Ravens vs. Chargers final score, takeaways: Baltimore stuns L.A. behind Lamar Jackson, suffocating defense
The Ravens put themselves in prime playoff position by scoring an upset win over the Chargers
The Ravens apparently picked a good time to give John Harbaugh a vote of confidence.
Less than 24 hours after the team announced that Chargers in a must-win game that kept Baltimore alive in the race for the AFC North title (more on their playoff hopes later)., the Ravens responded by destroying the
The Ravens defense delivered an absolute beat-down in Baltimore's 22-10 win over Los Angeles. The performance was especially impressive because the Ravens became the first team all year to hold the high-scoring Chargers to less than 20 points.
The Ravens defense dominated this game from start to finish. Literally. The game started with the Ravens picking off Philip Rivers on the Chargers' first play from scrimmage and it ended with another Rivers interception on the Chargers' final offensive play from scrimmage.
In between those two plays, the Ravens got a huge performance from their defense that included four sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown. In a game of big defensive plays for the Ravens, the touchdown was the biggest, and that's because it iced the game. With the Chargers trailing 16-10 and driving to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Tavon Young picked up an Antonio Gates fumble and took it 62 yards to the house.
It was fitting that a Ravens defensive back came away with the score because Baltimore's secondary played one of its best games of the year, limiting Rivers to just 181 yards while also picking him off twice. The performance for Baltimore's secondary probably felt especially good for Eric Weddle.
The Ravens safety, who spent nine seasons with the Chargers before being unceremoniously dumped in 2015, was going up against his former team for the first time and he definitely had the last laugh. Chargers receivers couldn't get open and even in the rare times where they did, they weren't really able to add any yards after the catch. The Chargers' top three receivers this year -- Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams -- were limited to just seven catches combined for 77 yards.
Rivers would probably prefer that the Chargers don't have to play the Ravens again this year, and that's because he took a beating in this game. Not only did the Ravens tally four sacks, but they all came in the second half during important stretches. Patrick Onwuasor had two of those sacks, including one that went for an eight-yard loss in the fourth quarter on a second-and-6 play the Chargers were running from their own 46-yard line.
If defense wins championships, then every team in the NFL better hope Baltimore misses the playoffs because the Ravens look like they have a defense ready to contend for a title. Of course, the scariest thing about the Ravens might be the fact that they an offense that can punch you in the mouth just as hard as their defense, and it all starts with their budding star of a quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
Lamar turning into a star
The one big question about Lamar Jackson heading into this week was whether or not he could beat a team by throwing the ball, and he answered that on Saturday with a resounding yes. Although the Chargers were able to keep Jackson in check on the ground -- the Ravens quarterback rushed for just 39 yards on 13 carries -- they seemed completely caught off guard by his ability to throw the ball. Jackson's biggest throw of the night was a 68-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews, and it came when the Ravens needed it most. After the Chargers scored a touchdown in the third quarter to take their only lead of the game at 10-6, Jackson responded with a two-play, 85-yard drive where he did nearly all the work.
First, Jackson hit John Brown for a 17-yard gain on first down. On the Ravens' next play from scrimmage, Jackson threw the 68-yard score to Andrews.
The long touchdown pass to Andrews gave the Ravens a 13-10 lead and they didn't trail again for the rest of the game. The pass was huge because the Ravens could have collapsed after the second half got off to a rough start. On their first play from scrimmage, Kenneth Dixon lost a fumble at Baltimore's 17-yard line and the Chargers quickly turned that into a touchdown. However, thanks to the response from Jackson, the fumble didn't end up hurting the Ravens.
Jackson didn't just thrive at the start of the second half, he was also on fire to start the game. On Baltimore's first three possessions, Jackson went 6 of 9 for 76 yards and drove the Ravens into scoring position all three times. Of course, the Ravens only came away with three total points on those three possessions, and if John Harbaugh has one complaint about his team from this game, it will probably be the fact that they struggled in the red zone on offense. The Ravens probably could have beaten the Chargers by four touchdowns if the red zone offense had been more efficient.
That being said, Harbaugh probably won't be complaining about much after a dominating win like the one the Ravens had in L.A.
As for Jackson, although he didn't put up huge yards on the ground, just the threat of him running opened things up for Gus Edwards. Edwards steamrolled the Chargers for 92 yards on just 14 carries, which averages out to an absurdly impressive 6.6 yards per carry. Edwards' biggest run of the night came in the first quarter when he busted loose for a 43-yarder, and as you can see below, the mere presence of Jackson was enough to briefly freeze the Chargers defense, which opened things up for Edwards.
If you want to win in the playoffs, you have to be able to play defense and run the ball, and right now, there's no team in the NFL that does both of those things better than the Ravens. The scary thing for other teams is that when it comes to throwing the ball, Jackson is looking better each week. The Ravens quarterback finished Saturday's game 12 of 22 for a career-high 204 yards.
Justin Tucker tried to break an NFL record
When you have Justin Tucker on your team, no field goal attempt is too crazy, and the Ravens proved that during the second quarter against the Chargers. On the final play of the first half, Ravens coach John Harbaugh decided to send Tucker out for a 65-yard field goal attempt, which would have topped the NFL record of 64 yards set by Matt Prater back in 2013. Although Tucker has the ability to hit a 65-yarder -- he hit one during warm-ups -- the Ravens kicker came up about three yards short on his record-setting attempt. In the tweet below, you can see where Derwin James caught the kick after it fell short (oh, and there was no kick-six here, as James was tackled pretty quickly).
Despite the miss, Tucker still had a big game for the Ravens. Tucker hit three field goals, with those kicks coming from 24, 35 and 56 yards. Overall, Tucker went 3 of 5 in the game. Besides the 65-yarder, Tucker also missed an attempt from 53 yards after his plant foot slipped on the field.
Philip Rivers gets off to rough start
For the second week in a row, Philip Rivers threw an interception with his first pass of the game, only this time there was no magical comeback for the Chargers. On the first play from scrimmage against the Ravens, Rivers had Mike Williams wide open down the sideline, but he woefully underthrew his receiver and the pass ended up getting picked off by Brandon Carr.
As good as the Ravens defense played in this game, it also seemed like Rivers was slightly off. Not only did he underthrow his receiver on that play, but there were a few other plays where he ended up missing an open receiver. During the entire first half, Rivers went just 9 of 16 for 57 yards. Due to Rivers' struggles, the Chargers didn't run their first play from Ravens' territory until there was just 1:04 left in the first half. They also didn't convert their first third down until the third quarter. Rivers didn't get much better in the second half, and he ended up finishing the game 23 of 37 for 181 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Playoffs, you want to take about playoffs?
With the loss to the Ravens, the Chargers' hopes of winning the AFC West have basically gone out the window. For the Chargers to win the division, they'd have to win in Week 17 and Kansas City would have to lose both of their final two games of the season (at Seattle, vs. Oakland). If the Chiefs win just one of their final two games, that will lock the Chargers into the fifth seed in the AFC Playoffs.
As for the Ravens, they still have a chance to win their division. If Baltimore can win in Week 17, the Ravens would only need the Steelers to lose one of their final two games (at New Orleans, vs. Cincinnati). The Ravens could also win the division with a loss in Week 17, but the Steelers would have to lose their final two games. If the division title doesn't work out for Baltimore, the Ravens could also earn a wild-card spot, but they'll likely need to get to 10 wins to make that happen. If Indianapolis beats the Giants on Sunday, then the final wild-card spot in the AFC will definitely go to a 10-win team, which means the Ravens would definitely have to win in Week 17 to even have a shot at getting into the playoffs.
The Chargers will be heading to Denver in Week 17, and by the time they get there, they'll know whether or not they have anything to play for. If the Chiefs beat the Seahawks in Week 16, then this will be a meaningless game for L.A. and it wouldn't be surprising to see them rest their starters. The Chargers have multiple players who could use another week to heal (Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon), and if there's nothing to play for, you can bet L.A. won't be suiting up anyone that's even remotely battling an injury.
On the Ravens' end, they've got a huge showdown with a Browns team that has already beaten them once this season, and that was while Hue Jackson was still the coach in Cleveland. Back in Week 5, the Browns beat the Ravens 12-9. Although the Browns have been eliminated from playoff contention, you can bet the Ravens will be getting Cleveland's best shot, and that's because the Browns would love nothing more than to spoil Baltimore's playoff chances.
You can watch all the Sunday games in Week 16 and 17 by streaming on fuboTV (Try for free).
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