ASAP. Any Squad, Any Place is the Chargers mentality going into Baltimore this Sunday, but in all reality, that has been their motive all season.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 2, 2019
The Chargers have yet another tough road match-up, and they hope it won’t be their last road trip of the season. The Ravens topped the Chargers in week 16 in Los Angeles, and now, after finishing the season 12-4 and tied for the best record in the AFC, the Chargers are rewarded with a trip to Baltimore for a 10 am pacific time start Sunday with their season on the line.
In all reality, that has been the story of the Chargers season. One tough road game after another. Unfavorable match up after unfavorable match up. Yet that just fits the Chargers. No one expect the Chargers to win their first prime time match up of the season in Pittsburgh, coming off a loss to Denver, but they did so. They won in Kansas City and Seattle, the two loudest stadiums in the sport.
The Chargers are tied with the Saints for best road record this season at 7-1, and their lone road loss was across town in the Coliseum against the Rams. The Chargers four losses are to the Chiefs, Rams, Broncos and Ravens. Three of those losses were at home and three of those teams are playoff teams. Oddly enough the Chargers road record is better than their home record, and they won’t have a home playoff game unless the Colts make it to the AFC Championship.
Philip Rivers said it himself though, everyone is 0-0 now. The Chargers don’t care about losing to the Ravens two weeks ago, all they care about is survive and advance. When I wrote the preview for the Ravens game at the time there were a few keys to victory.
Everybody's 0-0. pic.twitter.com/8UxgNR2grk
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 3, 2019
The first key was a fast start, which did not happen. They mustered up three first half points, but only trailed by 3 at the half. Philip Rivers threw an interception on the first play of the game, setting the Ravens up for 3 points. Oddly enough, the Chargers did just about everything they needed to, to win the game. The Ravens were 4-of-14 on third downs and Lamar Jackson had a mere 39 rushing yards.
The things LA did wrong outside of the slow start was allowing Jackson to eclipse 200 passing yards and while they had 3 sacks, the total yardage lost was a mere two yards. Even with the stingy Ravens defense forcing Rivers into two interceptions (one being to try and save the game late) and holding LA under 200 total yards of offense, if it wasn’t for a late and very uncharacteristic fumble by Antonio Gates, the Chargers very well could have, and maybe should have won the game.
The Chargers will have Melvin Gordon reportedly healthier than he was last time these two teams met. The Chargers will also receive boosts from Austin Ekeler, who didn’t play the first time around, and Hunter Henry returning from a torn ACL in May. Look for the Chargers to open up the middle of the field early to try and get Henry involved. The more Henry is targeted over the middle should open up more outside the numbers passes and less stacking of the box by the safeties and linebackers.
The only thing the Chargers defense will need to do is try to limit big plays. Other than that they allowed 16 points against an offense like no other in the NFL right now. Offensively they need to limit turnovers and protect Philip Rivers. He can make plays under pressure, but not when he is on the ground all game long. Look at the second Chiefs game for an example. Chris Jones, Justin Houston and company were pressuring Rivers all game long, but he was still able to make plays.
The biggest thing for the Chargers will be starting out strong. Baltimore’s offense is built on running the option with the occasional pass, so if you can put pressure on Baltimore by having an early lead, they are going to struggle to come back against a stingy Chargers defense.
Featured Image: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times