Just like last year, the Baltimore Ravens are prepared to enter the pivotal part of their season without star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson headed to the sideline tent after being sacked by Denver’s Jonathon Cooper on the final play of the first quarter Sunday. The concern grew when Jackson was ushered to the Ravens’ locker room so trainers could get a closer look at his injured knee.
Jackson never returned to the game, but things ultimately turned out fine for the AFC North leaders. Not only did Tyler Huntley engineer a late touchdown drive in the closing minutes of Baltimore’s 10-9 victory, but coach John Harbaugh revealed that Jackson will ultimately return this season — perhaps as soon as next Sunday at Pittsburgh.
“It’s going to be a number of days to weeks,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see if he can go back this week. If not, it will be sometime after that shortly.”
After the game, Jackson seemed like he was in a much better mood than seven days earlier, when he directed a vulgar tweet at a fan following Baltimore’s loss at Jacksonville. This time, Jackson posted a purple heart on Twitter along with two rocket emojis while quote-tweeting a message about the victory.
Jackson missed the final four games of the 2021 season with an ankle injury, and Baltimore lost every one of them to finish off a collapse from an 8-3 start.
Said Huntley, who ended up with 41 yards rushing and went 27 for 32 for 187 yards Sunday: “The outcome was way better than last year. We finished up strong.”
A.J. Brown makes statement to Titans
A.J. Brown pulled out a towel and wagged his finger at the goal post before he swatted the structure three times. It was an allegory: The goal post during Brown’s celebration for the Eagles stood in for the Tennessee Titans.
“Today, I’m going to have to give you this whooping,” Brown said with a laugh. “But I still love you, though.”
The Titans might not reciprocate the love after their former receiver torched them with eight catches, 119 yards, and two touchdowns as Philadelphia pounded Tennessee to reach 11-1. The Eagles look every bit like a team that can win the Super Bowl, with speedy, sure-armed Jalen Hurts leading the way.
It was inevitable that Hurts would look for Brown, who has 950 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games. Tennessee drafted Brown in the second round of the 2019 draft and he instantly became one of the top receivers in the game. But the Titans balked when Brown wanted a raise that would make him among the highest-paid receivers in the league and sent him to Philadelphia in a draft-night deal. (The Eagles paid Brown a guaranteed $57 million.)
“It’s been personal since the trade,” said Brown, who wanted to retire a Titan and admitted he had the game circled on his calendar. “I was just trying to keep it down. That’s where I wanted to be. Things just didn’t work out. It was like, ‘Here, we don’t want you anymore.’ ”
With the game tied 7-all, Hurts and Brown connected on an apparent 40-yard TD pass overturned because of a penalty. No worries. Hurts came right back and hit Brown — who bowled over cornerback Kristian Fulton — for, yup, a 40-yard touchdown.
The second Hurts-to-Brown TD was a doozy. Hurts aired it out to the corner of the end zone and the ball skimmed cornerback Tre Avery’s facemask before Brown cradled it for the 29-yard score and a 28-10 lead in the third.
“That’s a big boy catch,” Hurts said. “That’s a grown man catch.”
Stafford has bruised spine
⋅ Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is likely to miss the rest of the season with a bruised spinal cord. Coach Sean McVay revealed the nature of his Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s most recent injury after the Los Angeles’ loss to Seattle.
“There’s a good chance” that Stafford won’t play again this season, McVay said.
Stafford felt numbness in his legs during the Rams’ loss at New Orleans two weeks ago while playing just two days after clearing the concussion protocol for the first time.
Stafford sat out for the third time in four weeks while the Rams lost their sixth consecutive game on a last-minute TD reception by DK Metcalf. He was placed on injured reserve Saturday after clearing the NFL’s concussion protocol, and has no practical reason to return this season. The 34-year-old star quarterback is under contract until 2026.
⋅ Marcus Mariota doesn’t know how much longer he will be the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. Having overseen four losses in the last five weeks, Mariota played perhaps his worst game of the season in the loss to Pittsburgh — 13 of 24 for 167 yards and a 72.7 passer rating. His game-clinching interception with 35 seconds to go left the team with one touchdown in the last six-plus quarters.
Mariota wasn’t ready to declare himself unfit to keep starting as some fans clamor for rookie Desmond Ridder to get a chance heading into a bye week.
“It’s tough to say where my mind’s at,” he said. “I’m still trying to reflect on the game. At the end of the day, they’ve got to make a decision as to what’s best for the team and whatever happens happens, but I’m not really thinking about that right now.”
Coach Arthur Smith stopped short of saying Mariota, in his first season with the Falcons after spending two years as a backup with Las Vegas, will be benched.
“It’s a unique time,” Smith said. “We’re about to go into the bye. We’ll evaluate everything. Every job is open.”
⋅ On the last play of the first half, Detroit linebacker James Houston sacked Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who immediately grabbed his left knee. The No. 1 overall pick from the 2021 draft was able to limp off the field under his own power. He was cleared to play and was healthy enough to convert a fourth down with a run early in the third quarter.
“I thought it was my knee at first and then my foot a little bit was hurting,” said Lawrence after the Lions’ victory. “Luckily, nothing serious. We’ll have to see how I feel tomorrow.”
⋅ Aaron Rodgers said his thumb is “close to being a non-issue” after Green Bay’s victory over Chicago, and his ribs probably will be, too, for the Packers’ next game in two weeks.
⋅ Houston Astros shortstop and Providence product Jeremy Peña, the World Series MVP, attended Sunday’s Browns-Texans game in Houston and was on the sideline to hype up fans before kickoff. He said it was a new experience for him.
“It’s special,” said the one-time Maine Black Bear. “This is my first football game ever, so I’m excited for that.”