Chargers Defense Punch Above Their Weight Against Ravens – Keep Them In The Game.

The Baltimore Ravens came into this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers scoring 27.6 points per game, good for 4th most in the NFL. Conversely, the Chargers defense was giving up 23.8 points, 8th most. For as bad as the Chargers defense has been this season, and they have been very bad, they rose to the challenge against one of the best offenses in the league allowing just 13 points for much of the game. (Zay Flowers scored a late touchdown, reminding everyone of how bad this defense can be)

Backstop Chargers Defense

The long and short of the day was the Chargers defense forcing the Ravens to settle for field goal tries rather than giving up touchdowns. What makes this impressive is they did so with their backs to the wall courtesy of 4 offensive turnovers. One fumble set the Ravens up at the Chargers 34 and another at the Chargers 47. The result of those drives was only three points.

This game would have been over long before had the defense allowed TDs in one or both of those instances. On both drives, Khalil Mack sacked Lamar Jackson to help stall those drives.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers Defense: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Containing Lamar Jackson

The Chargers defensive game plan was not to allow Lamar Jackson to beat them single-handedly. They held him to one of the lowest rushing yards numbers he has had all season, 39, and held him to his lowest yards per passing attempt, 5.5, as well. Not having to account for Marc Andrews helped in that regard.

Jackson tried to find an Andrews replacement, connecting with seven different receivers, but none could replicate what he brings to the offense. Zay Flowers has been Jackson’s second favorite target this season. The Chargers held him to 5 catches for 25 yards, and that includes an 18-yard reception.

The defense did give up a handful of big chunk plays through the air, but taking away his underneath options forced Jackson to operate more often within the pocket, challenging him to beat defensive backs one-on-one.

Chargers Defense
Chargers Defense: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Vintage Khalil Mack

Mack was a disruptor all game long. He had two sacks, a tackle for loss, a QB hit and a pass defended. Add those to the myriad pressures he heaped on Jackson. He was a big reason the Chargers defense was able to keep the game within reach. It meant all the more that this performance happened while Joey Bosa was sidelined with an injury.

Mack also joined an exclusive pass rushers club of two. After his first sack, Mack became just the second player since 1982 to achieve 12 sacks with three different teams. Kevin Greene also did so with the Rams, Steelers, and Panthers.

What makes Mack’s season special is it seemed as if he was on the decline when it comes to production. 2018 was the last time Mack got into the double digits and he already has five more sacks than he did in all of last season.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 200-yard Elephant in the Room

Despite their valiant performance, the Chargers still gave up 197 yards on the ground. The running game isn’t typically how the Charger defense is picked apart. They allow 102 yards per game, which is 11th best in the league.

But the Brandon Staley defense ‘dares’ teams to run on them with light box formations. Even more so, the Chargers struggle against gap-schemed run teams. Those things along with the extra attention paid to containing Lamar, led to big days for Keaton Mitchell and Justice Hill. Not to mention the aforementioned nail in the coffin 37-yard run from Zay Flowers.

Not many teams will commit to the run in a tight game like the Ravens did. It was a good ol’ west standoff to see who would blink first; Staley or John Harbaugh. Harbaugh stuck with it and it sealed the game for him and not just with the final run. Half of the team’s first downs came from rushing plays.