His last series prior to exiting ended after a one-play, one-yard TD drive, thanks to a Tyus Bowser interception. But the series before concluded after deep incompletions to Willie Snead and Mark Andrews .
After Baltimore saw its 34-20 lead cut to six to start the fourth quarter, the offense re-took the field without its leader, prompting the entire world to question what could’ve possibly caused Jackson to be missing in action at such a critical moment?
“I started cramping on the field,” he explained afterward. “Like, right before the two passes I [threw] to Willie and Mark, the overthrows, I was cramping, my throwing arm. And I’m telling coach [John Harbaugh], I’m like, ‘Man, I need to get some salt in my system real quick,’ and, you know, we punted the ball, I’m on the sideline. Tyus ended up catching the pick, we go down and score. I give the ball to JK [Dobbins] and my legs just start cramping and I’m like, ‘Bro, I need something now to help me get better real quick ’cause this is a crucial game right here.'”
The run game figured to be key for both teams and neither, especially the Jackson-led Ravens, let up. Even with Jackson’s cleats struggling to keep him upright, the Browns struggled to stop him as he turned nine carries into a game-high 124 yards and two touchdowns.
His most memorable run, however, came after a replay showed him hurrying into the locker room. Although Baltimore announced that he was questionable to return with cramps, the scene sparked theories on social media about what could’ve occurred. Theories Jackson promptly shut down with a simple reference.
“I was cramping. I didn’t pull a Paul Pierce. I was cramping,” he said, referring to the Boston Celtics legend’s infamous moment during the 2008 NBA Finals.
With Trace McSorley filling in, the Ravens punted after a three-and-out following a Marquise Brown drop, one of several on the night. Cleveland responded with a second 12-play, 70-yard TD drive, capped off by a five-yard Baker Mayfield scramble.
The Ravens’ second series featured heavy doses of Dobbins and Gus Edwards as the team pushed its way to the Cleveland 41 before McSorley went down with an apparent knee injury just before the two-minute warning. Cue the “Superman” entrance theme.
Just as McSorley was helped off, Jackson trotted back onto the sideline and went back into the huddle. On his first snap back, Jackson rolled to his right and fired a 44-yard TD pass to Brown to re-take the lead. Fourty-seven seconds later, Cleveland punched in its sixth TD to tie it 42-all.
After making the Browns pay all night on the ground, Jackson relied on his arm and went 5-of-6 for 38 yards, his only incompletion coming after clocking the ball, to set up a 55-yard, game-sealing Justin Tucker field goal with seven seconds left.
“It’s crucial games for us right now. All I’m thinking about is winning that game,” Jackson said of the incredible circumstances surrounding the finish. “We had enough time on the clock, and I was like, ‘Man, it’s Go Time.’ It was just ‘Go Time’ for us, and it was our time, I feel. Our team fought hard, offense played great today, still got little things to clean up — we didn’t play a perfect game. But we’re where we want to be right now. [We’re] excelling right now.”
Considering the spectacular resilience both Jackson and his team showed to close Week 14, the next three weeks should produce an exciting conclusion to the season.