LANDOVER, Md. – A few big plays went a long way for the Baltimore Ravens, who took a small step toward regaining the form they displayed last year as the highest-scoring team in the league.
Lamar Jackson ran for a 50-yard touchdown and threw for two scores in a bounce-back performance by the reigning NFL MVP and the Ravens, who took control early against Washington in a 31-17 victory Sunday.
Coming off a humbling loss to Kansas City on Monday night, Baltimore (3-1) used a forced fumble, a fake punt and the longest run of Jackson's career to build a 21-10 halftime lead.
“That was the key, plays being made," coach John Harbaugh said.
Washington (1-3) had more first downs, owned an edge in time of possession and had only 7 fewer yards than Baltimore. But the Ravens made things happen at just the right time.
“We didn’t have gigantic plays, but we had conversion plays," Harbaugh said, referring mostly to Jackson's 50-yard sprint on third down and punter Sam Koch's 15-yard completion on a fourth-and-9 that set up the first of Jackson's two touchdown passes to tight end Mark Andrews.
“We’re close," Andrews said of the Baltimore offense, which averaged 32 points per game in 2019. “It’s just little things here and there that need to be tightened up."
The game was tough to watch for Washington coach Ron Rivera, and not just because of the score. Weakened by treatment he received during the week for cancer, Rivera occasionally took a break by sitting on the bench.
“I had my moments where I felt pretty strong," he said. “Other times I waned a little bit."
Washington's first-year coach wore a shirt that read: “RIVERA STRONG."
Asked what it took for him to get through the afternoon, Rivera said, “I took two bags of IV fluids before the game. I would sit down at TV timeouts. I normally don’t. I look forward to getting home and going to bed early."
After throwing three interceptions last week, Washington's Dwayne Haskins Jr. went 32 for 45 for a career-high 314 yards. He was sacked three times, twice by Matthew Judon.
Jackson's numbers weren't as big, but he managed the Baltimore offense as required while completing 14 of 21 passes for 193 yards.
Limited to 97 yards passing against the Chiefs, Jackson surpassed that total by halftime. He was backed by a strong defense looking for redemption after allowing Kansas City to amass 517 yards in a 34-20 victory.
The Ravens went up 7-0 when Mark Ingram scored from the 1 after cornerback Marlon Humphrey ripped the ball out of the grasp of J.D. McKissic and Marcus Peters recovered at the Washington 34.
“I’m not going to say we started slow, we were not playing great at the beginning and I was able to get a turnover," Humphrey said. “It was really good to get a big play in that first quarter."
Early in the second quarter, a 54-yard field goal try by Washington's Dustin Hopkins clanged off the left upright. On third-and-4 from midfield, Jackson faked a handoff and took off down the middle of the field for a 50-yard score, shrugging off an attempted tackle by Kendall Fuller along the way.
Washington closed to 14-7 with a 75-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard run by Antonio Gibson.
Facing fourth down at the Washington 43, Koch threw to an open Miles Boykin, and Jackson cashed in on the punt fade with an on-the-run, 25-yard TD pass to Andrews just after the two-minute warning.
Late in the half, however, Jackson's run of 159 straight passes without an interception ended when he was picked by Fuller. Washington cashed in with a field goal to make it 21-10.
Limited to three catches for 22 yards by Kansas City, Andrews hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 18.
Three days after signing a five-year contract extension in the vicinity of $98 million, Humphrey began offering return on Baltimore's investment with his second forced fumble of the season and fifth of his career to set up the Ravens' first score.
It was the 17th straight game in which Baltimore forced at least one turnover, the longest current streak in the NFL.
Ravens: LT Ronnie Stanley was inactive with a shoulder injury. Orlando Brown moved from RT to LT and D. J. Fluker played RT. ... DT Derek Wolfe (elbow) was inactive.
Washington: Greg Stroman left in the first quarter with a right leg injury after being hit by two tacklers during an ill-advised punt return. ... DL Chase Young (groin) was inactive.
Ravens: host Cincinnati next Sunday in an AFC North matchup.
Washington: host Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the first of five straight games vs. NFC foes.
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