Ravens Survive as Chargers Implode
RAVENS SURVIVE AS CHARGERS IMPLODE – When Justin Herbert took the field down three with only three minutes left in the game, I was sure the clock was ticking on yet another Ravens implosion. But I overlooked one key detail – no one blows games like the Chargers.
Ravens Avert Crisis
The game had all the makings of a wacky Ravens loss: a lopsided effort by one side of the ball, playing down to a lesser opponent, a head-scratching error by the team’s most consistent player. Usually, having a +4 turnover differential correlates to a blowout victory. But no matter how many fumbles Baltimore forced, the offense was going to find a way to trip over itself.
The Ravens’ woes weren’t all self-inflicted. Khalil Mack did his best to ruin the game. He obtained two sacks, four pressures, and in a shocking and heartwarming gesture, the adoption papers for both Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses. I jest, but the Ravens’ tackles were terrible. Stanley has never regained his all-pro form since his gruesome leg injury in 2020. Remove his name recognition and he would be considered a below-average tackle. Given Lamar’s fumble issues this season, Stanley’s play must improve for the Ravens to make the postseason run they are hoping to make.
MacDonald Master Class
This was an incredible defensive performance by the Ravens. The Chargers’ well-documented struggles closing out games have overshadowed the fact the team is eighth in the league in points per game. And to their credit, they emptied their bag of tricks. Their perfectly executed lateral on third-and-17 gave me chilling flashbacks to Julian Edelman’s double pass in the 2014 divisional round. (I have still not recovered.)
But Baltimore’s defense responded as Jadeveon Clowney snuffed out the drive with a crucial strip-sack to force the Chargers’ third fumble of the game. Clowney has been a home run signing for the team, grossly outperforming his $2.5 million deal. Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, whose third-quarter pass deflection was Jordan-esque, have both been pivotal in this team’s success.
Credit is also due to Mike MacDonald. With each passing week, MacDonald’s gameplans make me more certain that he will be promoted to the big chair for a very lucky organization this offseason. Dialing up pressure on fourth-and-six with the game on the line takes guts, but dropping 355-pound Michael Pierce into coverage on the play- and somehow making it work? That is madness, beautiful madness.
Give Zay His Flowers
As Jalen Reagor will forever be tied to Justin Jefferson, so too will Quentin Johnston be tied to Zay Flowers. Through no fault of his own, Johnston was selected one spot ahead of Flowers. And while Johnston’s career remains unwritten, fate has had a cruel sense of humor for the rookie.
Johnston was forced to watch Zay Flowers take a 43-yard game-clinching handoff to the house from the sidelines. Flowers has been a revelation for the Ravens’ offense, particularly in space. He’s a major reason for Lamar Jackson’s jump from 24th in the league in yards after the catch per completion in 2022 to fourth in 2023.
That was a playoff game for the Chargers. Sitting in fourth place in the AFC West with seven losses, they’re effectively out of contention. Baltimore might not be able to steamroll opponents the way they did in 2019, but the wins count all the same. At 9-3 atop the AFC, Harbaugh looks like a genius for deferring the team’s bye week following the London game.
With the most difficult remaining schedule in the league, capturing the No.1 seed is still a longshot for the Ravens. But regrouping and getting healthy this late in the season could provide the second wind needed to beat the odds. Consistency remains a question for this team, and injuries can derail anyone, but heading into December, the Ravens have the look of a Super Bowl contender.