Ravens Earn Their Flowers on Sunday Night

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) celebrates after his touchdown catch during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Before the start of the season, it seemed almost a certainty that both the Ravens and Chargers would be two of several AFC teams battling down to the end for seeding in the playoffs. Fast forward now to week 12 and you have two teams going in completely opposite directions. For the Ravens, they have solidified themselves as one of the best teams in the entire AFC, while the Chargers have struggled having lost four of their last six games heading into Sunday night.

So while the Ravens had a lot to play for, so did the Chargers as they looked to put of their best fight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense wasted little time in making their presence felt as Herbert marched his offense right down the field on the games opening possession. A late hit by Ravens safety Geno Stone on Herbert who was stepping out of bounds near the Ravens five-yard line would go uncalled, however some of the lineman took exception to the hit from Stone leading to some pushing after the whistle. Chargers guard Jamaree Salyer would be penalized for unnecessary roughness pushing the Chargers back to the Ravens 21-yard line where an incomplete pass on third and long would force the Chargers into a field goal. Cameron Dicker would split the uprights from 39-yards away to give the Chargers an early 3-0 lead.

The Ravens would take their first lead of the game on their second possession as Lamar Jackson would find his rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers for three-yard score to give the Ravens a 7-3 lead with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half.

A Keenan Allen fumble late in the first half would turn into more points for the Ravens as Justin Tucker connected from 42-yards out to give the Ravens a 10-3 lead. The Chargers would again fumble on their very next possession, this time running back Austin Ekeler would put the ball on the ground. However the Chargers defense this time would hold as the Ravens offense failed to gain a yard following the fumble leading to a failed fourth down conversion with just eight second left in the half from their own 49-yard line.

A Herbert Hail-Mary to end the half would be intercepted by Ravens cornerback Arthur Maulet his first of the season, and giving the Ravens a close 10-3 lead into the half.

The first half was disappointing for the Ravens specifically on offense as they struggled against a defense that statistaically is one of the worst in the NFL. But after a Tucker 48-yard field goal on the Ravens opening possession of the second half to take 13-3 lead, it looked as though the Ravens may start to blow the game wide open.

A long 19-play Chargers drive that took up nearly nine minutes of game time, looked like it would end in some kind of points, but on third and long from the Ravens 16-yard line Herbert would be strip sacked by Jadeveon Clowney. The Chargers fourth turnover of the night and sack number 7.5 for Clowney on the year.

But once again the Charger defense would hold strong after a quick change of possession forcing a Ravens three and out that barely took a minute of game time.

With just over 11 minutes left in the game and the Chargers down 10-3, they desperately needed to protect the ball and come away with some kind of points to change the momentum. A 60-yard, seven play drive headlined by a Herbert 35-yard scramble, would be finished off with a Gerald Everett three-yard touchdown reception to cut the Ravens lead to three.

Jackson and the Ravens offense went back out on the field looking to score their first touchdown since 10:41 to go in the first half to seal the victory. But, after the Ravens got down into Chargers territory, a shirt run by running back Justice Hill would come up short of the line to gain forcing the Ravens into another Justin Tucker field goal attempt this time from 44-yards out. Normally automatic form inside of 50-yards, Tucker’s kick would sail wide left to keep the score at 13-10 with just over three minutes left to play.

Starting from their own 34-yard line Herbert and the Chargers offense looked to take the lead back for the first time since their opening possession of the game. Two Herbert completion later and they were into Ravens territory. But after an incompletion on third down, the Chargers were looking at a fourth down and six to go. Herbert was pressured like he had been for most of the night, as Maulet came off he edge forcing Herbert into an intentional grounding penalty and turning the ball over on downs back to the Ravens.

Needing just one first down to win the game, the Ravens would get a lot more than that. After the Chargers took their second timeout, the Ravens were facing a third and the from the Chargers 37-yard line. Jackson in the shotgun would hand it off to a motioning Zay Flowers who hit the edge going 37-yards untouched to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and extending the Ravens lead 20-10.

With the outcome all but determined, the Ravens defense looked to cap off a dominating night with one final stop. After a long completion from Hebert to Allen for 21-yards. Herbert would be sacked by Broderick Washington on second and long. An incomplete pass on third down and long would give the Chargers just one final play on fourth down to keep their hopes alive. Hebert would drop back to pass looking again for Allen who finished the a game high 14 receptions for 106 yards, but on the Chargers final play the to could not connect again as the pass fell incomplete giving the Ravens a hard fought 20-10 victory, and moving them to 9-3 on the year.

The Ravens defense much like it has been all year was the reason the Ravens won Sunday night as the held an offense that averages nearly 25 points a game to just 10 points while forcing four turnovers. The Chargers were held to 86 yards rushing, while holding Herbert to 29-of-44 passing for 217 yards. It would be unfair to expect the Ravens defense to pick up for the Ravens offense when its slumping every time, but it is refreshing to see the defense week in and week out hold their own feeding off their own energy rather than how the Ravens offense is performing.  

The Ravens offense had difficulty for most of the second half until the late Zay Flowers touchdown. They were held to under 30 points for the first time since they scored 24 against the Titans in London on October 15th. While it’s difficult to expect 30-point performances every week, Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the entire Ravens offense knows they must play better than they did Sunday night as they allowed the 31st ranked defense to hold them in check. The bye week comes at a good time as it will allow Monken to continue to adjust and tweak the offense as they hit they near the most critical part of the season.     

Sunday night in years past is normally a game the Ravens would give away and lose, but instead Sunday seemingly started to change that narrative that the Ravens couldn’t finish games, with the way they finished and did so on both sides of the ball. The Ravens now enter their bye week looking to get healthy and regroup for the final month of the regular season. The Ravens will have their hands full after their bye as they are set to play teams with winning records in four of their five remaining games.

Notable Injuries:

Justin Madubuike (concussion protocol)- Week-to-Week

Games Notes:

Wide Receiver Zay Flowers became the first Ravens rookie wide receiver to record a receiving and rushing touchdown in the same game.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson surpassed 5,000 career rushing yards.

Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike recorded his 10th sack on the season, most among all interior defensive lineman, and first Raven since Terrell Suggs in 2017 to reach double digit sacks in a season.

Linebacker Roquan Smith led all Ravens with eight total tackles.

Sunday night was the eighth time this season the Ravens defense has held an opposing offense to less than the league average in points scored in a game (21.7).

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