After having a couple huge wins earlier in December over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the hot streak of the Los Angeles Chargers came to a screeching halt with a 22-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, sending them to 11-4. The game was actually closer than it sounds. The score was 16-10 until the Ravens returned a fumble for a touchdown in the final minutes. Still, it was a tough loss for the team. The offense was completely shut down by the tough Ravens defense. While it may not be cause for concern overall, the Chargers still probably don’t want to face this team again in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers Offense Shut Down by Baltimore Ravens
Embarrassing Showing on Offense
The Chargers did very little on offense for most of the game. There were multiple causes of this, but primarily it was the Ravens defense pressuring Philip Rivers heavily, who was sacked four times. He was constantly having to get the ball out quicker than he’s used to. He ultimately finished 23-for-37, 187 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns. This was easily his worst showing of the year. This was also one of those games where Rivers’ lack of mobility became a problem.
Melvin Gordon had a couple good runs including the lone touchdown for the Chargers, but overall he didn’t fare much better with only 41 rushing yards (although game flow dictated that they had to pass the ball less). The Chargers just couldn’t get much going with either the run or the pass.
Death by Penalties
There were multiple occasions where the Chargers actually did get a good play, often on third down. But then it would be called back due to a penalty. In particular, Keenan Allen seemed to be getting a lot of calls against him early on. While some of these calls were questionable (or some calls that would’ve favored the Chargers were missed), there were multiple ones that were correctly called–such as a push-off on Allen and a holding call or two.
The Chargers finished with eight penalties for 69 yards. That is definitely unacceptable. And they were at critical times too. They’d go from a first down conversion on third down with eight yards to go, to third down and 18 yards to go. And then the Ravens would blitz every time. And then Rivers would end up just throwing a screen pass, or just throwing the ball into the dirt. While the Chargers struggled to move the ball in general, the penalties only made the problem worse.
Rivers vs. Weddle: Battle of Avoidance?
One thing that had been talked about coming into this game was that it would include Ravens safety Eric Weddle facing off against his old team for the first time. Although the two parties did not part on good terms, he and Rivers still apparently got on quite well.
That brings us to Saturday’s game, where it almost seemed like Rivers was afraid to throw the ball in his old teammate’s direction–or deep at all, for that matter. Admittedly, the pass rush getting to him quickly can also be attributed to the lack of deep pass attempts. However, there were still times where he did have more time or it seemed like he could’ve tried, but didn’t. There were scarcely any passes attempted (let alone completed) that went for more than 10 yards. Very unusual for Rivers.
The good news is that this is the first time all season that the Chargers have played this poorly on offense. Also, there is little reason to expect it to continue. This was the toughest defense they’ve played all year, and arguably the best defense in the entire AFC. The bad news is that though they’re already in the playoffs, this loss may cost them the AFC West, even if they beat the Denver Broncos next week and finish 12-4.
Also, there is the chance that the Chargers could face the Ravens again on Wildcard Weekend. And even though the Ravens aren’t expected to be a Super Bowl contender at this point, their suffocating defense may make them a tougher opponent for the Chargers than any other AFC team. Whether it will come down to a rematch again, time will tell. But if it does happen, the Chargers offense will have to play better next time.