Chargers 23, Ravens 17: Chargers’ Defense Stifles Ravens in Wild-Card Playoff Win
BALTIMORE — Led by a fearsome defense that challenged and confounded Baltimore’s rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson into a dreadful performance, the Los Angeles Chargers upset the Ravens, 23-17, in an A.F.C. wild-card playoff game.
Jackson had three fumbles, threw an interception, was sacked seven times, and led the Ravens to only three first downs through the first three quarters. Meanwhile, the Chargers’ veteran quarterback, Philip Rivers, appearing in his 10th postseason game, coolly and carefully led the Los Angeles offense on six scoring drives against the N.F.L.’s top-ranked defense.
Jackson did rally in the game’s waning minutes to throw two touchdown passes but the Ravens’ comeback ended on their final possession when Jackson was stripped of the football as he was preparing to pass. The fumble was recovered by the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, who dominated the Ravens’ offensive line throughout Sunday’s game.
Rivers did not throw an interception, and while the Chargers lost one fumble they were otherwise judicious with the football, exhibiting the kind of controlled offense that had been Baltimore’s bread and butter in its late charge to the playoffs.
Advancing cautiously for most of the game, Los Angeles kicked four field goals to take a 12-0 halftime lead. Trailing by 12 points in the third quarter, the Ravens got a brief surge of momentum after a Chargers turnover and a blocked punt, but Baltimore could only turn the miscues into 3 points off a fumble recovery by C.J. Mosley that led to a 33-yard Justin Tucker field goal. After the Ravens’ Buck Allen partially blocked a punt and gave Baltimore good field position, it only led to a 50-yard field goal attempt, which Tucker missed.
On the ensuing Chargers’ possession, a 28-yard pass from Rivers to Mike Williams followed by a 14-yard run by Melvin Gordon set up a third down from the Ravens’ one-yard line. Gordon was tripped and fell just at the goal line, and although the play was ruled a touchdown initially, it was overturned by a video review.
On the subsequent fourth down play, Gordon bulled into the end zone to put the Chargers ahead, 20-3.
The Ravens’ dismal offensive performance led fans at M & T Bank Stadium to begin chanting the name of the former starting quarterback Joe Flacco. Jackson remained in the game, although his presence elicited a chorus of boos from the crowd. That displeasure intensified when Jackson was sacked twice on a three-and-out series.
But on the next series, Jackson awakened and tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with six minutes and 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. On the next Chargers possession, Jackson connected with Crabtree again, throwing a seven-yard touchdown pass that cut the Chargers’ lead to 23-17 with one minute and 59 seconds left in the game.
Jackson had a miserable first half, completing just two of eight passes for 17 yards.
A fumble by Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon set up the first score of the game, a 21-yard field goal by place-kicker Michael Badgley at roughly the midpoint of the first quarter — the first of four Badgley field goals in the half. A 33-yard punt return by the Chargers’ Desmond King set up Badgley’s second field goal, from 53 yards, late in the first quarter.
On Baltimore’s second possession of the second quarter, a high throw from Jackson was deflected by the Chargers’ Casey Hayward Jr. and intercepted by Adrian Phillips. From there, Rivers led the Chargers on a 9-play drive that culminated in another Badgley field goal and a 9-0 lead for Los Angeles.
The Ravens held the football for only three plays on their next possession and again Rivers warily proceeded against the dogged Baltimore defense. It took the Chargers 12 plays to advance 58 yards, setting up another Badgley field goal as time expired in the first half.