NFL Wire News

Desperation reigns as Chargers visit Baltimore

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The last time the San Diego Chargers visited Baltimore, the game served as an omen for all of the Ravens’ troubles this season.

The Ravens blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead en route to a 34-33 loss on Nov. 30, 2014. The inability to close out games has been a problem Baltimore has battled throughout this season.

The Ravens (1-6), but had an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the final two minutes in each of their six losses. The Chargers (2-5), meanwhile, have lost five of their last six games and are as desperate as the Ravens.

San Diego, however, has the top-ranked offense in the league, so Baltimore will have to slow the Chargers down with some turnovers — something the Ravens have not done in more than a month.

“The turnover situation is standard operating procedure for every single team, every single year,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “If you’re down the way we are, you’re not going to have too many wins.

“It’s hard to overcome that. It’s been too much for us to overcome. We need to be on the plus side of that.”

Baltimore’s secondary has been torched by several quarterbacks this season. The challenge does not get any easier against San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who leads the league with 2,452 passing yards.

In the most previous meeting, Rivers completed 34-of-45 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns.

The Chargers converted 9-of-11 third downs — the best ever against Baltimore. The Ravens will have to keep the pressure on Rivers throughout the game or he could have another big day.

San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen will provide match-up problems against Baltimore’s beleaguered secondary.

The Ravens’ defense played better Monday night against Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer, so there are some encouraging signs heading into this challenging game.

“We have to improve,” cornerback Lardarius Webb of the Ravens said on Wednesday. “It’s been close in the end, so if we can make those plays, maybe that’s what we need to change the outcome of the game.”

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is going to have to avoid turning the ball over at crucial times to give his team a chance to win. The franchise quarterback has twice thrown interceptions in the end zone on the Ravens final drive that would have potentially won or tied the game, including Monday against Arizona.

Flacco is still the seventh-best quarterback in the league statistic-wise this season with 1,857 yards. However, he thrown eight interceptions in seven games.

Baltimore’s six losses have been decided by a total of 30 points, which is tied with Seattle for the NFL’s lowest margin of defeat. The Ravens hope they can finally overcome that challenge this week against a team that is capable of making late-game runs.

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular season meeting. The series is tied 5-5. The teams have split the last six meeting and the Ravens hold a 2-1 advantage at home. In the most previous matchup last season, Chargers quarterback Philip lip Rivers threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 1-yard toss to wide receiver Eddie Royal with 38 seconds left for the 34-33 victory.

GAME PLAN: The Ravens are playing only their third home game this season, but have lost the previous two to Cincinnati and Cleveland at M&T Bank Stadium. They will need to start fast to keep the crowd in the game. However, Baltimore has struggled to score points early this season. The Ravens will have to find a way to shut down Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to have any chance of winning. San Diego has the top-ranked offense in the league and Rivers has a decidedly favorable matchup with his receivers lined up against Baltimore’s beleaguered secondary. The Ravens have struggled to put together a consistent pass rush this season and this will be crucial to keep Rivers from getting too comfortable in the pocket and picking them apart. The Chargers, however, have struggled against the run, ranked 31st in the league by allowing 132.1 yards per game. Look for Baltimore to give running backs Justin Forsett and Buck Allen plenty of carries to keep possession and keep Rivers and company off the field.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Chargers WR Keenan Allen.

Allen is putting together a huge season and is ranked third in the league with 62 receptions for 690 yards with three touchdowns. Smith is the Ravens’ top corner, but he has struggled along with the rest of the group this season. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers won’t be afraid to throw at Smith, so he will have to play smart in coverage throughout the game.

–Ravens LB Elvis Dumervil vs. Chargers RT Joe Barksdale.

With the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs, Dumervil was expected to be lead the Ravens’ pass rush. However, teams have keyed on Dumervil this season and he has struggled to get to the quarterback. He has managed only 2.5 sacks this season. Barksdale has been effective protecting Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and leads NFL tackles with 542 snaps this season. If he can help keep Rivers upright, the Chargers will have a good chance to win.


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