Baltimore, MD — In the first two possessions of the game, the Baltimore Ravens fumbled the ball three times and it was very telling on how the game would go for them.
Despite a great performance from the Ravens defense, the Los Angeles Chargers were able to capitalize on the Ravens mistakes in their 23-17 victory.
Poor performances by the offensive line and wide receivers made life all too difficult for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who at 21-years old, became the youngest starting quarterback in playoff history. Jackson was sacked a total of of seven times in the defeat and had four dropped passes from his receivers.
The Chargers held the rookie to just 17 passing yards in the first half and the offense to 65 total yards. While the Chargers could not find the endzone, rookie kicker Michael Badgely knocked in four first half field goals to put the Chargers up 12-0 at intermission.
After a 72-yard kickoff return by Desmond King to open up the second half, the Chargers were set up with great field position. They settled for a field goal attempt but Badgley’s 41-yard attempt was blocked sparking some much needed momentum for the Ravens.
Baltimore, however, punted the ball away on the ensuing possession. The Chargers offense gifted the Ravens another opportunity after tight end Virgil Green fumbled the ball after making a reception. Baltimore could not move the chains and settled for a 33-yard field goal from Justin Tucker.
After forcing a three and out, Baltimore had another golden opportunity for themselves when running back Javorious Allen partially blocked Donnie Jones punt putting them at the Los Angeles 40-yard line. But the Chargers defense held strong and forced the Ravens to settle for another field goal. Tucker, who is usually automatic, missed his first postseason field goal of his career after pushing a 50-yard attempt wide right.
Momentum had swung back in favor of the Chargers as they drove the ball 60 yards on 10 plays and Melvin Gordon scored on a one-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Philip Rivers connected with receiver Mike Williams on the two-point conversion to give the Chargers a comfortable 20-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.
After forcing another three and out, Badgely connected on his fifth field goal of the day, a 47-yarder, putting Los Angeles out in front, 23-3, with nine minutes left. The five field goals by Badgely set a Chargers postseason record for most makes and points scored in a game.
The home crowd booed Jackson’s return to the field but the rookie went 4-6 on the ensuing possession as he drove Baltimore down for their first touchdown of the game. Jackson hit a wide open Michael Crabtree for a 31-yard touchdown to make it a 23-10 game.
Baltimore’s defense was able to force another three and with four minutes left to go and Jackson drove the Ravens offense 80 yards on 12 plays for another touchdown. The biggest play of the drive came when Jackson had eluded four Chargers pass rushers and hit Kenneth Dixon for a 39-yard reception.
Four plays later on fourth down, Jackson hit Crabtree on a seven-yard pass in the endzone to make it a 23-17 ball game.
With under two minutes to go in the game, head coach Jon Harbaugh elected to not attempt an onside kick. With two timeouts remaining, the Ravens defense needed a three and out.
Gordon nearly ended the game on an 11-yard run passed the chains, but a holding penalty on Russell Okung set the Chargers back to third and 16. Los Angeles eventually had to punt the ball away setting the game up for a dramatic finish with 45 seconds left.
On the third play of the drive, rookie edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu, knocked the ball out of Jackson’s hand and Melvin Ingram recovered the fumble, sealing the victory for the Chargers.
Ingram had a big day and finished with seven tackles, two sacks, two tackles for losses and the fumble recovery. The two sacks tied the Chargers record for most recorded in a postseason game.
Adrian Phillips was another impact player on defense recording five tackles and an interception. Rivers finished the game 22-32 with 160 passing yards. Antonoio Gates, Keenan Allen and Austin Eckler each had four receptions a piece while Gordon was the leading rusher with 40 yards and the lone touchdown.
Jackson finished the game 14-29 with two touchdowns, one interception, 194 passing yards and led his team with 54 rushing yards. Linebacker C.J. Mosely led the charge defensively with 11 tackles and one fumble recovery in the defeat.
The Chargers are set to face the New England Patriots next weekend in the divisional round.