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QB decision looming for Ravens as Lamar Jackson wins second straight start

November 26, 2018

The Baltimore Ravens were 4-5 and out of the playoff picture when starting QB Joe Flacco’s hip injury struck.

Since then, they’re 2-0 and back in the postseason hunt with Lamar Jackson starting in his place.

Jackson now has led the team to victories in two straight, following a 34-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. The 6-5 Ravens are in control of their playoff fate — win out and they’re in — and currently would be the AFC’s No. 6 seed if the regular season ended today.

After his first start in which Jackson beat the Cincinnati Bengals mostly with his legs, he unleashed a little more of his passing prowess against the Raiders, although it was hardly a pretty performance. Jackson completed 14-of-25 passes for 178 yards — the bulk coming on a 74-yard grab by TE Mark Andrews — with one touchdown and two interceptions.

The first pick was on Jackson when he threw dangerously into traffic. The second came when Raiders CB Gareon Conley tipped Jackson’s pass in the end zone, and it came down in the hands of Marcus Gilchrist for a touchback.

Jackson did more damage with his legs in the second half after a pass-heavy script early on. He rushed 11 times for 71 yards, including a 39-yard run in the fourth quarter. Jackson also found Michael Crabtree on an 8-yard scoring pass in the fourth to help put the game out of reach.

Consider Crabtree impressed with what he’s seen from the rookie.

“It’s the Lamar show,” Crabtree said, via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “You just have to sit back and watch because he’s electrifying.”

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Jackson’s 190 rushing yards are the most in a quarterback’s first two starts in the Super Bowl era.

Flacco, however, could return to practice this week. He hasn’t practiced in almost two weeks but could be cleared in the coming days, which will present an interesting dilemma for head coach John Harbaugh. Would Harbaugh go back to Flacco?

“I’m not going to get into that for a number of reasons,” Harbaugh said after the game. “Whether that decision has been made or not is not important for anybody to know but us. If I decide to do it one way or the other, I don’t want our opponent to know.”

The Ravens gave Jackson snaps on offense before he took over as the starter, but it was an awkward arrangement. It never really seemed to mesh seamlessly, and opponents didn’t seem too concerned when Jackson went under center and Flacco split out wide. You’d think those types of plays might be weeded out of the playbook with Flacco’s injury.

On the season, Flacco has completed 232-of-379 passes (61.2 percent) for 2,465 yards with 12 TDs and six INTs in nine starts. He also has rushed 19 times for 45 yards and been sacked 16 times for minus-79 yards. Jackson has now completed 34-of-56 passes (60.7 percent) for 415 yards with two TDs and three INTs in two starts. He also has has run 65 times for 329 yards and a score, with five sacks for minus-22 yards.

Harbaugh might be coaching for his job in the coming weeks. A playoff bid is there for the taking if the Ravens can stay hot. This clearly is a quarterback flashpoint for the franchise.

Which way will they go? This figures to be a fascinating week for the present and future of the Ravens heading into back-to-back road games against the Falcons and Chiefs.

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