The Baltimore Ravens (10-4) had their four-game winning streaking snapped at the hands of the San Diego Chargers, but clinched a playoff berth earlier in the day thanks to losses by the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans.
Despite the return of All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens defense by far played its worst game of the season. In fact, the defense, which led the NFL in sacks (45) coming into last night’s game, didn’t record a sack on Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers and really only had two punishing hits.
Rivers was dominant, completing 17 of 23 passes for 270 yards to lead the Chargers to scores on six of their first seven possessions of the game. He didn’t throw an interception, and the only sack the Ravens got was wiped out by a personal foul against Terrell Suggs.
Meanwhile, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco saw the pressure and heat that most thought Rivers would see. Flacco was sacked a season-high seven times, including four by former Ravens DE/OLB Antwan Barnes. Flacco also threw two costly interceptions.
Rivers surpassed the 4,000-yard passing mark, joining just Peyton Manning (1999-04 and 2006-10) and former teammate Drew Brees (2006-11) as the only QBs in NFL history with at least four-straight 4,000-yard seasons, when he connected with wide receiver Malcolm Floyd on a 21-yard completion, which was followed by a three-yard touchdown run by Ryan Matthews. The drive was set up by a Takeo Spikes interception, which he returned 45 yards to the Baltimore 27. However, San Diego was flagged 15 yards for excessive celebration.
Chargers kicker, Nick Novak, who connected on a 45-yard field goal for San Diego, had a 37-yard attempt bounce off the right upright late in the third quarter.
Leading 17-7 coming out of the halftime locker room, the Chargers moved the ball 80 yards, capped by a Rivers 28-yard TD strike to Floyd, ending any real possibility of a Baltimore comeback.
From there, San Diego would go on to score 10 more points, making it a laugher at 34-7. However, the Ravens answered by scoring the game’s final touchdown, as Flacco hooked up with rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith for a 36-yard touchdown, making the final score a bit more respectable at 34-14.
Next up for the Ravens will be the Cleveland Browns this Saturday, Dec. 24. Baltimore will be playing in front of the Ravens faithful for the final time this regular season and will look to close out a perfect 8-0 at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time in franchise history.
Although the Ravens clinched a postseason berth Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers now control their own destiny in the AFC North and by winning their last three remaining games, they will be crowned AFC North champions for a second-straight season. However, because the Ravens swept the Steelers that gives them the tiebreaker for the division title, meaning if the Steelers slip up just once in their final three games–and the Ravens win out– the Ravens would be crowned AFC North champions for the first since 2006.
The Steelers (10-3) play tonight at San Francisco (10-3) to close out this week’s slate of games. Kickoff is set for 8:30 P.M./EST and the game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN.