fb-pixel Skip to main content
Ben Volin | On Football

Bill Belichick’s plan was to put the ball in Lamar Jackson’s hands, and it worked out — for the Ravens

Lamar Jackson (left) became the first quarterback to rush for 100 yards against Bill Belichick's Patriots.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick’s plan against Lamar Jackson, believe it or not, was to put the ball in the hands of Lamar Jackson.

The Patriots blitzed Jackson like crazy. They played man-to-man defense and begged Jackson to take off with his feet.

Yes, their plan was to dare the greatest running quarterback in NFL history to run.

“If I was assessing what they were doing, I think they were going to force Lamar to run a little bit and say, ‘OK, are you really willing to do that?’ ” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “They were playing tough against the running back stuff … and then they were saying, ‘OK, run Lamar,’ see how much he’ll do it.’ ”


Jackson didn’t just run through the Patriots’ defense — he toyed with it in a 37-26 win at Gillette Stadium that helped the Ravens improve to 2-1.

Sunday’s game was a big proving spot for Jackson. He had lost in his last trip to Gillette Stadium, a 23-17 defeat in 2020. And his Ravens were coming off a terrible loss to Miami, blowing a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Jackson responded with a sublime performance. He took Belichick’s challenge, threw it back at him, and showed Belichick what he missed out on when he passed on Jackson in the 2018 draft — twice.

Jackson rushed for 107 yards, threw for 218 yards, and finished with five total touchdowns — four in the air and one on the ground.

Jackson made some history Sunday. The best dual-threat quarterback in NFL history, he became the first quarterback to throw for at least three touchdowns and rush for 100 yards in consecutive weeks.

Jackson also became the first quarterback to rush for 100 yards against Belichick as coach of the Patriots. Sunday was Belichick’s 398th game as Patriots head coach. Jackson now stands alone. The previous high was 93 yards by Tim Tebow in 2011, and Mitchell Trubisky had 81 yards in 2018.


“I mean, they played good defense against him,” Harbaugh said. “But Lamar, he’s a tough guy.”

Jackson did it while being directly challenged by Belichick and the Patriots. In the passing game, they sent the house at Jackson, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, blitzing Jackson on 49 percent of his drop-backs. Jackson responded by throwing three touchdown passes against the blitz for the second straight week.

The Patriots also challenged Jackson by using a lot of man-to-man defense. Zone defense is typically how a team tries to corral a scrambling quarterback. Man to man can leave large swaths of open field.

“They did a couple different things,” Jackson acknowledged. “They were going ‘man’ a lot, so we just had to execute.”

That’s just what Jackson did. He gained 107 yards on 11 carries, including a 38-yard run that set up a crucial touchdown in the third quarter. The Ravens shredded the Patriots’ No. 4 run defense for 188 yards on 7.2 yards per carry.

And it was Jackson’s ability to use his feet to create big plays in the passing game that truly set him apart. The Patriots coaxed Jackson into an early interception on an errant throw. But he was nearly perfect over the final three quarters.

Jackson threw pinpoint touchdown passes to tight end Mark Andrews and receiver Devin Duvernay although they had defenders draped all over them. He bought time in the pocket and found checkdown receivers all game long. He didn’t take a sack in the second half. And Jackson finished off the Patriots with a 9-yard touchdown run with three minutes left in the game.


“He’s kind of determined to play his way,” Harbaugh said. “But his way, it’s winning football, man. It’s fundamentally sound quarterback play. He’s running the show out there. He’s making the checks, he’s managing the clock, and he’s making plays sometimes when the play doesn’t make itself.”

Sunday was Jackson’s 14th career game with 100 rushing yards. The Ravens are 12-2 in those games.

It also was Jackson’s sixth career game with four-plus passing touchdowns. The Ravens are 6-0.

The Ravens, clearly, thrive when Jackson is at his playmaking best.

Only 25 years old, Jackson still has the dynamic speed that helped him win MVP in 2019. But now five years into his career, he’s growing wiser and learning how to win.

“His process as a quarterback in terms of preparation has taken another step,” Harbaugh said. “In terms of finding his rhythm during the week, what he’s looking at, how he studies defenses, how he breaks defenses down. It’s not a ‘lightbulb’ thing, it’s an evolution of studying the game that you see quarterbacks go through.”

Jackson said he now knows what it takes to be ready each week. He is 39-13 in the regular season, for a .750 winning percentage.


“I’m just maturing,” Jackson said. “Just knowing the game of football, just basically inside out. You’ve just got to stay locked in. That’s probably the thing, just being locked in no matter what’s going on during the game.”

The Ravens hope that a mature, motivated, and dynamic Jackson is ready to lead them deep into the playoffs.

“I believe in him, I love him,” Harbaugh said. “The first day we drafted him — the first day we talked about drafting him — it felt like he could be everything he is. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.”

More Patriots-Ravens coverage

• Shaughnessy: There was a time when championships were all we knew, but those glory days appear long gone

• Sullivan: Mac Jones’s injury cast a heavy pall of concern in the locker room for the Patriots

• McBride: Most of the Patriots’ wounds were self-inflicted against Ravens

• Ravens 37, Patriots 26: There was just too much for the Patriots to overcome

• Yang: Mac Jones injured in Patriots’ loss to Ravens

• On the bright side: DeVante Parker announced his presence with authority

• Instant Analysis: Patriots finally put some points on the board, but this loss shows they aren’t ready for prime time

See what Bill Belichick had to say about the Patriots’ turnovers in frustrating defeat to Ravens

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.