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Chargers fumble away chances to win AFC West in loss to Ravens

CARSON, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 22: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens extends the ball on his keeper for a first down during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center on December 22, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 22: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens extends the ball on his keeper for a first down during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center on December 22, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers’ hopes to win the AFC West crown and possibly even be the No.1 seed in the playoffs took a catastrophic hit on Saturday night.

Hopes were high following last week’s huge road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, they were higher than they have been in quite some time.

The Chargers were flying high after defeating both the Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers, two of the AFC’s best teams, in come-from-behind road wins. But after taking two steps forward, they took one step back against the Baltimore Ravens.

It was a tight game throughout and the Chargers appeared to have the Ravens right where they wanted them. Following a clutch punt by Donnie Jones in which Nick Dzubnar made a great play to down the ball at the 1-yard line, the Bolts forced a quick three-and-out.

Desmond King caught the punt and nearly broke it, returning it 24 yards to the Baltimore 39-yard line with around three minutes left on the clock. Baltimore led 16-10.

After a holding call erased an 8-yard run by Melvin Gordon, Philip Rivers hit Antonio Gates over the middle but he had the ball punched out by Patrick Onwuasor milliseconds before his knee hit the ground. Tavon Young then scooped the ball up for the Ravens and raced the other way for the game’s decisive score.

Replays showed it was close, but the ball came out just before Gates was down.

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It drastically changes the outlook for the Chargers, who are now looking at being the AFC’s No. 5 seed as a best-case scenario. The only way that won’t happen is if the Chiefs lose to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday AND the Oakland Raiders in the season finale.

The Ravens did what they do best, playing stingy defense and running the ball well. On the night, the Ravens rushed for 159 yards while holding the Chargers to just 198 yards of total offense.

Rivers tossed three interceptions in the game, including one on the first play from scrimmage.

The Chargers get an extra day to regroup before heading to the Mile High City to face the Denver Broncos, a team that has already beaten them this season, next Sunday.

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