Defending Tremendous Bowl champion Philadelphia edged the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Chargers ousted Baltimore from the championship chase in two NFL playoff thrillers.
Right here’s what we discovered from the second slate of NFL wild card match-ups.
Los Angeles Chargers 23, Baltimore Ravens 17
1. The Ravens have been ominously jittery out of the gate, dropping the ball 3 times on their first eight snaps. Lamar Jackson was lucky to select up his personal bouncing fumble on Baltimore’s first drive and luckier to see a botched shotgun snap nonetheless wind up with the Ravens. The Soccer Fates had seen sufficient, although, as runner Kenneth Dixon misplaced the ball on Baltimore’s second collection off an athletic Melvin Ingram strip. Baltimore’s first 4 drives – punt, fumble, punt, punt – gave option to a fifth that noticed the rookie passer overthrow Chris Moore on a toss pulled down by Chargers security Adrian Phillips. Amid whispers that veteran Joe Flacco may take over, Jackson – who, at one stage, had almost two hours of actual time cross between completions – completed with 194 yards via the air, the overwhelming majority of that in deep-space rubbish time. Down 23-Three halfway by way of the ultimate interval, Jackson and Baltimore caught hearth with a pair of landing strikes to Michael Crabtree that left the Chargers angling for a primary down – and their playoff lives – contained in the two-minute warning up 23-17. The Ravens pressured a punt to take over with 45 seconds left, however Jackson’s season – Baltimore’s, too – ended when the rookie passer noticed his third fumble of the sport recovered by Ingram.
2. Two weeks made all of the distinction for Chargers defensive co-ordinator Gus Bradley, who unfurled a artistic recreation plan that held the Ravens to 69 first-half yards – simply 11 passing – two turnovers, zero factors, not a single play previous the 50, solely 12:24 in time of possession and fleeting reminiscences of the run-heavy, Maryland-based beast that averaged 229.6 dashing yards since Week 11. The Chargers got here out using six-plus defensive backs with first-round security Derwin James hovering on the line to snuff out ball-carriers for a Chargers unit that each one however ignored the center linebacker place. Holding the Ravens to only 90 yards dashing at Three.9 yards per pop – once more, virtually all of that in a late-game flurry – the Chargers made it clear this Baltimore assault might be studied and stopped.
Three. Star Chargers runner Melvin Gordon got here up hobbling with an early left knee damage – his different knee – solely to return within the second quarter for a Chargers membership that struggled on the bottom. Gordon by no means fairly seemed the identical and was spelled typically by Austin Ekeler. Los Angeles followers waited for Philip Rivers to check the Ravens deep, however his longer lobs have been visibly impacted by a whipping wind. Credit score goes to rookie kicker Mike Badgley, who calmly nailed first-half area objectives of 21, 34, 40 and 53 yards regardless of the Bolts being held to 129 complete yards earlier than break. All the third quarter handed and not using a first down for both workforce till Antonio Gates moved the sticks with two-plus minutes left within the body. Rivers then hit receiver Mike Williams for 28 yards – the primary massive play of the sport – to arrange a Gordon goal-line scoring blast that buried the Ravens in a 20-Three void.
four. What extra might you ask from Baltimore’s protection? Till the ground fell out late, the Ravens put the clamps on a Chargers assault that left factors on the board with some overly cautious play-calling alongside the best way. Sensible Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor tried to shift the sport when he coaxed Virgil Inexperienced right into a third-quarter fumble that C.J. Mosley took to the Los Angeles 21-yard line. The Ravens, although, might solely handle a subject aim.
5. Particular groups performed a significant factor for each groups. Chargers ace Desmond King barrelled 33 yards on a punt return to Baltimore’s 42, establishing Badgley’s second subject objective. King then opened the second half with a 72-yard kick return, however this hamstrung offense couldn’t make something of it, with the march fizzling away when Badgley’s 41-yard subject objective attempt was blocked. Halfway via the third interval, catastrophe struck once more when Buck Allen blocked a Chargers punt — solely to have that result in a super-rare missed area objective by Ravens superhero Justin Tucker.
6. Again to Ingram, who performed with a fireplace from past. The Chargers move rusher producing that Dixon fumble, recovered the game-winning fumble, ushered a flurry of next-level run-stuffing magic and barrelling into Jackson for a drive-crushing third-quarter sack. Joey Bosa additionally helped with a first-quarter take-down for a protection that got here out with an excellent scheme. Fifteen days in the past, the Ravens put a bodily harm on the Bolts, however Los Angeles and their employees deserve credit score for studying from that setback. It’s now on Baltimore’s employees to study from Sunday’s beautiful defeat.
– Marc Sessler
Philadelphia Eagles 16, Chicago Bears 15
1. Cody Parkey confidently cut up the uprights to offer Chicago a 18-16 lead with simply seconds remaining. The previous Eagles particular teamer would have been carried off the sector as a conquering hero had Eagles coach Doug Pederson opted towards “icing” a kicker who had already misfired on 10 totally different alternatives this season, together with one recreation through which Parkey was rejected by the upright 4 occasions. Teed up for the potential game-winner after Pederson’s nerve-wracking time-out, Parkey watched in crumbling disbelief as his second try bounced off the left upright, fell upon the cross bar and landed in the long run zone with the crushing weight of the Bears’ Lombardi Trophy goals.
2. By no means let it’s stated that Nick Foles comes up small in crunch time. For the newest chapter within the reigning Tremendous Bowl MVP’s instantly storybook profession, the hero discovered a brand new method to save the damsel tied to the railroad tracks with the practice bearing down. After Mitchell Trubisky staked Chicago to a 15-10 lead with slightly below 5 minutes remaining, Foles led a powerful 12-play, 60-yard reply that left the Eagles in an important fourth-down predicament from the 2-yard line. All Professional linebacker Khalil Mack had swallowed up Darren Sproles on back-to-back runs, resulting in a third-down cross that was deflected by Professional Bowl nook Kyle Fuller. Sensing the severity of the do-or-die second, Pederson referred to as a time-out to dial up his greatest goal-line play. Foles promptly rolled proper and located Golden Tate for the go-ahead landing, instantly validating Philadelphia’s deadline-beating commerce for the previous Lions receiver.
Three. An up-and-down efficiency from Trubisky noticed the second-year signal-caller get away with a handful of interceptable passes, run right into a sack and scramble shy of the sticks on a pair of third downs. Credit score rangy linebacker Nigel Bradham with sniffing out a number of misdirection performs in his position as a Trubisky spy. With the sport on the road, nevertheless, the Bears quarterback delivered a standout efficiency on the workforce’s remaining two drives. He made huge throws to Taylor Gabriel, Josh Bellamy and Allen Robinson on the six-play, 80-yard landing drive that gave Chicago a five-point lead. Offered a sliver of hope following Foles’ go-ahead rating, a pressured Trubisky unleashed a back-shoulder magnificence that threaded the cornerback-safety turkey gap for a 25-yard completion to Allen Robinson. The 2 related for an additional fast completion to set the stage for a manageable 43-yard field-goal try that was twice rejected by the identical goalposts.
four. The Bears’ ballhawking protection pressured no less than two turnovers for the 12th time this season. The trio of Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman dominated the road of scrimmage, shutting down the Eagles’ floor assault. Co-ordinator Vic Fangio stored Foles off stability all through the sport with zone appears, stunts and well timed blitzes. The one lacking ingredient was the often swarming cross rush, which was rendered an afterthought by veteran left deal with Jason Peters and his cohorts on the Eagles offensive line. Had Mack and Hicks discovered a solution to cease Foles on fourth-and-goal, we’d be extolling the league’s premier protection for the subsequent week.
5. Chicago’s offense dearly missed the playmaking capability of tight finish Trey Burton, who was deactivated after coming down with a groin damage late within the week. The extra lumbering tandem of Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker have been every discovered wanting on separate shovel-pass alternatives. Shaheen additionally did not make LeBlanc miss within the open area on third down, forcing a Bears punt. These performances stood in stark distinction to the Eagles tight ends, who got here up huge within the clutch. Rookie Dallas Goedert performed the Robin to Zach Ertz’s Batman, beating Adrian Amos for the primary landing and forcing a Fuller missed deal with to select up a key third down on the game-winning drive.
6. Allen Robinson authored his greatest efficiency in a Bears uniform, hauling in 10 passes for 143 yards and a landing. His double transfer labored repeatedly towards rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox, who had been enjoying at a excessive degree of late. Robinson’s regular-season numbers may need been disappointing in an injury-ravaged season, however his recreation movie from the previous few weeks will depart a candy style within the teaching employees’s mouth for the lengthy low season forward.
7. Philadelphia’s Divisional Spherical conflict with New Orleans is a rematch of the 48-7 debacle in Week 11. Two months later, although, that Eagles group is just faintly recognisable. A white-hot Foles has changed Carson Wentz beneath centre. Darren Sproles, Golden Tate and Alshon Jeffery have greater roles within the offense. Michael Bennett and Fletcher Cox are spearheading a pocket-crashing entrance seven on protection, and the secondary has solidified after a struggling a rash of mid-season accidents.
eight. Chicago misplaced roughly 30 yards of premium area place contained in the pink zone when former Bears cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc ripped the ball out of Anthony Miller’s arms after the vast receiver had taken three steps and made a soccer transfer. Whereas subsequent replay angles confirmed a catch and fumble, officers stayed with the unfinished name on the sector as a result of there was no clear restoration. Working underneath the idea that the cross was damaged up somewhat than fumbled, gamers from each groups uncared for to chase the unfastened ball. Tre Sullivan dropped a simple interception a number of performs later, permitting the Bears to salvage the Parkey subject aim for a 6-Three halftime lead.
For inquiring minds and peeved partisans, the NFL’s rule guide states as follows: “If there is no video evidence of a clear recovery or the ball going out of bounds, the ruling of incomplete stands.”
– Chris Wesseling