The Los Angeles Chargers led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s AFC wild card game but had to hold off a furious rally by the Baltimore Ravens to secure a 23-17 win.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looked like a 21-year-old rookie for long stretches of his first playoff start, but he managed to lead Baltimore on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives before getting the ball back on his own 34-yard line with 45 seconds remaining.
At that point, however, the magic ran out as Jackson was stripped by Uchenna Nwosu and the loose ball was recovered by Melvin Ingram to secure the Los Angeles victory. With the win, Los Angeles will travel to Foxboro, Mass. to play the AFC East champion New England Patriots in Sunday afternoon’s divisional playoff game.
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Jackson finished the afternoon completing 14 of 29 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns and a first-half interception. But the final stat line couldn’t overshadow an ugly first three quarters for the Baltimore offense, which was showered with boos by the capacity crowd at M&T Bank Stadium at one point in the fourth quarter as the Chargers took a 23-3 lead behind a defense that sacked Jackson seven times.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was efficient and effective Sunday, completing 22 of 32 passes for 160 yards. Running back Melvin Gordon was largely bottled up by the Ravens defense, but his one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal on the second play of the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score.
The first half was dominated by Los Angeles’ defense and special teams. The Ravens never crossed midfield in the first two quarters and were forced to punt the ball four times in addition to Jackson’s interception and a fumble by Kenneth Dixon. Dixon’s turnover set up the first of a franchise-record five field goals by Michael Badgley, who converted from 21, 53, 40, 34 and 47 yards. The first four came in the first two quarters and ensured the Chargers would take a 12-0 lead into the locker room.