Last Saturday night, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Los Angeles Chargers in a signature win. The victory not only brought the Ravens to a win-and-in situation against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 but solidified the team as Super Bowl contenders. For the first time in years, the Ravens defeated a superior opponent in a closely held competition. The win makes the Ravens a legitimate threat in the playoffs, as Baltimore proved that no team is out of their reach. The Ravens were able to accomplish this impressive feat by dominating on both offense and defense.
The Baltimore offense clicked on all cylinders against the Chargers. Baltimore moved the ball with ease through the air and on the ground. On Baltimore’s first play on offense, Gus Edwards broke away for a 43-yard touchdown. Edwards would go on to rush for 92 total yards on 14 carries. He finished the night with a 6.6-yard per carry average. The Ravens relied on Edwards the most on the ground, as running back Kenneth Dixon only ran the ball eight times for 28 yards. Dixon’s plays were limited after he fumbled the ball, which resulted in a turnover, followed by a Chargers touchdown. Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s production was limited. Jackson ran the ball 13 times for just 39 yards, a 3.9-yard average. Jackson, however, was very productive in the aerial assault.
For the first time in his NFL career, Lamar Jackson threw for over 200 yards. The milestone came as Jackson’s accuracy greatly improved. To be clear, Jackson missed throws and made a few bad decisions, but the total body of work shown was greatly improved since his last outing. Jackson’s best pass of the day came when he threw a long ball to rookie tight end, Mark Andrews. Mark Andrews took the catch and run for 68 yards and a touchdown. Jackson spread the ball out well. No receiver had more than two catches, and he found targets he usually did not. John Brown caught two balls for 27 yards, Nick Boyle caught two for 15, and Hayden Hurst caught one for 18. Jackson finished 12/22 for 204 yards and one touchdown. He did this all without the help of his favorite target, Willie Snead. This shows incredible growth in Jackson, as he does not rely on just one receiver to do the heavy lifting in his offense. Jackson also fumbled once, but it was recovered by the offense.
The Ravens defense stole the show by dominating one of the National Football League’s best offenses. Phillip Rivers could not move the ball through the air, and the ground game suffered as well. Rivers finished 23/37 for just 181 yards. This yields an average of 4.9 yards per pass. On the ground, the Chargers leading rusher was Melvin Gordon, who ran 12 times for just 41 yards, a 3.4 yard per attempt average. The Ravens benefited from key performances by key players. Patrick Onwausor earned himself the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week award. Onwasuor recorded nine total tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and a forced fumble that was returned by Tavon Young for a touchdown.
The Ravens defense held the Chargers to 198 total yards, on a 3.5 yard per play average. The Ravens also generated three turnovers and won the time of possession battle 31:25 to 28:35. The secondary was dominant in bottling up weapons like Keenan Allen, and the front seven stuffed the rushing attack was ease. The defense was flat out dominant against an offense that on paper is one of the best in the league. The most important aspect of this dominant defensive performance, however, was the fact that the unit closed the game. For years, Baltimore had issues closing games in tight games. Against the Chargers, Baltimore did it.
There is no better time for the Ravens to prove themselves capable of beating tough opponents than in Week 16. The group was at its best on Saturday. The offense and defense dominated, and even though special teams struggled at times, the two sides of the ball were able to pick up the slack. With just one week left to go, the Baltimore Ravens are on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 2014. The team will look to be just as dominant against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.