CLEVELAND — Lamar Jackson’s right ankle is even less sturdy, and so is Baltimore’s hold on the bunched-up AFC North.
The Ravens’ superstar quarterback suffered a sprain in the first quarter and didn’t return Sunday as the first-place Ravens lost 24-22 to the Cleveland Browns, who kept their playoff hopes alive with a bounce-back win.
Coach John Harbaugh said Jackson will undergo further tests on Monday. The Ravens (8-5) host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday. Jackson left the stadium with his foot in a protective boot.
“We’ll see how it responds,” said Harbaugh, unwilling to speculate on the severity of the injury or how long Jackson could be sidelined.
Jackson’s injury is just the latest for the Ravens, who have been dealing with medical issues since the summer when running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards went down. Three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters was lost days before the opener, and last week star cornerback Marlon Humphrey suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.
Baltimore has 17 players on injured reserve, but none as important as Jackson, who rolled his right ankle last week at Pittsburgh when he stepped on a yard marker.
The 2019 NFL MVP, who has been error prone and not playing up to his standards over the past few weeks, was off to a nice start — he completed his first four passes — before he got hurt when Browns rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah hit him low while throwing a pass.
Jackson walked off under his own power before being examined in the sideline medical tent. When he emerged, Jackson wasn’t able to put any weight on his leg while getting into the front seat of a cart for the short drive to the locker room.
“Lamar, that’s our brother,” said tight end Mark Andrews, who had 11 catches for 115 yards. “Right when we got back to the huddle, Sammy (Watkins) said, ‘Let’s go play for Lamar.’ He’s our guy.”
He was replaced by backup Tyler Huntley, who started when Jackson was out with an illness last month and led a comeback win over Chicago.
Huntley nearly did it again, rallying the Ravens by leading two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
Huntley’s 8-yard TD pass to Andrews pulled Baltimore within 24-22 with 1:17 left, and when the Ravens recovered the ensuing onside kick, they were a long Justin Tucker field goal from a possible stunning win.
But Huntley was sacked on second down by Jadeveon Clowney and Browns cornerback Denzel Ward tackled Ravens receiver Rashod Bateman short of the sticks on fourth down, ending Baltimore’s comeback.
Huntley finished 27 of 38 for 270 yards - 225 in the second half - and showed he’s got some moves by scrambling to evade would-be sackers and running for 45 yards.
“He’s a little quicker,” Clowney said when asked to compare Huntley to Jackson. “He came in and made the whole defense miss, juked us all. We said on the sideline ‘I think we need Lamar back out here.’ Thought he was just as quick and just as good as the first quarterback.”
If Jackson is out for any time, the Ravens have faith in Huntley, signed last year as an undrafted free agent from Utah.
“Tyler showed a lot of grit,” Harbaugh said. “It felt like the whole team did that. That’s who we are and that’s why we have a chance to still win the championship - the AFC North and hopefully go on from there.
“That’s what we’ll be fighting to do in the next four weeks.”
Huntley said he’s fueled by his teammates’ faith.
“It’s a great assurance that they feel so good in me,” he said. “It just shows that they have good confidence in me. That’s like telling your baby child that you have confidence that they are going to get good grades and they go out and get good grades.
“That’s building the trust.”
Jackson’s injury wasn’t the only one for the Ravens. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell injured his thigh in the first half and didn’t return, and wide receiver WR Tylan Wallace suffered a concussion.
Bateman believes the adversity has hardened the Ravens, and that the comeback showed the team’s no-quit attitude.
“That’s been our mentality all year,” he said. “We still showed a lot of fight. That’s what we’ve done all season, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
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