For the longest stretch, the Chargers had a difficult time nailing down a kicker.
Now, their problem is nailing down a nickname for their kicker.
Michael Badgley’s franchise-record five field goals in the Chargers’ 23-17 wild-card victory over Baltimore on Sunday continued a rookie season so impressive that he has been labeled “Money Badger” and “Money Bags.”
Defensive lineman Isaac Rochell offered another option.
“He is the ultimate ice man,” Rochell said. “This dude has a unique mentality that a lot of kickers don’t have. … I have the utmost respect for him, and I’m excited to see what he does in these playoffs.”
Badgley hit from — in chronological order — 21, 53, 40, 34 and 47 yards. He also had a 41-yard attempt blocked.
His performance was crucial on day when the Chargers offense continually sputtered against one of the NFL’s top-ranked defenses. As coach Anthony Lynn said, “We struggled at times executing two plays in a row.”
Badgley gave the Chargers a 12-0 halftime lead and, given the job the defense was doing in limiting the Ravens, that edge seemed much larger.
“The 53-yarder was awesome,” center Mike Pouncey said. “That set the tone for our whole team. He’s the main reason we won today.”
This game marked Badgley’s NFL postseason debut. His previous playoff appearance was as a lacrosse player in high school.
He spent time in the preseason with Indianapolis and joined the Chargers after Caleb Sturgis struggled and was injured. Badgley took over full-time during Week 10.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m still feeling blessed just to have this opportunity that the Chargers gave me.”
Including his 10 regular-season games, he’s 20 for 22 on field goals and 27 for 28 on extra points.
“I got a lot of trust in ‘Money Bags,’ ” running back Melvin Gordon said. “He’s money, know what I mean?”
On consecutive plays late the first half, Baltimore linebacker Matthew Judon hit Philip Rivers after the Chargers quarterback had thrown a short pass to Austin Ekeler.
On the second, Judon was injured briefly and had to leave the game. But before he departed, he walked toward Rivers and the two exchanged words.
Sideline microphones picked up Rivers telling Judon, “That’s what you get.”
“There’s nothing malicious out there,” Rivers said later. “I said it to my brother in the backyard when he was 7 years old. ‘Hey, we don’t need to be jumping bed to bed.’ Then, if he jumps from bed to bed and gets a little boo-boo, ‘That’s what you get.’
“I just thought he [Judon] was borderline late a few times in a row. That’s part of it too. That’s part of football. He should be trying to hit me as hard as he can. It was just one those in the heat of the moments. I certainly don’t wish anyone to ever be hurt.”
Rivers had his typical animated game, engaging in chatter throughout and dramatically motioning for a first down after he scrambled nine yards to convert a third and eight in the fourth quarter.
As for his run-in with Judon, Rivers said things remained fairly G-rated.
“I don’t like to see anybody injured,” he said. “That was just a little between-the-lines banter that get heard more than it used to. I can guarantee you that wasn’t the worst thing said out there on the field. It was the worst thing said by me, but not the worst thing said out there.”
Lamar Jackson is Ravens’ guy
The boos from the M&T Bank Stadium crowd of 70,432 began in the third quarter and grew louder as the Ravens’ deficit reached 20 points in the fourth.
Baltimore rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson was having a miserable afternoon, the hometown crowd was letting coach John Harbaugh have it, with fans near the team’s sideline calling for backup Joe Flacco, the former Super Bowl most valuable player, to replace Jackson.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith couldn’t believe his ears.
“I’m standing there, and they were chanting Flacco’s name, and I’m like, ‘What’s up with that?’ ” Smith said. “They’re booing the guy that got us here. Are you a fair-weather fan that quickly? They turned their backs on him, and that got under my skin a little bit.”
Asked about the fans jeering, Jackson said, “No hard feelings. They’re looking for better.”
Flacco warmed up during halftime and Harbaugh said he considered making a switch.
“It was part of the conversation,” Harbaugh said. “Certainly thought about it. Certainly talked about it.”
Jackson produced two long and quick scoring drives, which Harbaugh felt justified his decision to stick with him.
“Lamar’s our quarterback going forward,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question about that.”
Several defensive players said the Chargers benefited from playing the Ravens only two weeks ago because of their familiarity with Baltimore’s read-option offense and their ability to make adjustments to fix errors against the run and pass.
“It factored in a lot,” defensive lineman Damion Square said. “You ever fight a guy twice, a guy who whooped your [butt] twice? We watched the tape of the first game and saw what we got hurt on. You can’t change that much in two weeks. We were prepared, brother.”
Said Lynn: “I feel like the first time we played them, we played their game. Today, I think we played our game.”
Rochell described Baltimore’s offense as “weird,” adding that the Ravens can be “very confusing if you haven’t game-planned for them.” The Dec. 22 game provided a template.
“Seeing them twice in 15 days was huge because we had a solid game plan for them the first time, and we were able to go back over that plan and enhance it,” Rochell said. “The coaches did an unbelievable job.”
Joey Bosa relieved
Defensive end Joey Bosa’s muted reaction to his first playoff game belied the euphoria he was feeling on the inside.
“It’s huge to win a playoff game,” Bosa said. “I may not look excited right now because I am absolutely exhausted. Chasing Lamar around isn’t much fun. He’s ridiculously fast. You feel like you got him, and he’ll separate so quickly.”
The Chargers offensive line, which was overwhelmed by the Ravens in the Dec. 22 game, when it gave up four second-half sacks of Rivers, did a much better job Sunday. Rivers was sacked only once. … Desmond King returned a punt 33 yards, the longest such return in Chargers postseason history, to set up Badgley’s second field goal, and he returned the second-half kickoff 72 yards, the second-longest in franchise playoff history behind Andre Coleman’s 98-yard return in Super Bowl XXIX. … Melvin Ingram’s two sacks were the most by a Charger in a postseason game since Raylee Johnson had two in that same Super Bowl.