The buzz around Baltimore coming out of the Ravens 23-17 loss to the Chargers on Sunday primarily involved the quarterback situation with Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson and how angry people were that Baltimore didn't yank Jackson out of his first playoff start and plug Flacco in against the stout Chargers defense.
First things first: if you booed Jackson on Sunday, shame on you. That dude is the face of the franchise and he's the youngest quarterback ever to start a playoff game and he's getting booed by his own home fans? Come on.
Second things second: the Chargers are a very good defense. And they knew what was coming. According to Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com, defensive lineman Damion Square claimed the Chargers knew "60 to 70 percent" of the Ravens plays before they happened.
"You see tendencies," Square said. "Guys react the same way all the time to pressure. We saw that on tape. We knew where he wanted to escape, and we showed up in those gaps."
The entire article is an excellent "gamer" story from Vrentas, so make sure you read it (deep strategy dives while writing on deadline is hard to do and she killed it in this one), but it's worth noting Square provided a specific example of when Lamar likes to try and escape and which direction he likes to escape in certain situations:
The team was facing a third-and-five near midfield, and Square said they knew Jackson likes to escape to his left. After Jackson had scanned the field trying to find somewhere to throw, he did indeed drift left, and Square began to move with him. Defensive end Isaac Rochell was in Jackson's face as he dropped the ball, but Jackson then recovered it himself and again tried to scamper left. Square was closing in on him as Jackson threw an incomplete pass, forcing a punt.
This is the viable complaint Ravens can have with this offense and this setup. Baltimore went to Los Angeles, with the Chargers coming off an emotional win over the Chiefs, and bludgeoned the Bolts defense with the running game.
But this time around, the Chargers were able to spend multiple weeks looking at what Baltimore did, studying film of the Ravens offense and putting together a gameplan to lock down Jackson.
They did just that, limiting the Ravens throughout the first three quarters of this game. And they did it in part to a smart adjustment from Gus Bradley, the defensive coordinator who put seven defensive backs on the field for more than 95 percent of their defensive snaps. That was a brand new deployment of resources and the Ravens weren't ready for it.
Flacco warmed up at one point during this game, but he was never coming in. And he shouldn't have come in. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa were wrecking havoc on Jackson in the pocket. Flacco wasn't going to save the day.
This wasn't about the Ravens offense failing to produce. It was about the Chargers defense managing to lock down Baltimore and grind out some drives for field goals to take the lead early and hold on late.
Don't miss the important point for all the screaming about Flacco and Jackson: Los Angeles came into this game with a perfect gameplan on defense and the result was a decisive Chargers victory.
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