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Ravens vs Chargers final recap: Defense stands tall

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the playoffs on the line, the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens traveled to Los Angeles to face the 11-3 Chargers in a season-defining match up for both sides.

Los Angeles received the ball to start the game. Quarterback Philip Rivers opened the game with a deep shot to wide receiver Mike Williams, but the pass was intercepted by Brandon Carr, setting Baltimore up at the Chargers 46-yard line.

The hot start continued for the Ravens when running back Gus Edwards busted a 43-yard run on first down, putting Baltimore at the nine-yard line. After two runs, wide receiver Michael Crabtree was unable to pull in a contested catch in the end zone, forcing the Ravens to settle for a field goal, giving them an early 3-0 lead.

Baltimore’s defense held strong again, forcing a three-and-out. On offense, the Ravens again drove down the field, most notably from an 18-yard catch from tight end Hayden Hurst. The drive stalled when Jackson fumbled. Although he recovered the ball, Baltimore lost seven yards on the play. They would have to settle for a 53-yard field goal attempt from Justin Tucker, but the kick was no good.

The Ravens defense continued it’s impressive showing, forcing a second-straight three-and-out. The offense followed up with a time-consuming drive, lasting 7:37. Unfortunately, it ended with zero points as Baltimore failed to convert on 4th-and-2 at the two-yard line when Jackson sailed a pass over the head of Crabtree in the back of endzone.

The Chargers next drive only lasted six plays, resulting in yet another punt as the Ravens defense continued to flex it’s muscles. Baltimore was finally able to put some more points on the board next with a 35-yard field goal to extend the lead to 6-0. The biggest play of the drive was a 19-yard run from Kenneth Dixon.

Los Angeles cut into the lead with a field goal of their own on the next drive. Safety Tony Jefferson committed back-to-back penalties on the drive, giving up 30 yards in penalties.

With 40 seconds left in the first half, Jackson was able to lead the Ravens into field goal range, albeit an incredibly long 65-yard attempt, which Tucker missed. The score was 6-3 at halftime.

The second half started horribly for Baltimore when Dixon fumbled on the first play of the third quarter. The Chargers recovered the ball at the 17-yard line. Three runs later, Melvin Gordon punched the ball in for the first touchdown of the night and the first lead of the game for Los Angeles, 10-6.

The Ravens weren’t down for long, as Jackson hit wide receiver John Brown for a 17-yard gain. On the next play, Jackson hit tight end Mark Andrews in stride for a 68-yard touchdown, giving Baltimore a 13-10 lead.

After another punt from Los Angeles, the Ravens extended their lead with another field goal, this time from 56 yards.

Both teams punted a combined six times afterwards. Neither defense would budge.

With three minutes left in the game, leading only by six points, the game was once again in the hands of Baltimore’s defense. Needing to make a play, the defense responded. Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor punched the ball free from tight end Antonio Gates just before his knee touched the ground. Cornerback Tavon Young recovered the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. After review, the call was confirmed; the Ravens led 22-10 with 2:40 left to play.

Baltimore’s defensive showing was not done yet though. On 3rd-and-10, Rivers was intercepted by Marlon Humphrey on a deep throw intended to Travis Benjamin.

After a 21-yard run by Edwards on first down, the Ravens were able to kneel the ball and escape with the major upset.

Jackson finished the game with 204 passing yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers. Edwards led the team in rushing with 92 yards on 14 carries. Andrews led in receiving yards with 82 on two catches. The defense had four sacks on Rivers.

Baltimore improved to 9-6 and will take the lead of the division if Pittsburgh loses to New Orleans on Sunday. The Ravens control their own destiny to playoffs from here as they face the Cleveland Browns in the final week of the season.