“That’s a tough one to pull the trigger on,” Harbaugh said, but he trusted the play, and he trusted Jackson to make the proper read.
The natural inclination is to presume that a player like Jackson, after smashing records and bamboozling defenses and collecting awards, continues ascending at a steady, deadly rate. That his off-season represented a tantalizing respite between M.V.P. seasons, and that in every game he further redefines a position already bent to his will.
Except that a player’s development is rarely linear. Quarterbacks, especially. Jackson remains as elusive as ever, but his passing proficiency has waned. Entering Sunday, he had completed less than 60 percent of his throws in four of his previous five games, and he was coming off throwing two interceptions as part of a four-turnover day against Pittsburgh.
Against the Colts, Jackson completed all 10 second-half passes — “just keeping it going,” he said — to finish 19 of 23 for 170 yards. He also ran for 58 yards, regrouping after a dismal first quarter, when Baltimore failed to net even a single rushing yard. In the second quarter, the Ravens completed a miserable trifecta — stuffed run, sack, holding penalty — to encounter a third-and-35. The totality of the carnage represented the Ravens’ worst offensive first-half showing since their playoff loss to Tennessee. If not for Chuck Clark’s fumble return for a touchdown, Baltimore wouldn’t have scored at all.
But then Baltimore shut out Indianapolis in the second half and Matthew Judon all but extinguished the Colts’ hopes by hitting Philip Rivers to force an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 16 with 5 minutes 34 seconds remaining. The Ravens gathered in a jubilant locker room, where their general manager, Eric DeCosta, used the word “fortitude” to describe Sunday’s win.
At the midway point of their season, the Ravens are positioned well. They are within reach of Pittsburgh. They’re still among the best teams in the N.F.L. They know where they are coming from, and they like where they are going.