Instant Analysis: Ravens 16, Chargers 13

Instant Analysis: Ravens 16, Chargers 13
November 25, 2012, 4:15 pm
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The Ravens had no business winning this game, yet they did.

They rallied behind Ray Rice, who converted an improbable 4th-and-29 with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter to set up the tying 38-yard field goal from Justin Tucker.

Tucker went 3-for-3 in field goals, including the game-winnner from 38 yards with less than two minutes left in the extra period.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers sparked the Chargers (5-6) to a 10-point lead, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco turned in another dud for the first three quarters away from M&T Bank Stadium.

But Flacco came alive in the fourth, finishing 30-for-51for 355 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions. His 31-yard completion to Torrey Smith on 3rd and 10 set up Tucker's winning field goal.

Flacco entered the game averaging just 176.6 yards per game passing for an offense that averages less than 17 points on the road.

In the first half, the Ravens had fewer than 100 yards of offense.

Player of the game: Rice had 22 carries for 97 yards and eight catches for 67. Without Rice running for most of the 29 yards on the fourth-down play, the Ravens lose.

Turning point: Unable to connect with Smith down field, Flacco went to him underneath on a 54-yard catch and run to start the third quarter. The play set up 43-yard field goal by Tucker for Ravens’ first points, but it also got a stagnant offense jump-started just in time to force an extra period. Smith finished with a game-high 7 catches for 144 yards. His best performance on the road before this was 4 catches for 46 in Cleveland.

Risky call: With 49 seconds left in the third quarter and 4th and less than 1 yard to go on the Chargers’ 14, RB Bernard Pierce was pitched the ball and dropped for a 2-yard loss as the Ravens surprisingly attempted to run the ball into the pressure.

Longest yards: The Ravens had 3rd down and 5, 10, 7, 10, 9, 16 and 15 in the first half alone when they failed to score a point. In the second half they had 3rd and 7, 8, 20, 6, 10, 10, 10.

Solved: Last week’s performance against the run was stellar. The Steelers’ Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, the Ravens were held to 93 on 24 carries. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews has yet to rush for 100 yards this season, and he only tallied 72 vs. Baltimore. The Chargers had 91 in all. It marks the second time in the last three games that the Ravens, who allowed an average of 207 yards on the ground between Weeks 5-7.

Sack exchange: The Ravens took advantage of a patchwork offensive line for the Chargers for a season-high six sacks. Paul Kruger continued his sack streak, getting his third in a row by dropping Rivers for a 5-yard loss to stop their first drive. Dannell Ellerbe sacked Rivers for an 8-yard loss to end their second series. With Rivers driving with less than four minutes left before the half, Terrell Suggs took him down for a 7-yard loss. It was Suggs’ first sack since his first game back from an Achilles tear, on Oct. 21 at the Houston Texans. Rookie LB Courtney Upshaw was credited with his first solo sack after just one-half sack in Week 1. DE Arthur Jones tallied two sacks, his first of the season, in the third quarter.

Big hits: Jackie Battle fought off a block by Ed Dickson and slammed into Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return in the second quarter, upending him.  Dickson and Jones were slow to get off the field. Dickson (knee) didn’t return. In the first quarter, Ravens WR Anquan Boldin had a 19-yard catch, drove into Atari Bigby and literally lifted him off his feet and knocked him back 5 yards. Boldin delivered a thunderous hit to S Eric Weddle that sprung Rice for a few extra yards to help Rice convert the 4th and 29.

Protection issues: The Ravens tried to generate some points in the final minutes of the first half, but RT Kelechi Osemele was beaten badly by former Raven Antwan Barnes who sacked Flacco for a 6-yard loss that effectively caused a three plays and out series. Barnes hit Flacco on 3rd-and-20 in the fourth quarter, causing a fumble that the Ravens recovered.

Perfect game: In the Ravens' three road wins entering Sunday, the offense didn't produce so they had to create turnovers to aid those victories. In beating the Kansas City Chiefs, they were plus-2, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers plus-3 and Cleveland Browns plus-2. Rivers, who entered the game with 18 turnovers on the season, was unspectacular but flawless in going 23-for-36 for 228 yards, including a 21-yard strike to Malcolm Floyd. He didn’t have a turnover.

Penalty box: The Ravens didn’t help themselves with first-half penalties that killed the momentum of two drives. After a 16-yard catch by Rice put the ball near midfield, left guard Jah Reid had an off-start penalty that cost the Ravens 5 yards and the drive stalled. On the Ravens’ deepest penetration into Chargers territory at the 34, Flacco hit a wide open Jones for what would’ve been a first down but the ball caromed off his shoulder pads. Flacco was sacked on the next play, 3rd and 10, for a 9-yard loss as the Ravens were forced to punt. With 2:18 left in the game, Osemele was called for a hold that moved the ball back to the Ravens’ 46 and created 1st and 20.