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AFC wild-card game recap: Chargers 23, Ravens 17

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The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 in an AFC wild-card playoff game on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Chargers’ defense smothered the Ravens’ offense, particularly mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson while Michael Badgley kicked five field goals and Melvin Gordon rushed for a touchdown, the clinching score coming early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line. The Chargers advance to a divisional-round game against the New England Patriots next Sunday at 10 a.m.

Chargers defeat Ravens 23-17 to advance to reach AFC divisional playoff

With 28 seconds left to play, Uchenna Nwosu knocked the ball from Lamar Jackson’s hands. He recovered the football, giving the Chargers possession to secure a 23-17 win over the Ravens and advance to the divisional round.

The Chargers will face the Patriots on Jan. 13 at 10:05 a.m. PST in the AFC divisional playoff.

The Ravens had closed the Chargers’ 20-point lead to a six-point gap when their offense took to the field for one final attempt at a score, with 48 seconds to play. Jackson made a 13-yard pass to Mark Andrews before Nwosu forced Jackson’s fumble.

The Chargers defense held Jackson to complete 14 of 29 pass attempts for 194 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception in his first career playoff game.

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Ravens pull to within six when Lamar Jackson makes touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree

Lamar Jackson found Michael Crabtree in the end zone on fourth down for a 7-yard pass, bringing the Ravens to within six points as they trail the Chargers 23-17 with 2:06 to play.

The Ravens reached the red zone when Jackson scrambled around the pocket but found Kenneth Dixon down the field, making a 39-yard play to reach the Chargers’ 11-yard line. Then the Ravens came within yards of the 1-yard line with a reception by Mark Andrews.

Crabtree’s catch was originally ruled short of the end zone, but after a review of the play the ruling was overturned to a touchdown, bringing the Ravens within six points of tying the game.

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Lamar Jackson connects with Michael Crabtree for Ravens touchdown

Quarterback Lamar Jackson found Michael Crabtree by the end zone and hurled the ball 31 yards for the Ravens’ first touchdown of the game. With the score, the Ravens trailed the Chargers 23-10 with 6:40 left in the game.

Jackson completed a 29-yard pass to Willie Snead before the play to Crabtree, and the consecutive deep completions surpassed Jackson’s previous passing yard total, 43 yards. Jackson entered the drive with three completions in the game, but made four passes to give the Ravens the score.

Jackson has completed seven of 16 passes for 103 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

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Michael Badgley’s 5th field goal extends Chargers’ lead to 23-3

Michael Badgley made a 47-yard field goal — his fifth make of the game — to give the Chargers a 20-point lead over the Ravens, at 23-3.

After gaining possession on the Ravens’ 45-yard line, the Chargers got in position with a run-heavy drive, the greatest gain a nine-yard scramble by quarterback Philip Rivers.

But the Ravens defense kept the Chargers from moving farther down the field, leaving Badgley to once again extend the Chargers’ lead.

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Melvin Gordon gives Chargers 17-point lead with rushing touchdown

Running back Melvin Gordon scored the first touchdown of the game for the Chargers, driving up the middle for a 1-yard rush on 4th-and-goal. Phillip Rivers found Marvin Williams in the left corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion, giving the Chargers a 20-3 lead with 14:58 left in the fourth quarter.

After Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missed a 50-yard field goal attempt, the Chargers began a steady scoring drive with a 28-yard pass by Rivers and a 14-yard rush by Gordon to put them in position.

The Ravens held the Chargers just short of the end zone twice as Derek Watt’s reception and a rush by Gordon fell inches short of the touchdown. But after coming up short of the end zone the whole game, the Chargers managed to break past the Ravens defense and take a 17-point lead.

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Ravens make field goal after recovering Chargers’ fumble

Tight end Virgil Green fell to the ground as Ravens defenders tackled him but lost the football in the process. C.J. Mosley recovered the football for the Ravens, giving them possession at the Chargers’ 30-yard line.

The play set up Justin Tucker to kick a 33-yard field goal for the Ravens, leaving them trailing the Chargers 12-3 with 8:34 left in the third quarter.

The fumble was Green’s first in his eight-year career, and the Chargers’ first turnover of the game.

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Ravens block Michael Badgley’s field goal attempt

When Michael Badgley attempted his fifth field goal of the day, Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith blocked the kick, holding the Chargers’ lead to 12-0 with 13:51 left in the third quarter.

The Chargers got into field goal range with the help of kick returner Desmond King, who bolted 63 yards down the sideline to reach the Ravens’ 26-yard line at the start of the second half.

From there, the Ravens defense held the Chargers, forcing another field goal attempt, and the play that became the Ravens’ first blocked kick all season.

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Michael Badgley gives Chargers 12-0 halftime lead with 35-yard field goal

In the final seconds of the first half, Michael Badgley drilled a 35-yard field goal, giving the Chargers a 12-0 lead at halftime.

The kick was Badgley’s fourth of the half, tying his season-high of four field goals in a game, which he earned against the Bengals on Dec. 9.

The Chargers got possession after the Ravens punted with 1:48 left in the half, and the team began an efficient offensive drive to reach field goal range. Rivers completed four of six passes for 30 yards on the drive to set Badgley up for the kick.

The Ravens offense was stagnant in the first half, as Lamar Jackson struggled to establish his passing game against the Chargers defense. He had two completions in eight attempts for 17 passing yards, with an interception.

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Michael Badgley nails third field goal to give Chargers 9-0 lead

After the Ravens defense once again shut down the Chargers offense, Michael Badgley nailed a 40-yard field goal, extending the Chargers lead to 9-0 with 3:22 left in the second quarter.

When the Chargers gained possession following Adrian Phillips’ interception, the Chargers reached field goal range behind Phillip Rivers’ three completions for 24 yards. Melvin Gordon, who returned to the game after sustaining a left knee injury in the first quarter, could not break past the Ravens defense for more than short gains, and Baltimore forced an incomplete pass by Rivers to bring on the field goal unit.

While the Chargers offense has struggled to break past the Ravens defense to score, Badgley delivered, making all three of his field goal attempts to give the Chargers a comfortable lead.

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Adrian Phillips picks off Lamar Jackson to give Chargers possession in second quarter

When Ravens wide receiver Chris Moore leapt to catch a too-high pass by quarterback Lamar Jackson, the ball bounced off his hands. Adrian Phillips snagged the ball as it fell, giving the Chargers possession on their own 41-yard line with 8:57 left in the second quarter.

The interception was Jackson’s first since Nov. 25; the rookie quarterback was picked off three times in the regular season. Phillips, who made one interception and no fumble recoveries in the regular season, has recovered a fumble and made an interception so far against the Ravens.

The Chargers defense has held Jackson to two completions in seven attempts, for 17 passing yards.

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Michael Badgley drills 53-yard field goal to give Chargers 6-0 lead

As the first quarter drew to a close, Michael Badgley drilled a 53-yard field goal, giving the Chargers a 6-0 lead over the Ravens.

The Ravens defense shut the Chargers down when they got possession on the Ravens 42-yard line after a punt, holding the Chargers to two rushes for three yards and a 4-yard pass.

After giving the Chargers the lead with a 21-yard field goal earlier in the first quarter, Badgley drilled the long field goal attempt to extend the Chargers’ lead.

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Melvin Gordon leaves game with injury, questionable return

Melvin Gordon walked off the field in the first quarter after sustaining a knee injury on a short rushing play.

The injury appeared to be in Gordon’s left knee, as he remained down on the field after a 2-yard rush in the red zone — an offensive drive that resulted in the Chargers’ field goal.

Gordon’s return is listed as questionable.

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Chargers take 3-0 lead after recovering Ravens fumble in red zone

When the Ravens fumbled the football in the first quarter, Adrian Phillips recovered, giving the Chargers possession in the red zone. The play set the Chargers up for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 7:03 left in the first quarter.

It was the third time in the first quarter that the Ravens offense lost the football. The first two times, the Ravens could recover their slip-ups. But on the third fumble, Phillips grabbed the ball on the Ravens’ 15-yard-line.

From there, the Ravens defense held off the Chargers offense, leaving Michael Badgley to drill a 21-yard field goal and take an early lead.

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Wild-card game will be a test of wills

Nick Hardwick spent 11 years as the Chargers’ center from 2004 to 2014, sharing the huddle with quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates for most of that time, and after retirement three more years (2015-17) as a radio broadcaster for the team.

He was not on the sideline or in the booth for the Chargers’ 22-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 22, but, as he watched on television through the eyes of an NFL veteran, he sensed a subtle difference in the intensity levels of the teams.

The Chargers had clinched an AFC playoff berth with a dramatic comeback victory at Kansas City the week before, and they were still in the hunt for a No. 1 seed and bye through the wild-card round of the playoffs.

The Ravens needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and their defense imposed their will on the Chargers for most of the night, hounding Rivers into his worst game of the season.

The teams will meet again, with even more at stake, in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game in Baltimore, and Hardwick expects a far greater sense of urgency from his former club.

“There’s a difference between wanting something and needing something,” Hardwick said of the Dec. 22 game. “The Chargers, sure, it would have been nice to have that No. 1 seed, they wanted the victory, but the Ravens needed it for their survival. They played like their season and their careers depended on it. They gave that kind of effort.”

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Chargers played right into Ravens’ hands when they played last month

Their first possession lasted a single play, Philip Rivers throwing an interception.

Their second was a three-and-out and so was their third, a possession featuring consecutive plays that gained 55 yards only to be wiped away by penalties on Keenan Allen.

The Chargers misplayed right into Baltimore’s greedy hands on Dec. 22, the Ravens in the first half running 18 more plays and possessing the ball for nearly 10 more minutes.

The deficit was only 6-3 at that point, and the Chargers remained within one score into the final three minutes.

So nothing in the game really was determined early except for the tone, which rang with the distinctive dull thud preferred by the NFL’s stingiest offense.

The Ravens simply don’t play well with others. They refuse to share. They hog the ball better than any team in the league.

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Rookie could be the difference-maker for Chargers

He made the Pro Bowl en route to leading the team in passes defended and tackles, becoming the first rookie in franchise history to reach 100 stops in a season.

He drew comparisons to all-pros and all-timers, doing so at age 22 and with two years of collegiate eligibility still unused.

Derwin James lit up the opposition in his first NFL season. And he lit up the Chargers as well.

“He brings a lot of energy,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “Not just on the football field. It’s also just walking down the hallways.… He loves football. He’s very passionate about what he does.”

The Chargers will need James — physically, spiritually, completely — in their wild-card playoff game Sunday at Baltimore, an opponent they just lost to 22-10 in Week 16.

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