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Baltimore Ravens Enjoy ‘Raising Eyebrows’ As Top Team in AFC

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Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens versus Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers was billed as a shootout with significant playoff implications that could even be an AFC Championship game preview.

Yeah, um, forget all that.

This game was a domination from the kickoff on. The Ravens dominated on offense and shut down the Chargers versatile offense.

“We showed we’re a great team,” said defensive back DeShon Elliott, who had an interception.

Baltimore demolished Los Angeles 34-6 on Sunday. The game was so lopsided that CBS left the broadcast in most of its markets outside of Los Angeles and Baltimore so as to join a more competitive game.

“It’s a great win for us against a really good football team,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said.

Despite this fact Harbaugh rejected the idea that a 28-point win against another first-place team makes any long-term statement about his team.

“I don’t think it says anything long-term,” Harbaugh said. “It just says we had a really good day today and we played the way we needed to play in this game, today.

“We really wanted defensively to do the best we could to put them in third-and-long. And we did a pretty good job of that. We knew it was going to be a four-down game and we felt if we put them in a situation that was a little tougher than fourth-and-1, then we have a chance to get a stop and if we get a stop we could count the stop as a turnover.”

The Chargers were only 1 of 4 on fourth down conversions.

“We count those three stops as turnovers,” Harbaugh said. “That was our goal really on defense and our guys did a great job of it.”

Herbert and the Chargers offense were not able to establish any consistency.

Herbert was off target and had his worst game of the season — completing 22 of 39 passes for 196 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception.

Tight end Jared Cook dropped a couple of passes.

Mike Williams and Keenan Allen couldn’t get open.

Even Brandon Staley ran out of magic. The rookie Chargers coach has made something of a habit of trusting his players by going for it on key fourth down situations.

Down 20-6 in the third quarter, Staley asked his offense to convert a fourth-and-1 from their own 17-yard line. Herbert failed to connect on the play and the Ravens took over in the red zone.

It led to a Baltimore field goal.

So when it was over, this was the Chargers’ best idea:

The Ravens got three rushing TDs from three different players. They had 187 rushing yards to 26 for the Chargers.

The Ravens had a major crisis in their running back room earlier this season when they lost their top three running backs — J.K Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill — to major injuries. They brought in veterans Devonta Freeman, LaLatavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell.

All three scored touchdowns on Sunday.

That kind of running game and a defense that swarmed the Chargers made the fact Lamar Jackson had an unremarkable game seem unimportant.

But this is important: The Ravens just beat a very good team by four touchdowns.

So eyebrow raising?

“Yeah, probably,” Harbaugh said. “Probably. It’s OK with me. We like raising eyebrows in a positive way.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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  1. Got to give the Ravens props for being 5-1 at this point after having 15 or 16 guys on IR, more than any team in the league. They’ll gradually get a few of them back. Buffalo will easily be the top seed in the AFC if Allen stays healthy because they are guaranteed 6-0 in their division. The Super Bowl AFC road goes thru Buffalo this year. Ravens will be the team next year.

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