Ingram, Chargers defense stuff Ravens on second try

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Faced with playing Lamar Jackson's Ravens for the second time in three weeks, the Chargers had a unique opportunity as the first team to play Baltimore twice with the rumbling rookie under center.

When they played in Week 16, Los Angeles had little answer for the Ravens' run game, allowing 159 yards on the ground. Jackson racked up 243 total yards in Baltimore's 22-10 win.

On Sunday afternoon, the Chargers played like they knew what was coming because, well, they did.

In Los Angeles' 23-17 win over Baltimore on Wild Card Weekend, the Chargers held the Ravens to just 229 total yards and 90 rushing yards, Baltimore's fewest since installing Jackson as the starting quarterback. L.A. also sacked the fleet-footed signal-caller seven times, the franchise's most in a postseason game. The Ravens had negative total passing yardage through three quarters.

"I feel like the first time we played them we played their game. Today I think we played our game," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told reporters. "Our defense was outstanding. We held that team under 100 yards rushing. No one's played that team how our defense played them today."

Los Angeles' early stops and ensuing scoring drives dug the Ravens into a deeper and deeper hole, and prompted Baltimore to switch up its strategy. Since Week 11, the Ravens had led the league with 45.1 rushing attempts per game and a 63.7 run play percentage. On Sunday, Baltimore ran the ball just 29 times, good for 39 percent of its plays.

"Championship-caliber to the end," Chargers safety Derwin James said of his defense's play. "We came out, we got turnovers, we got sacks, we got the ball out. We wanted to come out and play our football."

It took a 14-point fourth-quarter rally for Jackson, when the Chargers lessened their pressure on the QB, to get Baltimore back in the game. But the Bolts sealed the game how they started with pressure and a strip-sack, this one forced by rookie edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu.

Leading the charge was Melvin Ingram, who had a disruptive afternoon in his first career playoff game since 2014. The defensive end moved all around the formation on Sunday and finished with a team-high seven tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two QB hits a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. No player has recorded that stat line in the postseason since at least 1999, according to Pro Football Reference.

Ingram led an interior pass rush that proved so lethal against Baltimore's guards that the Ravens pulled starting guard James Hurst on their second possession of their third quarter for Bradley Bozeman. But the move didn't solve anything. Los Angeles had three sacks before the benching, and four after.

The injury-riddled Los Angeles defense also thwarted Jackson and company by using seven defensive backs on the field on 58 of 59 defensive plays. The Chargers didn't use seven DBs once in their first meeting with Baltimore, but utilized six DBs on 80 percent of plays. After losing linebacker Jatavis Brown to injury, that was a necessary adjustment that benefited Sunday's game plan.

"I was really impressed with how our defense stepped up, especially playing the little guys inside and not playing with the linebackers," Lynn said. "My hat goes off to Gus Bradley, his staff and they did an outstanding job all week getting that defense ready for that unconventional style of offense."

"You need speed against that [offense]," James told NFL Network's Steve Wyche after the win. "We're physical enough as DBs to play the blocks and stuff, but you need speed against that offense."

Next up for this Chargers defense is a totally different animal: Tom Brady, the most immobile but also most experienced QB remaining.

Using seven DBs to contain the green and speedy Jackson worked on Sunday. Whether the Bolts utilize the same strategy next week against the gray Brady remains to be seen.

"[We've got a] lot of momentum coming in," James told Wyche. "Everybody knows who the Patriots are. An experienced team. You've got to go face Brady in his house. So we know it's going to be tough going in. Like I said, we're just going to prepare all week, heal our bodies up and get ready to go over there."

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