In what was one of the more anticipated matchups of Week 6, the Ravens played their best overall game of the season. In all three phases, the Ravens outplayed the Chargers from start to finish en route to a 34-6 victory at home.
It was a surprisingly lopsided game, but one the Ravens fortunately were on the right side of. This was only their second win of the season by more than one possession and was a far cry from some of the thrilling, down-to-the-wire games we’ve gotten used to.
Defense rises to the occasion
The Ravens’ defense has had their fare share of struggles for much of this season. They’ve particularly been suspect in pass coverage and tackling. In last week’s win over the Colts, Indianapolis moved the ball consistently and gained well over 400 yards of offense.
Facing a high-powered offense in the Chargers, Baltimore’s defense rounded into form with a dominant performance. The secondary blanketed Los Angeles’ pass-catchers all afternoon. “Wink” Martindale flustered Justin Herbert by sending defensive backs on blitzes, which resulted in sacks and errant throws.
The Chargers have not been a great rushing team this year, but the Ravens limited them to just 26 yards on the ground. They effectively contained one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL in Austin Ekeler, who touched the ball just 10 times and gained 48 of his 53 total yards through the air.
Los Angeles converted only 3-of-14 third down attempts, turned the ball over on downs three separate times and gained just over 200 yards of offense. It was a complete shutdown of one of the best offensive attacks and quarterbacks in the NFL, which was difficult to foresee happening.
DeShon Elliott and Josh Bynes provide big boosts
Everyone played a part in the defense’s strong showing. However, while it was without a doubt a collective effort, the impact of DeShon Elliott’s return and Josh Bynes’ insertion in the starting lineup was evident.
DeShon Elliott returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games with a quad injury. Elliott exited Week 2 and Week 3 early and had only played 148 defensive snaps this season before today. He made a significant impact in his first game back. Elliott was all over the field and compiled two pass defenses, two quarterback hits, a sack and interception.
Josh Bynes, who was promoted from the practice squad just weeks ago, replaced Malik Harrison in the starting lineup at linebacker. He’s been in this spot before — being thrust into action to help improve a struggling Ravens’ defense and/or linebacker position — and as he’s done in the past, Bynes came through.
Bynes tied for the team-lead in tackles with five. He got his hands on multiple passes and made strong plays against the run. Bynes has definitely lost a step at age 32 but you couldn’t really tell in this game. His high IQ and calming presence are welcomed traits and provide some of what the Ravens have been missing at the position without L.J. Fort.
Running back committee comes through
The Ravens have not had their usual rushing success in recent weeks. They barely broke 100 yards rushing in Week 4 and rushed for just 86 yards against the Colts last week. Not having their usual running backs certainly has not helped and has forced the Ravens to shuffle through combinations of players this season.
Ty’Son Williams and Le’Veon Bell have flip-flopped being on the practice squad and active roster. Latavius Murray has seen the bulk of carries and Devonta Freeman’s snap count has picked up recently. Against the Chargers, Murray and Freeman looked like an encouraging 1-2 punch.
They each saw nine carries, which Murray turned into 44 yards while Freeman led the team in rushing with 53 yards. These aren’t huge numbers but they ran decisively and helped the Ravens move the chains. Freeman in particular was impressive as an outside-zone runner.
Bell only rushed for 18 yards despite seeing eight carries but scored a touchdown. Murray and Freeman each scored once, also. If the Ravens can churn out enough production from these veterans to aid Jackson in the backfield and keep defenses honest, their offense can score 34 points (like they did today) in just about any game.
Making a big statement
Few people, if anyone, would have believed you if you said the Ravens would beat the Chargers by 28 points.
Like the Ravens, the Chargers were 4-1 entering today and riding high after a 47-point explosion against the Browns in Week 5. Los Angeles won three straight games against the Chiefs, Raiders — who the Ravens lost to in Week 1 — and Cleveland.
The Ravens made the Chargers look incredibly pedestrian, which is a tall task that no other team has accomplished so far this season. To beat an AFC foe of their caliber is one thing, but to do so in dismantling fashion? That’s quite a statement.
Baltimore will now come out of the weekend with the best record in the conference or tied with the Bills pending the result of their game versus the Titans on Monday night. The Ravens could have lost to the Chargers and still been in good shape, but after winning they’re now in a tremendous position.