The Los Angeles Chargers will play at Baltimore Sunday in a wild card playoff game that is a rematch of the Ravens 22-10 victory Dec. 22.
“Both teams are very familiar with one another,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “You’re not going to change a whole lot at this point — it’s just about execution right now. It’s going out to make plays and executing.”
The game matches a Chargers team that was 8-1 away from what is now Dignity Health Sports Park in the regular season against a Ravens team that won six of its final seven regular-season games after rookie Lamar Jackson replaced Joe Flacco as their starting quarterback.
“They’re a very physical football team and they make you play very disciplined because of their quarterback,” Lynn said. “We just have to do a little better job this time than we did the first time.”
Jackson completed 12 of 22 passes for 204 yards and ran for 39 yards on 13 carries Dec. 22 in a game Baltimore wrapped up on Tavon Young’s 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown with two minutes, 40 seconds to play in a game the Chargers committed three turnovers and the Ravens one.
Baltimore was second in the league in rushing, averaging 152.6 yards per game, and first in time of possession, keeping the ball an average of 32:54 per game, during a 10-6 regular season when it won the AFC North for the first time since 2012.
“Those guys want to run the ball and control the time of possession, but we have to come in here ready and prepared to go because they have a good defense,” Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. said.
“We have to try to create some turnovers in some way. Last time we played them, their defense did that and, ultimately, I think that’s what helped them win the game.”
The Chargers offense, which was third in the league in yards per play with 6.3 and tied for sixth in scoring, averaging 26.8 points, will face a Ravens defense that allowed the fewest yards per game, 292.9, and was second in points allowed, 17.9.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a season-low 51.7 passer rating in the first meeting against the Ravens when he completed 23 of 37 passes for 181 yards with two interceptions, had his 27-game streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass ended and was sacked four times.
Rivers will have “to get rid of the football quicker” in the rematch, said Phil Simms, an analyst on CBS’ “The NFL Today” and an NFL quarterback from 1979-93.
“But it’s hard to get rid of the football quicker when the coverage is so good,” Simms said. “Baltimore covered the Los Angeles Chargers receivers very well. I think on a turf field, with the crowd noise they’re going to have, the push by that Baltimore defense, it’s going to be too tough for Philip Rivers to have time to throw the football down to his receivers.”
The Chargers will be without one defensive starter and probably a second.
Outside linebacker Jatavis Brown will miss the remainder of the season because of an ankle injury suffered in last Sunday’s 23-9 victory over the Denver Broncos, Lynn said. Brown started 10 of the Chargers 16 regular-season games, including each of the last seven.
Nose tackle Brandon Mebane is listed as questionable. He missed Wednesday through Friday’s practices to be in Nebraska to be with his daughter Makenna, who was born Nov. 12, a month premature, and was diagnosed with trisomy 13, a rare chromosome disorder, and has had other health issues.
Reserve running back Austin Ekeler is listed as questionable because of a groin injury. Ekeler participated in Wednesday through Friday’s practices on a limited basis, meaning he took part in less than 100 percent of his normal repetitions.
A player listed as doubtful is unlikely to play. It is uncertain whether a player listed as questionable will play.
The Ravens have three players listed as questionable — guard Alex Lewis, who has missed the past four games after starting 10 of the first 12; Chris Moore, a backup receiver, and Young, a defensive back who played in 15 games during the regular season, starting six.
Hayes Pullard and Kyle Wilson will receive additional playing time because of Brown’s absence, Lynn said.
“He’s a sure-tackler and knows our defense like the back of his hand,” Lynn said of Pullard, a former USC and Crenshaw High standout. “He helps people around him and is a good football player.”
The Chargers were 12-4 in the regular season to qualify for the playoffs as a wild card team. This will be the Chargers first playoff game since 2013 and Lynn’s first playoff game as a head coach. Baltimore advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“This is a game that is going to be very difficult and low-scoring for the Los Angeles Chargers,” said Boomer Esiason, an analyst on “The NFL Today” and an NFL quarterback from 1984-97.
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