The Ravens have quarterback questions for the future.
But they had no answers for the Chargers defense in the present, and all the good work done by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson in the second half of the season was forgotten until the final moments.
The Chargers held off the Ravens 23-17, making Jackson look more like a confused rookie than the versatile runner who propelled the Ravens the postseason by winning six of his last seven starts.
But one of those games was against the Chargers, and given a second chance at the puzzle, they solved it, at least for the first 53 minutes. Jackson was at a net negative passing yards until a late flurry which included a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree, and finished the game 14-of-29 for 194 yards, with an interception. Of that total, 169 of the yards came in the fourth quarter. He had 54 rushing yards and did make things close, but was the reason they weren’t close most of the game.
But Jackson’s late fumble (his third of the day, and the only one lost) sealed it, with Uchenna Nwosu stripping him as he tried to look downfield.
The Chargers held the Ravens to just 229 total yards, as their ability to stop the run game as well kept the Ravens from any rhythm whatsoever. But even as fans booed, the Ravens kept Joe Flacco on the bench, which likely means today will be the former Super Bowl MVP’s last game as a Raven.
The Chargers advanced to the divisional round, where they’ll face the Patriots next Sunday at 1 p.m.
So complete was their win that they not only survived their special teams, they thrived on them. Michael Badgley had a field goal blocked in the third quarter, but he also hit five field goals (!), giving the Chargers something resembling dependability there.
The Ravens played well defensively also, holding the Chargers to 243 yards, but Philip Rivers did just enough to advance. But mostly, it was their defense, which made plays when they needed to.