SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — If the rare late-season matchup between the top teams in the NFL was a statement game, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens delivered a loud one to the rest of the league.
Jackson threw two touchdown passes in a span of 18 seconds in the third quarter and the Ravens intercepted Brock Purdy four times in a 33-19 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
“Our guys work hard. They compete hard. Everybody wants to be respected,” coach John Harbaugh said. “There’s one way to be respected, and that’s to go out there and earn that.”
Jackson and the Ravens (12-3) turned a highly anticipated matchup between the top two teams in the NFL into a lopsided win with strong performances on both sides of the ball.
Kyle Hamilton and the defense set the tone early by intercepting Purdy on three of the first four drives of the game for the 49ers (11-4) before Jackson started to take over.
He scrambled 30 yards to set up a field goal on the final play of the first half to give the Ravens a 16-12 lead and then helped put the game away early in the third quarter.
After Baltimore forced a punt on the opening drive of the second half, Jackson capped a drive by throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor.
Purdy then was intercepted by Patrick Queen on the next play from scrimmage. Jackson immediately turned that into another score with a 9-yard TD pass to Zay Flowers that made it 30-12.
“I thought Lamar had an MVP performance tonight,” Harbaugh said. “It takes a team to create a performance like that, but it takes a player to play at that level, to play at an MVP level, it takes a player to play that way. Lamar was all over the field.”
Jackson threw for 252 yards, ran for 45 more and vaulted past Purdy to become the MVP favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. His only real mishap came when he got called for intentional grounding in the end zone after nearly tripping over the umpire, leading to a safety in the first quarter.
“We got the W,” Jackson said. “I don’t really care about performance. I just want to win. That’s what happened tonight. On Christmas, I got my gift.”
Purdy had his roughest game as a pro, becoming the first 49ers quarterback to throw four interceptions in a game since Colin Kaepernick in 2015, adding a few more near interceptions and being unable to generate the big plays that made him the league’s most efficient quarterback coming into the game.
Purdy finished 18 for 32 for 255 yards before getting replaced by Sam Darnold after getting a stinger in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t mind his demeanor,” coach Kyle Shanahan said about Purdy. “He stayed in there and kept battling. Our whole team struggled there in the second half, so it wasn’t just him.”
San Francisco’s other MVP candidate fared far better with running back Christian McCaffrey running for 102 yards and a TD and adding 28 yards receiving. He set a franchise record with his eighth straight game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage.
This marquee matchup marked the second time ever that the teams with sole possession of the best record in each conference played in Week 16 or later.
Both teams remain on top of their conferences. The Niners are in a three-way tie with Philadelphia and Detroit for the best record in the NFC and can still clinch the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye with wins in their final two games.
“The mindset is we can’t let one turn into two,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “We’ve got to wipe this one. Learn from it, of course, watch the tape hard, be honest with yourself, but we’ve got to get right back to work. We can’t let this affect our confidence as a team. We know who we are.”
The Ravens remained a game ahead of Miami for the best record in the AFC and can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win next week against the Dolphins.
Baltimore improved to 6-1 this season against teams currently in playoff positioning, outscoring them by 16.4 points per game.
“We play a brand of football that people don’t want to play,” Queen said. “Everybody wants to be out here cute playing basketball on grass. We’re not with all that. If you do that stuff, you’re just going to get hit in the mouth every play.”
Ravens: Hamilton (knee) left the game in the fourth quarter and didn’t return, while G Kevin Zeitler (thigh) and RT Patrick Mekari (head injury) also left in the second half. Harbaugh said none of the injures appear serious.
49ers: LT Trent Williams (groin) left the game in the third quarter and will need an MRI. … T Jaylon Moore (concussion) and LG Aaron Banks (toe) also left with injuries in the second half.
Ravens: Host Miami on Sunday.
49ers: Visit Washington on Sunday.