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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lamar Jackson accounts for 4 TDs as Ravens crush Texans, 34-10, to earn first home AFC championship game

The Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson runs for a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Houston Texans in an AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday in Baltimore.  (Tribune News Service)
By Brian Wacker Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE – All season long, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has said that the Super Bowl is his goal.

Saturday night, he took another step toward making it a reality.

Jackson ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns and completed 16 of 22 passes for 152 yards and another two scores, leading Baltimore to a 34-10 divisional round win over the Houston Texans in front of a raucous crowd at M&T Bank Stadium.

The victory means the Ravens will play in their first AFC championship game since the 2012 season, when they went on to win the organization’s second Super Bowl title. It will also be the Ravens’ first conference championship in Baltimore, as well as the first in the city since the Colts played the then-Oakland Raiders for the AFC title in 1971.

The Ravens will host the winner of Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills at 3 p.m. on Jan. 28.

For the first 30 minutes against the Texans, however, there was plenty of doubt if Baltimore would get there, especially after Steven Sims broke loose for a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown that stunned the raucous crowd and tied the score at 10 with 4:32 remaining in the first half.

The Ravens, who had the best record in the NFL in the regular season and are the AFC’s top seed in the playoffs, hardly looked the part for most of the first two quarters, thanks mostly to the Texans’ relentless pressure.

Houston came into the game with one of the lowest blitz rates in the NFL, yet for much of the first half, the Ravens’ offense had little answer for its pass rush. Jackson was blitzed on 13 of 18 dropbacks in the first half, according to Next Gen Stats, and the Texans generated 10 pressures and sacked him three times.

Before Saturday, Houston had never blitzed on a majority of dropbacks in a game during coach DeMeco Ryans’ three seasons as a defensive player caller. The pressure frustrated and limited Jackson to just 52 passing yards and the Ravens’ offense managed a meager 3.8 yards per play and 10 points in the first half.

But the Texans’ success against the expected NFL Most Valuable Player wouldn’t last.

On the strength of Jackson’s legs and his right arm, as well as brilliant second-half adjustments from offensive coordinator Todd Monken, the quarterback shredded the Houston defense in the game’s final two quarters, as he’s done to opponents most of the season.

After a 37-yard kick return by Devin Duvernay to open the third quarter, Jackson capped a six-play, 55-yard scoring drive with a 15-yard touchdown scamper up the middle. Then, on the Ravens’ next possession, he converted a fourth-and-1 from the Texans’ 49-yard line with a naked bootleg to the left.

Six plays later, and on the run, Jackson threw a dart to leaping tight end Isaiah Likely for a 15-yard scoring strike early in the fourth quarter.

The touchdown gave the Ravens a 24-10 lead and their fans room to exhale. The 12-play, 93-yard also chewed up 7:03 of the clock and demoralized a Texans team that had, until then, given the Ravens fits.

Jackson put the game out of reach as he found the end zone on the ground again, this time from 8 yards. The 11-play, 78-yard drive again ate up valuable minutes, with 7:10 ticking off the clock.

With Baltimore out to a big lead, the Ravens’ defense, which became the first to lead the NFL in sacks, takeaways and points allowed, could zero in on rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Texans’ offense, which it limited to just 68 yards in the second half.

A week after lighting up the Cleveland Browns in a 45-14 blowout with two touchdowns and a 157.2 passer rating, Stroud finished 19 of 33 for just 175 yards with no touchdowns against Baltimore. Houston also committed 11 penalties, many before the snap.