The Baltimore Ravens took a west coast trip to San Diego and improved to 9-2 after an improbable come-from-behind victory in overtime that many Ravens fans will be talking about for years to come. The win puts a three-game distance between themselves and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals who are both now 6-5.
Typical of their road woes all season, the Ravens offense played poorly for three and a half quarters until Joe Flacco and the offense turned it on in the 4th quarter and into overtime. The story of the game was the ability of the Ravens defense to stop the Chargers late on some key possessions, enough time for the Ravens to score 13 of their 16 points in the final two quarters.
With their backs against the wall, another defeat in San Diego looked probable had it not been for a miraculous 4th-and-29 conversion from Joe Flacco to Ray Rice that kept the Ravens drive alive. After reviewing the spot, the ball was placed at the 33 1/2 yard line and six plays later, Justin Tucker nailed a 38-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to OT.
Joe struggled mightily for a majority of the game but threw the football better in the 4th quarter and overtime. He overthrew receivers at times by 15-20 yards and there were times down field where the Chargers secondary blanketed receivers and Joe threw dangerously into coverage and the receivers themselves became the defenders. However during the game-winning drive, he converted three third downs, highlighted by a great catch to Torrey Smith for 31 yards.
Flacco threw for 355 yards and a touchdown, a good majority of that in the Ravens 2nd half comeback.
Flacco had another game with zero turnovers and made some tough throws to Anquan Boldin over the middle and Torrey Smith down field late in the game. He finds ways to get it done, and while most times its not pretty and not “elite status” he does enough to help this team win on a regular basis, even if he infuriates half the fan base doing so.
Running Backs: B+
Ray Rice finished the game with 164 total yards, 29 of those yards coming on one of the greatest plays in franchise history. He ran tough and moved the chains, taking some initial hits from Charger defenders, but kept his legs moving, getting extra yardage.
When the passing game struggled, the Ravens run game continued to chew up the ground game and wear down the bigger Chargers defensive front. The Ravens ran stretch plays to the right that worked again as Rice wormed his way through the hole.
Bernard Pierce is settling into a nice role as the bigger physical back. Really liking the way he catches the ball out of the backfield, he’s a solid downhill runner. He also had a pretty run on 3rd-and-1 where he leaped over safety Eric Weddle to snag extra yards.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
The Ravens tried to spread the Chargers out wide early which didn’t work well because it allowed them to play a little bit closer coverage in man. Torrey Smith bounced back in a huge way, hauling in seven passes for 144 yards. He used the full array of his skill set, running deep crossing routes, burning speed down field and excellent hands on the key 31-yard catch that set up the game-winning field goal.
Anquan Boldin was the most physical player on the field, and he dominated out of the slot late in the game. He also threw two huge blocks, the last one on Chargers safety Eric Weddle that gave Ray Rice the extra yards needed on the 4th-and-29 play. Weddle still may not know where he is.
There was a Tandon Doss sighting in this game as he converted a big first down, leaping into the air to make a nice catch.
Dennis Pitta showed no effects from the concussion sustained last week in Pittsburgh, beating linebacker Andrew Gachkar over the middle for the Ravens lone touchdown in the 4th quarter. Pitta dominated the middle and the Ravens had the right match-up on the seam route. Pitta finished with six catches for 42 yards.
Offensive Line: D
It was a tale of two very different halves for the offensive line. They struggled throughout the game in pass protection, allowing five sacks. Joe Flacco’s pocket was caving around him at times before he could even drop back to scan the defense and read his progressions.
The Ravens had no answer for the Chargers speed off the edges, tackle Kelechi Osemele had a rough game getting beaten by Antwan Barnes for a sack. On the other side, Michael Oher struggled with Corey Liuget on the end as he couldn’t match his speed or hands. Liuget was also able to deflect a pass.
When it mattered most however, the line blocked long enough for Flacco to make throws down field in the 4th quarter and overtime. The line blocked better in the run game, allowing Ray Rice to get into the 2nd level at times.
Defensive Line: B+
The Ravens got a lot of pressure through the middle on a weak Chargers offensive line. Art Jones played another impressive game, recording his first two sacks of the season. Both times, he was just outright faster on the first step, beating the lineman to get to Philip Rivers. Terrence Cody returned this week from his arm injury last week and looked strong. Haloti Ngata looked good, he appears to be getting healthier each week which is huge for the Ravens. The Chargers had a very tough time running up the middle because the Ravens plugged holes quickly. San Diego got a lot of their yardage via the run in the 1st half, wasn’t much doing in the 2nd half, which helped to stem the tide.
Great effort from this unit. Without the play in part from the linebackers, the Ravens would have left San Diego with an L. Paul Kruger continues his strong play, beating tackle Jeromey Clary on a bull rush/jumping move for the sack early. Terrell Suggs also recorded a sack and both were a thorn in the side of Rivers all afternoon. Courtney Upshaw also recorded a sack.
Dannell Ellerbe played well, but left the game with an apparent foot injury. He says he’ll be ready to play in next Sunday’s game with the Steelers. Ellerbe finished with four tackles and a sack. He was eventually replaced by special teams backer Brendon Ayanbadejo who filled in admirably. He was huge on Chargers third downs, twice by my count, coming up with key tackles to force the Chargers to punt late in the 4th quarter and overtime.
Philip Rivers threw for 228 yards but it got tougher for him when the corners got more aggressive at the line of scrimmage. Cary Williams played better when he jammed receivers at the line, but was beaten on a post route for a touchdown by Malcom Floyd who had enough space to beat Williams for the catch. After that, Williams picked his play up.
Opposite of Williams, Corey Graham played well for the 2nd week in a row. He was aggressive all afternoon, used his speed to stay with the receivers and his hands to jam at the line.
Having Ed Reed lurking deep down field was big for the Ravens, Philip Rivers didn’t challenge him much. Bernard Pollard struggled in this game, getting there late on help after Cary Williams was beaten for a touchdown and had a penalty late in the game on a personal foul where replays clearly showed he used his shoulder to lead into a hit and not his helmet that nearly took the Ravens out of the game. Referees are clearly looking for these type of hits, so something needs to change. Pollard finished the day leading the team with eight tackles.
Special Teams: B+
Justin Tucker converted all three of his field goals, including the game winner in OT from 38 yards out. He’s not fazed about anything, and his teammates love him for that.
The Ravens coverage down field was very good, not allowing the Chargers good field position to start out. Jacoby Jones was bottled up and didn’t find much running room until the final drive of the 4th quarter when he returned a punt 23 yards to set up the game-tying field goal.
Sam Koch got a lot of work, punting away eight times and a touch back on one kick, pretty uncharacteristic of himself.
John Harbaugh was masterful in clock management late in the 4th and into over time as he out coached Norv Turner into getting him to burn all his timeouts. The Ravens waited as long as they could in over time to melt the clock on the field goal try so the Chargers wouldn’t have much time to get down field on a miss.
Cam Cameron made it a point to continue running the football and used the “sugar huddle” in the final two drives which frustrated the Chargers.
Dean Pees had his defense play well overall in this game. Without the play of the defense, the Ravens return to Baltimore 8-3.
Taking a page from their neighbors across the street, the Ravens continue to find ways to get it done, this time in overtime in a come back win. Its hard to explain how they’re doing it, but the plain fact is the team is 9-2. The Ravens didn’t allow the same situation to play out on Sunday as it did last season, beating the Chargers after an emotional victory over the Steelers. It looked bad for a while, but the Ravens figured things out and have a commanding three-game lead in the AFC North over both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and also hold tiebreakers over both teams.
The Ravens finished a tough stretch of road games winning 3 of 4 and head home to try and wrap up the division Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.