The LA Chargers held off a wild fourth quarter comeback attempt from the Baltimore Ravens to win 23-17 and set up a Divisional Round date with the New England Patriots.
Trailing 23-3 with under ten minutes left in the game, Lamar Jackson engineered two touchdown drives for Baltimore to set up a tense and unexpected finale.
After stopping the Chargers attempts to run the clock down, the Ravens had one last drive to clinch a miraculous comeback.
Ingram leads the charge…
In a largely defensive game, it was fitting that Melvin Ingram recovered a fumble forced by Uchenna Nwosu to end the game.
It was Ingram’s performance in particular that set the tone for the game. His two sacks, and seven tackles lead a Chargers defence that hit Jackson often and wrapped up the Ravens usually prolific running game.
After allowing 159 yards on the ground in their regular season loss, the big question going in to this game was whether the Chargers could find an answer to combat the Ravens offence. For most of the game they had all the answers.
Defensive co-ordinator Gus Bradley, much maligned during his tenure as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, drew up a perfect game plan to combat Baltimore.
Including the fumble that ended the game, the Ravens fumbled the ball four times and Jackson was intercepted once.
Jackson ended the night on 194 passing yards. However, the majority of that yardage came on the fourth quarter drives.
Baltimore crowd jeers Jackson…
Long before that fourth quarter comeback attempt, the Ravens fans were booing and shouting for Joe Flacco to come in and replace Jackson.
Sports fans have short memories. In Baltimore it seemed like they’d forgotten who it was that took them to the playoffs after Flacco’s 4-5 start.
Flacco remained on the sideline in what was almost certainly his final time in the purple and black.
Except for Melvin Gordon’s fourth quarter touchdown, Baltimore’s defence managed to keep Rivers and the Chargers from the end zone. Particularly impressive was the performance of Matthew Judon who had five hits on Rivers and two tackles for loss.
Unlike the Ravens, the ageless Rivers put his team in position to at least put points on the board.
Badgley kicks in to the record books…
Kicking has long been an issue for the Chargers. In Michael Badgley they’ve finally found a rookie who can do the job. His five field goals were a franchise playoff record and gave them the edge on the night.
For the Ravens, the season is over. It is likely the Joe Flacco era is too. Like him or not, he delivered a Super Bowl to Baltimore. The off season will be spent surrounding Lamar Jackson with the right talent to succeed.
With the win, the Chargers quest for a Super Bowl ring for Rivers takes a trip back East to Foxboro. They will look to overturn a 0-7 record against the Patriots in the playoffs.
Brady versus Rivers, it should be epic.
Photo Credit: Gail Burton (AP)