By Cindy Davis // @XO_CindyDavis
The Chargers may have lost to the Ravens week 16 of the regular season, but they are looking for revenge in an exciting wildcard matchup Sunday.
The Ravens defeated the Chargers 22-10 in their first meeting and appeared to dominate them, but the Chargers actually had a chance to win the game. The Chargers got the ball with 3:10 left on the clock and had great field position. The score was 16-10 Ravens.
Unfortunately, the usually reliable tight end Antonio Gates fumbled with 2:48 on the clock and the Ravens ran it back 62 yards to the end zone, making the score 22-10 and sealing the Chargers fate. Their first matchup was in L.A. but this time, the Chargers must travel to Baltimore to play in a hostile environment faced with a 3 hour east coast time difference.
While that may seem daunting to many teams, the Chargers are 7-1 on the road this season. This may be quarterback Philip Rivers last chance to win a Super Bowl before he retires. So how can the Chargers go into Baltimore and come out with a win?
The first thing the Chargers need to do is to start fast. This may seem obvious, but they have been slow to start in their past few games, letting the game come down to the wire. Against the #1 defense in the league, the Chargers are going to have to put some points on the board early. Since 2016, the Ravens are 1 and 18 when trailing after three quarters. The Chargers will need to utilize offensive weapons such as wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon early to stay in the game.
Next, the Chargers need to limit their penalties. This also may seem obvious, but the Chargers self-destructed in their first meeting with 8 penalties for 69 yards according to ESPN. Many big plays were negated or brought back due to offensive penalties. L.A. ranks #12 for most penalties in the league while Baltimore ranks in at #8. Although Baltimore has 2 more penalties than L.A, the Chargers lost more yards in penalties at 967 while Baltimore lost 935 yards. Coach Lynn will undoubtedly be looking to clean this up and have a sharper game this time around.
Finally, The Chargers defense needs to step up and stop the run game. It is a well known fact that “defense wins championships.” In week 16, RB Gus Edwards appeared to run all over the defense, rushing for 92 yards. QB Lamar Jackson also rushed for 39 yards. The Ravens offense rushed for a total of 159 yards while the Ravens stuffed an injured Melvin Gordon and held the Chargers to only 51 rushing yards.
#Chargers essentially play mostly dime defense, but they’re likely to be without starting DT Brandon Mebane (not injury related), will be without starting LB Jatavis (ankle). And keep in mind starting DT Corey Liguet (quadriceps surgery) is already on IR. #LACvsBAL
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) January 4, 2019
While this matchup was one of Jackson’s lowest rushing stats over the last few weeks, Jackson is stealthy and is a quick threat. The defense will need to keep a close eye on him to help stop the run game this time around. Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will also need to step up and apply pressure to force the rookie QB into some mistakes the Chargers can capitalize on.
The Chargers should be more prepared this time having had 3 weeks to review their game film. When they met in week 16, the Ravens were 9-6 and the Chargers were 11-3. But tomorrow is a clean slate with both teams entering wild-card weekend at 0-0. This is the Chargers chance to rewrite the script and show how talented they are on both sides of the ball. I think this time, the Chargers get the job done.
“It’s a new season. Everybody starts 0-0.” – Philip Rivers
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 2, 2019
Talk Chargers with Cindy on Twitter // @XO_CindyDavis