Chargers keep Lamar Jackson bottled until late, hang on to advance

BALTIMORE -- The Los Angeles Chargers' primary goal on defense on Sunday was to bottle up explosive Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Chargers did it very well for three-plus quarters, sacking him seven times in building a 20-point lead before hanging on to win 23-17 in the wild-card round. Los Angeles will travel to New England to play the New England Patriots in the divisional round Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

“It feels great,” Chargers receiver Keenan Allen said about his team’s first playoff win since the 2013 season. “We’re about to be back where we were when I was a rookie. It’s amazing to get back to that place, especially with the guys we have, an unbelievable group of guys. Everybody came to play today.”

The seven sacks tied a franchise postseason record, equaling the Chargers' seven sacks in the 1992 AFC wild-card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. All seven sacks happened with the Chargers sending four or fewer pass-rushers, their most in any game since Week 16 of 2012 against the New York Jets.

Jackson engineered a couple of touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to make the score close. The Ravens got the ball back with 45 seconds to play, down six points with no timeouts. But the Chargers forced another Jackson fumble, this time by linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. Melvin Ingram recovered to seal it.

It capped a monster day for the Pro Bowl defensive end. Ingram added seven tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Rookie kicker Mike Badgley was responsible for most of the scoring, setting a franchise record by making five field goals, including a long of 53 yards. Badgley did have a 41-yard field goal blocked.

Los Angeles came up with an interesting scheme to slow Baltimore. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Chargers used seven defensive backs on every defensive snap. They did so only 5 percent of the time in the regular season.

With the usual defensive playcaller, linebacker Jatavis Brown, out for the season after suffering an ankle injury last week, the Chargers replaced him in the lineup with starting safety Jahleel Addae and brought in second-year pro Rayshawn Jenkins to play deep safety for Addae.

The lineup change proved effective, as Jackson looked uncomfortable for the first 45 minutes of the game. On the Ravens' first 10 possessions, they totaled 74 yards and three first downs.

“He’s real fast,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said about Jackson. “And we thought putting the speed guys in there, we didn't know that was going to work, but we wanted to take a look at it. And we feel like today, it worked fine. They can run him down a little bit or at least catch him.”

The Chargers advance to the divisional round for the first time since the 2013 season. With Philip Rivers at quarterback, they are 0-7 vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots. The last time the Chargers played New England in the postseason, they lost 21-12 on Jan. 13, 2008, at Gillette Stadium. Rivers played with a torn ACL that game.

The Chargers last faced the Patriots in the 2017 season, losing in Foxborough, 21-13. The Chargers are 14-22-2 all time against New England and 1-2 in the postseason.

“I’m not playing Tom, by any means,” Rivers said. “But, it is special to go to New England against a Hall of Fame coach and arguably the best quarterback ever to play and get another shot at them. Heck yeah it is. It is special.”