Los Angeles Chargers held off a late Baltimore Ravens fightback to advance from the AFC Wild Card round. Winning 23-17 on Sunday, they were able to avenge for the 22-10 loss two weeks ago to the Ravens.
The Ravens were making their first playoff appearance since 2014 after Lamar Jackson led the team on a 6-1 season-ending run following an injury to long-time starter Joe Flacco. With new rookie quarterback Jackson leading the way, the Ravens were on a winning streak with their time-consuming ground offence matched with the league’s top-ranked defence.
However, the Chargers seemed to have the Ravens running game figured out right from the start of the game. Credit must go to the Chargers defensive coordinators who were able to combat Jackson and the Ravens offence. They used safeties Jahleel Addae and Derwin James as in-the-box line-backers, this allowed the Chargers to get more speed on the field and combat Jackson’s potent running.
Lamar Jackson was held to just two completions and 11 passing yards in the first half, while the previously red-hot Ravens rushing attack could only manage 90 yards after 229.6 per game since Jackson’s debut in Week 11.
Fans and analysts during the game were questioning the struggling quarterback and whether the Ravens would be tempted to send in veteran Flacco at quarterback, who looks to be departing in the off season. Ultimately, the Ravens stuck with future star, despite his struggles.
Philip Rivers went 22 for 32 for 160 yards and put the Chargers up 12-0 at the half. Chargers’ rookie kicker Mike Badgley kicked five field goals, a franchise record, and Melvin Gordon rushed for a one-yard touchdown to start an eventful fourth quarter.
By the time Jackson and the Ravens offence were able to get the running game going it was all but too late. The Chargers had already built a 23-3 lead in the fourth quarter before Jackson threw two touchdown passes to make it close in the final quarter.
Jackson threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree to make it 23-10 with 6:33 remaining. Then he tossed a 7-yarder to Crabtree with 1:59 remaining, but Baltimore’s last chance ended when rookie QB Jackson fumbled after being hit by Charger’s Uchenna Nwosu.
Jackson finished overall 14 for 29 for 194 yards with an interception. He was sacked seven times.
The Chargers will next face second seeded New England Patriots on the road on Sunday. It’ll be a difficult match up for the Chargers who are 0-7 against Tom Brady and the Patriots, including playoffs, since Rivers became the starter in 2006.