Anthony Lynn and John Harbaugh

USA Today

Bolts vs. Ravens 2

The Chargers were that much better as a team and that much better coached.

January 07, 2019 - 10:47 am

Yesterday’s first game, Chargers-Ravens, was a rematch of their Week 16 matchup. Only this time, things were reversed. Instead of playing in SoCal, it was in Baltimore. And instead of the Chargers being favored, the Ravens were. 

And instead of the Ravens pounding the Chargers, it was the Chargers who pounded the Ravens. Instead of Lamar Jackson making the Chargers look foolish, it was the Chargers doing that to Lamar.

LA remembered that loss. They went to school on that loss. And they came out with a new approach.

That new approach wasn’t just showing up with their quarter package, putting seven defensive backs on the field, and shutting down Jackson. 

In the first game, the Ravens bullied the Chargers. Which would probably explain why three Ravens players showed up to yesterday’s game wearing masks with one carrying a baseball bat. Chargers corner Casey Hayward Jr saw that on social media and he didn’t like it.

He told SI: “They were trying to come in here like they’re bullies. Sometimes bullies get hit in the mouth. They can put that mask on and go back out so nobody recognizes them.”

That’s exactly what the Chargers did. They punched the Ravens in the mouth. Repeatedly. And would not stop. Those seven defensive backs shut down Lamar Jackson. They could cover in the passing game and had the speed to lock him down in the run game. 

If you’ve been focused on the Chargers offense to the point that you’ve forgotten about their defense, you should stop now. Yes, Philip Rivers is a stud and he’s an absolute monster, especially on the road this year. So are Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen, but don’t forget about that defense. 

Melvin Ingram is a beast. Their defense line is serious. Their secondary is legit. That defense is for real. And they travel. They’re 8-1 on the road. And they can survive weird-ass games, like yesterday. Because that was weird. Including that bizarre series down on the goal line that look like a Chargers touchdown, then a Ravens touchdown, and then a Chargers touchdown again. 

And if you’ve been sleeping on Anthony Lynn as a head coach, you should stop now. He and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley pantsed John Harbaugh and the Ravens coaching staff. Damion Square, a Chargers defensive end who played nose tackle yesterday, told SI the defense knew what the Ravens were doing “60 to 70 percent of the time.”

That’s why through the first three quarters, the Ravens had a total of 83 yards. 3 first downs. And 3 points. 

And now, let’s talk for a moment about everyone who was in that stadium yesterday and who was on Twitter yesterday. You know, all of the people freaking out about Lamar Jackson. Yes, he had a brutal first three quarters. A bad a first three quarters as you can have. He is a rookie making his first playoff start and he looked like it. Shoot, at times, he didn’t look like a rookie playing his first playoff game, he looked like a guy playing his first football game.

But if you want to get bent about him and how he showed up in that playoff game, you better remember that the Ravens aren’t in a playoff game without him.

And remember that he wasn’t surprising anyone in this game. The Chargers saw him a couple weeks ago. They studied him. They schemed for him. They changed their approach. The Ravens didn’t. 

And here’s another thing for everyone booing him in the stadium and bashing him on twitter, everyone who wanted him taken out of the game. For who? For what? Settle down, dopes. You had Joe Flacco on the sideline, not Joe Montana.

And let’s not forget that Joe Flacco wasn’t even Joe Flacco in his first playoff start. 9 of 23 for 135 yards. And he was Joe Flacco this season, which is why he lost his starting job and hadn’t played in two months. You think that guy is just going to roll off the sideline in the fourth quarter and start dropping dimes?

I know who did roll off the sideline in the fourth quarter and start dropping dimes. This guy. 

And this guy.

Lamar Jackson damn near led them all the way back in the fourth quarter. Do that, finish it off, and that would’ve been truly legendary. 

So of course it was the right decision to keep Lamar Jackson in the game. In a game where John Harbaugh got absolutely out-coached, he made the right call on that one. 

It’s just that the Chargers were that much better as a team and that much better coached. LA is tough as hell. They made it close in the end, but in January, it’s all about survive and advance. And they did both.