The Los Angeles Chargers were the first team to get a second shot at Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The experience paid off.
Playing a lineup that employed seven defensive backs and no linebackers, the Chargers bottled up and harassed the rookie throughout a 23-17 wildcard victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens' offense sufficiently smothered, Michael Badgely kicked five field goals and Melvin Gordon scored a touchdown, the clincher coming early in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Chargers will move on to play at New England in the divisional round next Sunday.
When the Chargers lost to the Ravens 22-10 two weeks ago in Carson, California, Jackson wasn't a star but he made enough plays to be a difference.
This time, he struggled to have a similar impact. Jackson finished 13 of 27 for 194 yards. He rushed nine times for 54 yards. Most of his production came in the final six minutes as the Ravens stormed back to make interesting a game the Chargers appeared to be putting away.
After Gordon's touchdown and Badgley's final field goal, the Chargers led 23-3 with 9:09 remaining. From that point on, Baltimore took control, the game not over until rookie Uchenna Nwosu caused Jackson to fumble and Melvin Ingram recovered in the final 30 seconds.
The Chargers were forced to play Sunday without linebacker Jatavis Brown, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week. They already had lost starting linebackers Denzel Perryman and Kyzir White to season-ending injuries this year.
Thin at that position and heavy with defensive backs – Derwin James, Desmond King and Adrian Phillips each earned All-Pro honors this year – the Chargers went with their strength.
Baltimore was unable to assemble any sort of sustained drive until the final minutes, when they scored twice to tighten up what had been a 20-point Chargers' advantage.
The Ravens went 75 yards in eight plays, with Jackson hitting Michael Crabtree for a 31-yard touchdown with 6:33 left. After forcing a three-and-out on the Chargers' next possession, they went 80 yards in 12 plays, with Jackson hitting Crabtree again.
Otherwise, the Chargers simply dominated against a team that had won six of seven behind its defense and running game. On Sunday, the Ravens finished with only 11 first downs, 229 total yards and 90 yards on the ground.
Badgley kicked four of his field goals in the first half to give the Chargers a 12-0 edge. In order, they came from 21, 53, 40 and 34 yards.
He added a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter and also had a 41-yarder blocked in the third.
Los Angeles Times