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Can the Chargers slow the Ravens’ run game?

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 22: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs past the defense of Adrian Phillips #31 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of a game at StubHub Center on December 22, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 22: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs past the defense of Adrian Phillips #31 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of a game at StubHub Center on December 22, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers’ first trip to the playoff since 2013 will see them clash with a Baltimore Ravens rushing attack that already sprinted through the Bolts defense two weeks ago. 

Although while the Chargers enter Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game tied for the best record in the AFC, they may be running into the most dangerous threat in the conference. While the Baltimore Ravens’ defense is one of the NFL’s finest, it is their potent rushing offense that has the football world in awe.

And if the Chargers’ defense cannot contain Baltimore’s jaw-dropping run game, as well as get minimal help from the offense, then the Bolts could be eliminated in the blink of an eye.

L.A.’s defense already got a crack at holding down this rushing offense, which is led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Gus Edwards. The result in Week 16 was not a desired one. The Ravens won 22-10 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., and the reason why was not a surprise.

Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards has racked up 654 yards rushing in his last seven games. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards has racked up 654 yards rushing in his last seven games. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Baltimore’s offense accumulated 159 total rushing yards against the Chargers two weeks ago. Edwards racked up a game-high 92 rushing yards off of 14 carries. Backup running back Kenneth Dixon chipped in eight carries for 28 rushing yards.

There was a lone bright spot for the Chargers’ defense. They held Jackson to just 39 yards rushing off 13 carries, his lowest single-game total since becoming the starting quarterback in Week 11. However, this is the same quarterback that has 147 carries for 695 rushing yards, and he has only been the starter since Week 11.

Jackson now holds the NFL record for most rushing attempts by a quarterback in a single-season.

Can the Chargers’ defense put a lid on Baltimore’s rapid rushing attack? Recent history says most likely not. And preparing for a run game this unique is extremely difficult.  But what could be the key to turning the Ravens’ smooth-flowing run game into molasses might not be on the defense. It could be the Bolts’ explosive offense.

The Chargers boast one of the NFL’s most prolific and well-balanced offensive attacks. Spearheaded by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon, L.A.’s offense has the weapons on the ground and through the air to challenge Baltimore’s vaunted defense.

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Relying on the big plays cannot be the Chargers’ gameplan though. In order to keep the Ravens’ offense on the sideline and frustrate their defense, the Bolts must methodically move the ball down the field. That means short-to-intermediate range throws and a heavy dose of Gordon running the ball up and around the Ravens’ defense.

Now that will be a tall task. The Ravens’ defense smothered the Chargers attack in Week 16, as they held Rivers and company to just 198 total yards. However, preparing for Baltimore’s defense will be somewhat easier than getting ready for their offense.

If the Bolts’ offense rights the wrongs of their Week 16 outing, then an upset win for the Chargers could be on the horizon. If that does not happen, then expect the Ravens’ rushing attack to run laps on Sunday and sprint their way into the divisional round.

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