Ravens dominate Chargers in battle of AFC division leaders
BALTIMORE – This Baltimore victory ended with the backup quarterback taking a knee.
No overtime, no last-second kick. No late drama, period.
Lamar Jackson threw for 167 yards and a touchdown, and the Ravens frustrated Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers in a 34-6 win Sunday. Baltimore completely controlled this matchup of division leaders in a victory that should resonate throughout the AFC.
“This is definitely the first game this season where we played complementary football – all three phases,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We definitely appreciate these kind of games, especially what we’ve been through these last several weeks.”
John Harbaugh's Ravens (5-1) have won five straight. They’ve already split two overtime games this season, and they needed a late fumble to hold off Kansas City and a 66-yard field goal to beat Detroit. Even in a convincing win at Denver, they had to fight to the finish to keep their streak of 100-yard rushing games alive.
That streak ended a week ago, but Baltimore re-established its running game against the Chargers and never looked back after scoring the game’s first 17 points.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, came up empty on its first five possessions and was held under 16 points for only the second time since drafting Herbert before last season. This dud of an offensive performance came a week after Chargers (4-2) scored 47 points in a win over Cleveland.
“It’s a lot of looks that we didn’t see on film that they kind of constructed for us,” Herbert said. “They did a great job of disguising their looks and bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. Looks that they haven’t showed all season, looks that we have to be better at adjusting to during a game.”
Each of Baltimore’s three veteran running backs – Latavius Murray, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman – scored a touchdown.
Jackson went 19 of 27 with two interceptions. Herbert was 22 of 39 for 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Although the much-anticipated clash between these two talented quarterbacks didn’t live up to expectations, Baltimore won with a total team effort.
Setting the tone: The Ravens set the tone on their first possession, driving 90 yards on 12 plays in 6:39 and taking the lead on a 14-yard run by Murray. The Chargers entered the game with the NFL’s worst run defense, and Baltimore finished with 187 yards on the ground – a week after the Ravens had their record-tying streak of 43 straight 100-yard rushing games snapped.
Bell’s 2-yard scoring run early in the second quarter put Baltimore up 14-0. Los Angeles punted on its first three possessions, then turned the ball over on downs. Then Herbert was intercepted for the first time since Week 2. He’d thrown 11 touchdown passes over the previous three games, while the Chargers totaled 105 points.
Jackson threw an interception immediately after Herbert’s, and only then – after taking over on the Baltimore 27 – did the Chargers score. Herbert’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook made it 17-6.
The Ravens got the ball first in the second half, and after a long kickoff return, they went 52 yards in 12 plays, using up nearly half of the third quarter and going ahead 24-6 on Jackson’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews.
The Ravens’ methodical approach – and the Chargers’ difficulty stopping the run – led to a significant gap in time of possession. Baltimore held the ball for just over 38 minutes.
“That’s a real good running team,” Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley said. “I felt like at times we played well and at times we were uneven.”
Los Angeles was 7 of 8 on fourth-down attempts entering the game, but when Staley tried to be aggressive against Baltimore, it backfired. Los Angeles went for it on fourth-and-3 from its own 39 in the second quarter, then on fourth-and-1 from its own 19 in the third. Herbert threw incomplete both times, leading to two Baltimore field goals.
“We wanted to do the best we could to put them in third-and-long, and we did a pretty good job of that,” Harbaugh said. “We knew it was going to be a four-down game, and we felt like if we could put them in a situation where it was a little bit tougher on fourth down than a fourth-and-1, then we’d have a chance to get a stop, and if we got a stop, that would count as a turnover.”
Freeman scored on a 9-yard run at the start of the fourth to make it 34-6.
Debut: First-round draft pick Rashod Bateman finally played his first game for the Ravens after missing the start of the season because of groin problems. The rookie was targeted six times. He caught four passes for 29 yards, although he did have a late drop that caromed to a defender for Jackson’s second interception.
“Really good, except for the last one,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the one he’ll probably learn the most from, but he was good. He made some key first-down catches.”