Rookie Michael Badgley kicked four of his five field goals in the first half as the Los Angeles Chargers built a 17-point lead and withstood the Baltimore Ravens comeback attempt in a 23-17 victory Sunday in a wild-card playoff game at Baltimore.
After Baltimore was limited to one first down in the first half and three through three quarters, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with six minutes, 33 seconds to play and a 6- yarder to Crabtree with 1:59 left.
Following Crabtree’s second touchdown, the Ravens forced the Chargers to punt after three plays.
Baltimore began its final drive on its 34-yard line with 45 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Jackson completed a 13-yard pass to Mark Andrews on the first play and spiked the ball on the second.
Rookie linebacker Uchenna Nwosu knocked the ball out of Jackson’s right hand as he was about to pass on the third play, Melvin Ingram III recovered the loose ball and the Chargers ran out the remaining 19 seconds for a victory in their first playoff game since 2013.
The Chargers will next play at New England on Sunday in a divisional playoff game.
The Chargers often put seven defensive backs on the field and no linebackers and limited the Ravens to 229 yards and 11 first downs, both the lowest amounts in the Chargers 29 postseason games. They tied a team postseason record with seven quarterback sacks.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said after his first postseason game as a head coach. “I was really impressed with the way our defense stepped up. Especially with playing the little guys inside and not playing with our linebackers. So, my hat goes off to (defensive coordinator) Gus Bradley and his staff.
“They did an outstanding job all week of getting that defense ready for this unconventional style of offense.”
Baltimore was limited to 90 rushing yards on 23 carries after finishing second in the league in rushing in the regular season, averaging 152.6 yards per game.
The Chargers decided to use seven defensive backs because of Jackson’s speed, Lynn said.
“We didn’t know if that was going to work, but we wanted to take a look at it,” Lynn said. “We feel like, today, it worked fine. They could run it down or at least catch him. With the linebackers in there, the physical guys, the bigger guys, that didn’t work out so well the first time.”
The Chargers lost to the Ravens 22-10 on Dec. 22 and were outgained 361-198 as Jackson passed for 204 yards and ran for 39 more.
“I feel like the first time we played them, we played their game. Today, I think we played our game,” Lynn said.
The Chargers outgained the Ravens, 243-229, Sunday and led 14-11 in first downs and 33:40-26:20 in time of possession. Baltimore led the league in time of possession during the regular season, keeping the ball an average of 32:54 per game.
“Offensively at times we struggled executing two plays in a row, but we did move the ball when we needed to move the ball,” Lynn said.
Philip Rivers completed 22 of 32 passes for 160 yards for the Chargers. Jackson completed 14 of 29 passes for 194 yards — 169 in the fourth quarter — and two touchdowns and had one pass intercepted. He ran for a game-high 54 yards on nine carries.
“We just played like we didn’t want to be here,” Jackson said. “I did, not my team. I feel like I played poorly. I feel like there were a lot of things we could have done, I could have done, I feel, (to) put us in a better situation.”
Badgley’s five field goals were also a Chargers postseason record, breaking the previous record of three set by Ben Agajanian in the 1960 AFL championship game, their first postseason game.
“He was really great today,” Rivers said. “He made some tough kicks.”
Melvin Gordon ran 1 yard for the game’s first touchdown two plays into the fourth quarter and Badgley kicked a 47-yard field goal to increase the Chargers’ lead to 23-3 with 9:09 left before a crowd announced at 70,432 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Badgley opened the scoring with a 21-yard field goal 8:01 into the first quarter, five plays after Adrian Phillips recovered a fumble by Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon at the Baltimore 15-yard line.
Badgley kicked a 53-yard field goal on the Chargers’ next possession, four plays after Desmond King II’s 33-yard punt return to the Ravens’ 42-yard line.
The Chargers converted an interception by Phillips at their own 41- yard line into a 40-yard field goal by Badgley 3:22 before halftime.
Badgley kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half on a drive in which Rivers completed six of eight passes for 39 yards.
King returned the second half’s opening kickoff 72 yards to Baltimore’s 26-yard line. The Chargers failed to get a first down and Badgley’s 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Za’Darius Smith.
Justin Tucker kicked a 33-yard field goal with 8:30 left in the third quarter for the Ravens first points.
The field goal came four plays after Baltimore linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, an Inglewood High alumnus, punched the ball out of the right arm of Chargers tight end Virgil Green. Ravens middle linebacker C.J. Mosley recovered the ball at the Chargers’ 33-yard line and returned the ball 12 yards to Chargers’ 21-yard line.
The Chargers were forced to punt after three plays on the ensuing possession. Donnie Jones’ punt was partially blocked, going for 11 yards before being downed at the Chargers’ 40-yard line.
Tucker missed a 50-yard field goal attempt four plays later, his first missed field goal attempt in the postseason after making his first nine attempts.
The Chargers have won nine of their 10 regular-season and postseason games away from what is now Dignity Health Sports Park during the 2018 season. Baltimore won six of its final seven regular-season games after Jackson replaced Joe Flacco as their starting quarterback.
— City News Service
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