Jackson leads surging Ravens to 22-10 victory over Chargers
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By JOE REEDY
CARSON, Calif. (AP) Just like that, the Baltimore Ravens have gone from a midseason swoon to the brink of their first playoff trip in four years.
The resurgent Ravens continued their late push with a 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday behind Lamar Jackson's first 200-yard passing game and a stingy defense that held one of the NFL's top offenses under 200 yards for the first time since 2014.
Baltimore, which has won five of its past six with Jackson as the starter, dominated for most of the night to remain in possession of the last AFC wild card with one game remaining in the regular season. And the Ravens (9-6) would move into first place in the AFC North if Pittsburgh loses at New Orleans on Sunday.
"I'm proud of our guys. So many of them stepped up and made plays," coach John Harbaugh said. "Our guys were winning the 1-on-1 battles and our coverage was real good."
Baltimore got a win against a Los Angeles squad that had already clinched a playoff spot with wins in 10 of its last 11 games. The Chargers' loss, which drops them to 11-4, deals a big blow to their hopes of winning the AFC West. Kansas City can wrap up the division title and a first-round playoff bye with a win at Seattle on Sunday night.
"We couldn't get them off the field on defense. And we couldn't stay on the field on offense," coach Anthony Lynn said. "We got outplayed. We got outcoached. It's just that simple."
Jackson, the 32nd overall draft pick in April, completed 12 of 22 passes for 204 yards. He had come into the game averaging 146.2 yards in the previous five games.
"I'm used to playing on big stages and people doubting us. I try to prove them wrong," Jackson said. "We can play with anyone. That was a great team. We can fight and everyone sees it now."
Baltimore led 6-3 at halftime but the Chargers took the lead less than two minutes into the third quarter on Melvin Gordon's touchdown from a yard out. The Ravens got the ball to start the second half but Chargers rookie safety Derwin James forced Kenneth Dixon's fumble, which was recovered by Melvin Ingram at the Ravens 21 and returned 3 yards.
"We turned it over so it was up to us to go back down and score," said Jackson, who also rushed for 39 yards. "It was play action. Mark got open and made a great catch."
The Ravens' defense, which came into the game as the top-ranked unit in the NFL, frustrated the Chargers most of the night. Philip Rivers - who went 23 of 37 for 181 yards - was sacked four times, threw two interceptions and didn't have a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
Baltimore converted three Los Angeles turnovers into 10 points. The Ravens were up 16-10 with 2:40 remaining when Patrick Onwuaso forced Antonio Gates to fumble and Tavon Young scooped it up and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.
"I saw a couple opportunities where I could punch the ball out and that was one of them. Once I punched it I didn't know if he was down or not," Onwuaso said.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
The 198 net yards by the Chargers' offense was their fourth-lowest total since Rivers became the starting quarterback in 2006. The last time they were held under 200 yards was Nov. 2, 2014, at Miami (178).
"We got off to a terrible start, turning the ball over on the first play. And we had three third-down conversions called back really that we couldn't overcome. We got ourselves in third-and-super-long a lot," Rivers said. "It's a good defense and they outplayed us today. Depending on what happens we may get another crack at them in two weeks."
It is the fourth time this season the Ravens have held a team under 200 yards and the 20th time since Harbaugh became coach in 2008.
PRETTY GOOD TRIP
It ended up being a great 48 hours for Harbaugh. On Friday, the Ravens announced their longtime coach will be back next season. Some had wondered if Harbaugh's 11th season in Baltimore would be his final one because the team has reached the postseason only once since winning the Super Bowl in 2012.
"This is about our guys in the locker room and us. We're fighting to accomplish something," Harbaugh said.
While Harbaugh tried to deflect questions about his contract extension, players were supportive of the decision.
"That's really cool that he's going to keep being here when I excel," Jackson said.
BATTLE OF THE BACKS
Baltimore's Gus Edwards had 92 yards rushing on 14 carries. Nearly half his yards came on the Ravens' first offensive play when he went 43 yards up the middle for his longest run of the season. It was also the longest rushing play the Chargers have allowed all season. The rookie has rushed for 578 yards over the past six games.
Gordon, who missed the past three games due to a knee injury, had 41 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
Ravens: Host the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale Dec. 30.
Chargers: At the Denver Broncos on Dec. 30.
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Updated December 23, 2018