The Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew what was coming. They were fully prepared for Baltimore rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson’s slippery running style and the Ravens’ refurbished rushing attack.
Jackson dared the Bucs (5-9) to catch him if they could. They couldn’t.
Jackson ran for 95 of Baltimore’s 242 yards on the ground, and the Ravens formally eliminated the Bucs from playoff contention with a 20-12 victory Sunday.
Named the start earlier in the week over a healthy Joe Flacco, Jackson repeatedly slithered and juked through the Tampa Bay defense. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and kept the Bucs guessing by throwing 23 times for 131 yards.
“He’s very elusive,” Tampa Bay defensive end Carl Nassib said. “I did have my hands on him. I had plays to make and I didn’t make them. I’ve got to make them in the future.”
Jackson would have surpassed 100 yards rushing if not for losing nine yards on his final four carries, including three kneel-downs in victory formation.
“He’s the reincarnation of Michael Vick,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “He’s a lot faster than you think on the field. When you see him in person, he can really run. He controls the defense well. They put him in great positions; he’s going to be good for a long time.”
Tampa Bay is merely one in a series of teams to be run over by Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and the 32nd overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Ravens are 4-1 since Jackson took over for Flacco, who was sidelined with a sore right hip. Flacco is healthy now, but coach John Harbaugh didn’t want to mess with a good thing.
So, having retained the starting job, Jackson ran all over the defenseless Bucs.
“He adds an element to their run game,” linebacker Lavonte David said. “He’s fast, and they use him really well. They put him in situations where he can tuck and run it or make adjustments and execute.”
As new defensive coordinator Mark Duffner’s scheme continues to evolve, Sunday’s performance was proof that there’s still substantial work to be done. That was especially evident as Jackson and Gus Edwards (19 carries, 104 yards) darted through holes big enough to elongate drives.
“You’ve got to be disciplined in every game that you play and at times we weren’t disciplined,” Nassib lamented.
The defense wasn’t Tampa Bay’s only shortcoming. The Bucs could muster only 241 yards in offense, with Jameis Winston going 13 for 25 for 157 yards (64 on one pass to Mike Evans) and an interception.
“They have a good defense, so kudos to them,” Winston said. “The rain made it very hard at times. Considering the conditions, I thought we did pretty well. But we needed to execute better, especially on third down.”
Tampa Bay was 3 for 10 on third down and failed to convert its only attempt on fourth down.
The Bucs are essentially done this year, but it’s not too soon for Winston to start stating his case to start for Tampa Bay next season.
“My future is in God’s hands,” he said. “Of course losing bothers me, but I feel blessed to be playing in the NFL.”
Source: The Associated Press