, in the hands of Jackson, who went on to provide a highlight throw that could define the next chapter of his young career.
"I think it’s a matter of trust," tight end Mark Andrews said. "From Coach [John] Harbaugh to 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] having trust in Lamar and the guys around him."
Harbaugh acknowledged that he thought about running the ball in that situation. Arizona was out of timeouts at that point, and Baltimore could have pinned the Cardinals deep in their own territory. But the Ravens chose the aggressive route, spreading out the Cardinals and leaving no running backs next to Jackson as the last line of protection. Jackson dropped the pass over the shoulders of a covered Brown along the right sideline.
“Coaches had confidence in me last year," Jackson said. "It just put us in the best position to win the game, and that’s what it was."
The Ravens might have had confidence in Jackson, but, as a rookie and unproven passer, they were more conservative in their play calling. In seven starts last year, Jackson threw 19 passes in the fourth quarter, including just three in the last five minutes of games.
On Sunday, the Ravens had reasons to question whether it was the right move to have Jackson throw in such a critical situation. Even though he tossed a couple of touchdown passes in the first half, he wasn't exactly lighting it up after halftime. Leading up to that critical 41-yard pass, Jackson was in a rut in which he completed 2 of 6 passes for 5 yards.
Jackson: I'd rather throw than run
Lamar Jackson contends that he would rather throw the ball than run it, but knows when he has to keep the ball himself.
Still, the Ravens called a play in which they sent Brown and Andrews deep downfield. D.J. Swearinger, the only deep safety on that play, went to the inside to double Andrews and left Brown one-on-one on the outside. Jackson hit Brown for his fifth completion of 15 yards or longer downfield in the game.
"You need a closer," linebacker Matthew Judon said of Jackson. "You need someone to go out there and do the dirty work and get it done."
While Jackson did damage on the ground with a career-best 120 yards, he hurt Arizona equally through the air.
Jackson set personal highs with 24 completions and 37 pass attempts. To put that in perspective, he never completed more than 14 passes in any of his seven starts last season. He totaled 272 yards in the air.
The Ravens' coaches and players said all offseason how much they believed in Jackson's improvements as a passer. They backed up those words Sunday.
"It was good to see how much he has grown from last year," said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who played for the first time against Jackson as a member of the Cardinals. "He's an NFL quarterback now, and he's phenomenal."