BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson shook off a slow start to once again reinvigorate the Ravens offense as they continued their march toward the playoffs.
The rookie quarterback ran for 95 yards and threw for 131 yards with a touchdown to lead Baltimore past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-12 on a soggy Sunday.
Jackson has gone 4-1 since taking over as the starter for Joe Flacco, who suffered a right hip injury on Nov. 4.
The Ravens (8-6) own the AFC’s No. 6 playoff seed. holding tiebreakers over the Colts and Titans. Baltimore has two games remaining — a road matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers and then the season finale against the Browns at home.
“We have to make stuff positive and our job is to win the game, not put our defense out there with no points or put them in bad field position,” Jackson said. “So, we have to do a good job punching it in. We just have to score points.”
Baltimore set the tone against the Buccaneers by establishing their dominant running attack. Tampa Bay allows 119.4 yards rushing per game. The Ravens ran for 242 yards, the fourth time in five weeks they’ve run for more than 200 yards.
“I thought our defense did a good job in the first half containing them,” Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said. “Our defense was just on the field too much in the second half. They are a good running football team, but we have to hold the ball more on offense to keep the defense off the field.”
Baltimore took a commanding 17-9 lead on a 10-yard run by rookie Gus Edwards on the opening drive of the third quarter. Edwards finished with 104 yards on 19 carries.
“Right now, we have a good thing going” Edwards said. “We’re trying to build on that each game and keep it working. We feel the fourth quarter belongs to us. And we’ll run out the clock every time if we have to.”
Baltimore returner Cyrus Jones had the biggest gaffe of the game when he muffed a punt at his own 14. However, the Buccaneers could only manage a 28-yard field goal by Cairo Santos.
The Ravens negated those points with a 35-yard kick by Justin Tucker that extended the lead to 20-12 with 13:32 left in the game.
Tampa Bay’s pass rush with did manage its 11th sack in the last six games.
Tampa Bay entered the game leading the NFL with 331.4 yards passing per game. However, the Ravens contained Jameis Winston, who was 13 of 25 for 157 yards with an interception for a 54.9 passer rating.
“They have a good defense, so kudos to them,” Winston said. “They made some big plays. We needed to take advantage of the opportunities that our defense gave us. There were a couple of times we had good field position, but we couldn’t execute on third down.”
After a listless opening quarter by both teams, the Buccaneers took a 6-0 lead on a 3-yard by Peyton Barber with 12:08 left in the half. Tampa Bay holder Bryan Anger could not handle a wet ball on the snap on the extra-point attempt.
The Ravens responded on the ensuing drive and took a 7-6 lead on a 5-yard run by Chris Moore. That capped a 16-play, 73-yard drive that took 8:10 off the clock.
Tampa Bay retook the lead just before the half when Winston heaved a 65-yard pass on the run to Mike Evans. That set up a 21-yard field goal by Santos for 9-7 lead.
However, Jackson executed the two-minute offense and put together a 63-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Tucker in the final seconds of the second quarter.
“You can’t get rattled, you can’t afford to,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You just have to keep playing and know the guys are going to be there for you. [Jackson] does a great job of that.”