Ravens' Lamar Jackson proving resilient heading into homestretch

Why Stephen A. calls Mark Andrews' injury a 'devastating blow' for Ravens (1:33)

Stephen A. Smith breaks down the significance of Mark Andrews' injury on the Ravens' season. (1:33)

BALTIMORE -- One of the biggest moments of the Baltimore Ravens' season occurred on their sideline as the first quarter ended in Thursday night's 34-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson emerged from the sideline medical tent after getting his left ankle examined and jogged in front of a trainer. Jackson then gave a thumbs-up.

In what was perhaps Jackson's gutsiest performance. He not only returned to the game without missing a snap but he continued to run around the field despite not being at full strength. Moving around with a pronounced limp at times, he threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns, including one after he escaped the pocket, and ran for 54 yards.

"We all know who [Jackson] is. There is never [any] questioning his toughness," Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "I didn't think for a moment that he wouldn't be coming back in. He's the leader of this team, and everybody feeds off him.

"It was a big leadership moment by him, but I definitely wouldn't expect him to come out, not in a game like that."

Jackson said he expects to play in Sunday night's game at the Los Angeles Chargers (8:20 ET, NBC), which means he's the last of the three high-priced AFC North quarterbacks left standing. Last week, two starting quarterbacks -- the Cleveland Browns' Deshaun Watson (shoulder) and the Bengals' Joe Burrow (wrist) -- were both ruled out for the rest of the season.

That's why Baltimore is projected to have a 64% chance of winning the AFC North, according to ESPN Analytics, even though the Ravens hold a half-game lead in first place.

Jackson has more victories (53) than the combined career starts of the remaining starting quarterbacks in the division (24): the Steelers' Kenny Pickett (22), the Browns' Dorian Thompson-Robinson (two) and the Bengals' Jake Browning (zero).

"I'm not happy that those guys got injured," Jackson said. "Even though we're going against each other, division rivals, stuff like that, at the end of the day, I don't want to see anybody go down with a season-ending injury."

Jackson and the Ravens understand how an injury to the starting quarterback can derail a season. In each of the past two years, Jackson suffered a season-ending injury in December, when Baltimore was in first place in the AFC North. The Bengals went on to surpass the Ravens for the division title in 2021 and 2022.

Given Jackson's injury history, there was a major scare on Thursday night. Moments after Baltimore ruled out Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews (ankle), Jackson was laying on the field with medical staff surrounding him, which caused the M&T Bank Stadium crowd to go silent. He had scrambled to the right sideline, where Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson landed on Jackson's leg. Jackson immediately grabbed his left ankle.

After spending five minutes in the medical tent, Jackson was back on the field. He finished with his 20th career game of multiple touchdown passes and 50-plus rushing yards, which ranks second to Cam Newton in NFL history.

"To bounce back and play the way he did and still have some mobility with hanging there to make those throws, it's impressive," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

During his postgame media session, Jackson was asked three straight questions about his injured ankle.

How's the ankle? "I'm feeling good. Coach [Harbaugh] gave us a few days off, so I feel like I'll be good for the Chargers."

Was there a moment where he was worried that he wouldn't return? "No. I was trying to get back out there. I'm telling [the trainers], 'I'm good.'"

Then, after being asked about the heating pad he wrapped around his ankle in between series, Jackson said, "We need to stop talking about this ankle. I'm good. You see I just walked up here [to the podium]. I'm good. We're not going to talk none of it into existence."

Jackson then tapped his knuckles several times on the wooden podium. Over the past six seasons, the Ravens are 53-19 (.736) with Jackson and 4-11 (.266) without him.

"He's our quarterback, and he's our leader," Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike said. "That's one tough dude."