ReFo: Ravens @ Chargers, Week 12
This was a defensive struggle until the end, and it came down to one play. Forget 4th-and-26, 4th-and-29 will now be the gold standard for improbable fourth-quarter conversions. With that play the Ravens maintained their lead in the chase for a playoff bye, and the Chargers effectively whisked away any playoff hope. Four overtime drives gave way to a Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal as the Ravens miraculously came out on top 16-13. In a highlight-filled game, here are the performances that stuck out the most.
Baltimore — Three Performances of Note
One to Remember
When Arthur Jones puts on the tape of Sunday’s game later in his life, he’ll be able to sit back and smile. The third-year pro has only had one true start in his career, and has played more than 40 snaps just once. Against the Chargers though, he did more with his 32 snaps than he had ever done before. The defensive end out of Syracuse had two sacks, two hurries and four stops. Toward the end of the game the Ravens understood how dominant he was playing and left him in for almost all of the snaps in the fourth quarter and overtime. He achieved his highest run defense grade of his career (+1.5), his highest pass rush grade of his career (+1.8) and obviously his highest overall grade of his career (+3.4). For a man who hadn’t even registered a sack before Sunday, his performance was a thing of beauty.
Speed to Burn
Torrey Smith may have put up his best game ever as a pro this past Sunday. The second-year man broke his first tackle of the season and then went on to break two more, matching his season total from his rookie year. Smith put on a clinic after he caught the ball, going for 88 yards after the catch, the most in his career. His biggest play of the day came on a drag route on a 3rd-and-7 early in the third quarter where he caught the ball in stride and proceeded to romp 51 more yards before being taken down. It was a huge day for Smith, who’s speed clearly could not be matched by the Chargers’ secondary.
Where to start with this one? Not many matchups have a play that defines the game completely, but this one most certainly did. An offense that was down and out all game needed 29 yards to have any chance at a victory after a hold and a sack. With everyone covered downfield, Joe Flacco decided to let his running back try and make something happen instead of throwing up a prayer.
Ray Rice caught the ball less than a yard past the line of scrimmage at his own 37.5-yard line and made his way upfield. Shaun Phillips was pursuing Rice from behind and Takeo Spikes, Demorrio Williams and Marcus Gilchrist were at the first down marker in a line charging forward. The first missed tackle is squarely on Gilchrist who gave up his contain of the middle of the field and was trounced with a stiff-arm in the process. After that Rice turned it upfield at the Chargers’ 42-yard line and caught Corey Lynch taking a hard angle at him when all Lynch needed to do was angle toward the first-down marker. Eric Weddle was taking a perfect angle, but only managed to lay a hand on Rice before Anquan Boldin doubled back and blocked him out of the way still 6-yards short of the first down. Rice, now stumbling, took a couple strides before diving forward right as the two corners, Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, collided on opposite sides of him. They finally brought him down somewhere just past the 35 right as Phillips finally caught up to the play and threw his hand up in the air in disbelief. Now if you are a Ravens fan you’re sure he got it and if you’re a Chargers fan you’re sure he was short. I’ll just say that it was close and no angle on the review was accurately able to place the ball when his knee landed. In the end, they called it a first down and it proved to be the game saver for the Ravens.
San Diego — Three Performances of Note
2 Liuget 2 Quit
In a battle that featured two of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the league this year, Corey Liuget outperformed the venerable Haloti Ngata. Going up against the left side of the Ravens’ front, Liuget made guard Jah Reid’s day a nightmare. Liuget had a sack, three hurries and three stops in the running game on his way to a grade of +4.2. He also made the biggest play of the day for the Chargers’ defense, barreling down the line to clip Bernard Pierce for a loss of 2 yards on a 4th-and-short at the end of the third quarter. If the Chargers would have come out on top, this man would have assuredly received our game ball.
Two Edge Rushers
Such is the fickle nature of the pass rusher that one or two plays can turn a good day into a bad day in a hurry. On this day it was Antwan Barnes (+2.2) that came through and Shaun Phillips (-4.3) who stalled. Barnes has been one of the better spot pass rushers in the league over his career, but has never had a real opportunity to be anything more. He had two sacks and a hurry on only 23 pass rushing attempts and it was his strip sack that led to the 4th-and-29 play. Phillips, on the other hand, was able to register only one pressure, a sack, on 34 pass rushing attempts and was similarly ineffective against the run. With each passing week that Phillips underperforms and Barnes remains steady, one has to wonder if Barnes will finally get a chance at a starting role.
It was quite an odd day for the Chargers’ offense on Sunday. When Phillip Rivers actually threw the ball on time the results were good. When the initial read wasn’t there, everything went downhill. Rivers had a passer rating of 114.8 when he passed before 2.5 seconds and a rating of 71.9 when he passed after 2.5 seconds. He also was sacked six times, and every single one seemed to be a drive killer. Now, his offensive line wasn’t giving him a lot of clean pockets, but when he was afforded time he couldn’t convert it into big plays. Rivers didn’t attempt a single pass that flew over 20 yards in the air all day (in fact, only two plays gained over 20 yards) and it really limited their ability to put points on the board.
Ray Rice. If 4th-and-29 had been his only touch all game it would have earned him this game ball, but Rice carried the Ravens’ offense with 164 total yards and seven missed tackles. He also picked up two-thirds of his rushing yards after contact for an all-around stellar performance.
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