BALTIMORE — When the game was over and the comeback was complete, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson took his helmet off and threw it as high as he could. There was nothing left to say, nothing left to do, nothing but surrender to the emotions of a wild night and an incredible win.
It was overtime, and the scoreboard read: Ravens 31, Indianapolis Colts 25. It didn’t matter Monday night that the Ravens had trailed by 16 points in the fourth quarter, or that their defense could hardly stop quarterback Carson Wentz, or that some fans had left a raucous, charged-up M&T Bank Stadium 45 minutes earlier in search of a smoother route home. They missed the third-largest comeback in team history.
Because the Ravens had Jackson, and that was enough. On a night that squashed any lingering doubts about his passing ability, he finished 36-for-42 for a team-record 442 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions. His last pass was a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown just five minutes into an overtime period few foresaw.
Jackson is the first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing, four touchdown passes, no interceptions, and 50 yards rushing in a single game, according to ESPN.
The improbable victory, just the latest weird game in a season full of them, extended the Ravens’ winning streak to four games and raised heart rates across Baltimore. They will head into a much-anticipated Week 6 matchup with the visiting Los Angeles Chargers with a 4-1 record and sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
The final stanza of regulation had more twists than a soap opera. With the chance to all but put the game away with less than five minutes remaining, Indianapolis kicker Rodrigo Blankenship instead had a 37-yard field-goal attempt blocked by the Ravens’ monstrous defensive lineman Calais Campbell.
That gave the Ravens an inch of hope. They took it a mile. Jackson led his third straight touchdown drive of 75 yards or more, taking the Ravens to the end zone in 11 plays. His 4-yard pass to tight end Mark Andrews with 46 seconds remaining narrowed the Colts’ lead to 25-23, and another pass to Andrews over the middle for the 2-point conversion evened the score.
On a dreadful night for the Ravens defense, there was still plenty of time for a game-winner. Helped by an untimely personal foul penalty on cornerback Tavon Young, who appeared to be instigating into committing unnecessary roughness, the Colts got as far as the Ravens’ 29-yard line. But Blankenship missed wide left from 47 yards as time expired. The home crowd exploded in delirium. When the Ravens won the coin toss, they went wild once more.
At one point, it seemed like the Ravens’ win would swing on a read-option decision that ended one drive, or maybe the touchdown run that punctuated the next one.
The third-quarter drives were in some ways a referendum on all the Ravens could not do and all that the Colts could do inside M&T Bank Stadium — to that point, anyway. To keep just their second red-zone drive alive, the Ravens had needed a winding third-and-3 scramble from Jackson that gained 12 yards but must have covered 40. They’d needed another third-down conversion after a false-start penalty a few plays later. And on first-and-goal from the 1, Jackson had fumbled on a keeper after deciding against a handoff for running back Latavius Murray, who likely would’ve scored.
After a long huddle, the officials ruled that what came next — a fumble recovery by inside linebacker Darius Leonard at the 3, a lateral to cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, a sprint to a defensive touchdown — actually amounted to a Ravens turnover, Colts’ ball at the 19 after the lateral was ruled to be forward. And that made what came afterward all the more unbearable for the 70,000-plus in attendance.
The Colts needed just six plays to take back what was theirs. They started with a 21-yard pass to Michael Pittman Jr. Then a 19-yard run for Jonathan Taylor, then a 13-yarder, then finally a no-gainer. But Wentz found tight end Mo Alie Cox for a 24-yard completion, and Taylor rumbled in from 4 yards out for a 22-3 lead.
The Ravens had nearly scored on a crucial drive, and they’d gotten there by the skin of their teeth. Indianapolis, meanwhile, was comfortably in cruise control. Even when the Colts saw their 19-point advantage, the Ravens’ largest deficit all season, whittled to eight, they went back to work, hammering away at the clock.
Indianapolis’ offense had its way with the Ravens’ secondary. That was not the expectation, not with Wentz having just recovered from a pair of sprained ankles, not with the Colts having the NFL’s 26th-ranked passing offense, according to Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics. But when the Ravens could not get past an offensive line missing two starters, they were often in trouble.
Wentz’s season high through four games was 251 yards. He cleared that a minute into the third quarter, his 42-yard touchdown to wide receiver Pittman leaving cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Marlon Humphrey in their wake. Averett was flagged for pass interference on the play, but that couldn’t deny Pittman or the facts of a long night. He allowed nine completions on 11 targets for 184 yards.
Wentz finished 25-for-35 for 402 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ravens’ run defense didn’t distinguish itself, either. Taylor, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Wentz ran for 123 yards, much more than the Ravens’ total. The Ravens’ 86 yards included just 24 combined yards from running backs and ended a 43-game streak of 100-plus rushing yards, tied for the NFL’s longest ever.
The Colts looked like they’d run away with a lead early. After forcing a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, they turned a third-and-long into a breakaway screen pass. Taylor wasn’t touched on the 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The closest the Ravens got to taking someone down were a couple of awkward bumps as defensive backs ran into one another.
Another three-and-out preceded another impressive Indianapolis drive, with Wentz facing just one third down as he marched the Colts to the Ravens’ 15-yard line. Only a well-timed jump of the snap by Ravens rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh knocked Indianapolis off line. Three weeks after his forced fumble swung a prime-time win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Oweh got another, this one a strip-sack that defensive tackle Brandon Williams pounced on.
Even the Ravens’ best first-half drive was more bitter than sweet. They covered 80 yards over nine plays, by far their longest before halftime, but were stopped 5 yards short of the end zone after Jackson missed Brown in the end zone. Justin Tucker’s 23-yard field goal ended the shutout — and a drive in which the Ravens lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins and left guard Ben Cleveland to a hamstring and knee injury, respectively.
A 37-yard field goal by kicker Rodrigo Blankenship as time expired lifted the Colts to a 10-3 halftime lead, but the touchdown lead felt misrepresentative. Four of Indianapolis’ five drives ended either in the end zone or at least midfield. The Ravens, meanwhile, had crossed over into Colts territory just once.
In a wild second half, that would soon change.