Instant Analysis: Ravens 29, Chargers 26

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The Baltimore Sun's experts react to the Ravens' 29-26 win over the San Diego Chargers as time ran out.

Jeff Zrebiec, reporter: Perhaps it is cruelly fitting for this season that on a day where the Ravens finally found a way to finish and get an uplifting win, they also sustained a crushing loss. Steve Smith Sr., who tore his Achilles tendon, was the Ravens' best player and their most vocal leader. Watching the Ravens this season hasn't always been enjoyable, but there was always Smith, running past defenders 10 years younger than him, engaging in trash talk and giving it all while playing with microfractures in his back. Sure, the Ravens weren't likely to make a playoff run anyway, but with Smith on the field, you knew they had at least a fighting chance in most games. Now more than ever, the pressure will be on Joe Flacco's shoulders.


Mike Preston, columnist: The Ravens finally win a game, and they win at home. This team is far from being back, but at this point a win is a win. But if WR Steve Smith isn't ready to play for the remainder of the season, the Ravens will be lucky to win five or six games this season even with the weak part of the schedule coming up.

Peter Schmuck, columnist: The Ravens finally finished, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the Chargers on Justin Tucker's buzzer-beater -- his fifth field goal of the game. Don't know if this represents a turning point, but at least the Ravens gave the home crowd a happy ride home for a change and will be able to spend their bye week sleeping on a victory.


Alexander Pyles, Ravens editor: That last offensive drive was nearly disastrous -- why on Earth did the Ravens keep running plays out of the shotgun? -- but Justin Tucker's second game-winning field goal of the season sent the Ravens into a much-needed bye week with a win. The defense played well in the fourth quarter against one of the NFL's most  prolific offenses and maybe, just maybe, has something it can build on. The season-ending injury to Steve Smith Sr., though, continues the Ravens' run of crippling injuries. Even when they win, they lose.

Jon Meoli, reporter: For one game in November, the ending changed. With the Chargers driving to try and erase a late Ravens touchdown and retake the lead at the end of the fourth quarter, the Ravens' defense finally held. The offense did more than enough to win, and Justin Tucker's fifth field goal of the game did it at the end. So many of the same issues the Ravens dealt with all season cropped up again—big plays against, mostly—and the Steve Smith Sr. injury is devastating. But this win is a little something to hang their hat on entering the bye.

Childs Walker, reporter: In many ways, this was the same game the Ravens have been playing all season. They couldn't stop the opposing quarterback. They gave up big plays and failed to force turnovers, allowing the game to go down to the final seconds. But they were bound to win one of these nail biters eventually. Joe Flacco played probably his best game of the season as he brought it home without his top receiver, Steve Smith Sr., and with his back-up center, John Urschel, snapping him lollipops in the shotgun. Even in victory, Smith's injury seems likely to cast a further pall on the season.

Ron Fritz, sports editor: Every game seems to go like this for the Ravens, but this time they finally had the ball at the end and a pass interference call went for them, not against them. They have been in every game and the losses were crushing. Despite losing Steve Smith Sr., the Ravens kept fighting and came out on top in a game that was must-win because every game is must-win for the Ravens.