The Ravens needed just one more first down to get into field-goal range and set up a potential game-winning kick in overtime.
That's when quarterback Joe Flacco took a shot to wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Flacco heaved a third-down pass down the right sideline, where Smith was in single coverage. The second-year receiver showed off his athleticism by out-leaping the defender for the ball, staying in bounds and hanging on to the ball despite contact from the cornerback.
The 31-yard catch set up Justin Tucker's game-winning,38-yard field goal, and after the play Smith told Flacco he was surprised that Flacco took a chance on that play.
"He's exactly who I'm going to take a shot on, especially when they press him like that," Flacco said. "I figure I just had to give him a chance and that's what I did. I threw the ball at the back of the defender's head and let him go for it. He's done that a million times and did it there."
That catch was just one of the big plays that Smith made over the course of the game. He finished the day with seven catches for a season-high 144 yards, and was a spark for an offense that took a while to get going.
In addition to his overtime snag, Smith got that game-winning drive started by drawing a pass interference penalty on Chargers' cornerback Quenton Jammer to give the Ravens a first down.
Smith also got the offense rolling in the third quarter with a 54-yard catch to set up Tucker's first field goal, which got the Ravens on the board. Smith's catch came on a short crossing route over the middle of the field, and he then turned the corner and used his speed to get down into Chargers' territory.
When asked about the play after the game, the team-first receiver had to be reminded what actually happened on the play before answering the question.
"Joe threw a great ball," Smith said. "I just turned around and made the play. There wasn't any science behind it. It was just man to man. I was able to break the tackle and get up the field. Jacoby (Jones) had a great block out on the left and I just tried to make my way to the middle of the field and got tripped up. It was a big play for us and led to some points."
Smith is best known for his blazing speed, but he did most of the work on short passes Sunday. He racked up 113 receiving yards on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield. He finished the day with a career-high 82 yards after the catch, with the bulk coming on that 54-yard gainer, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Smith's performance in Sunday's win over the Chargers got him on track after he's been quiet in recent weeks. Smith had just one catch for seven yards last week against the Steelers and he had not topped the 100-yard receiving mark since Week 3 against the Patriots.
But he was a spark that the Ravens needed on Sunday, and his performance was a key piece in the Ravens improving to 9-2 with a three-game lead in the AFC North.
"That's something we pride ourselves on and he came through," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "It's a huge win for us. For us we're just trying to win our division first and then place ourselves in a good position for the playoffs."