Another tough loss
The Chargers fought until the end, but once again, it wasn’t good enough. After tying the game at 26 on a Josh Lambo 49-yard field goal with 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, the defense allowed the Ravens to march down the field. There was a glimmer of hope when Jerry Attaochu sacked/tackled Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on a botched snap for an nine-yard loss. The next pass was incomplete leaving the Ravens with third-and-19 at San Diego’s 43-yard line. Cornerback Steve Williams was flagged for pass interference on a deep pass down the right sideline that saved the Ravens drive. Kicker Justin Tucker later sealed the game at the end of regulation with a 39-yard field goal, his fifth of the day.
What would this team be without Rivers?!
Philip Rivers was a master for the Chargers once again. He was 28-of-37 for 301 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fifth consecutive 300-yard game on the season. Rivers was without left tackle King Dunlap from the get-go after Dunlap was injured on the third play of the game. Rivers would later lose Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green for the remainder of the game. And don’t forget, although active, Antonio Gates hadn’t practiced in two weeks and was limited with a MCL sprain.
It’s been such a tiring storyline for the Chargers this season. And yet, once again, it was front and center from the start in Baltimore. One by one, Chargers’ players started dropping. First, it was left tackle King Dunlap on the third snap of the game. He left with an ankle injury and did not return. Defensive end Cory Liuget was carted off the field on the defense’s first possession and did not return. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson injured his shoulder on a nice catch but did return. Guard-tackle Chris Hairston injured his ankle and also later returned. Tight end Ladarius Green injured his ankle in the first quarter and did not return. Center-guard Chris Watt didn’t start but was forced in to action and immediately injured his shoulder. Wide receiver Keenan Allen made a spectacular touchdown catch at the end of the first half but was slow to get up. He left the game with muscle spasms and did not return. Cornerback Jason Verrett briefly left the game, returned, and then was out for the remainder. Ricardo Mathews was also injured but returned. In the fourth quarter, cornerback Patrick Robinson went down with an apparent head injury. The Chargers finished the game with just two cornerbacks, Brandon Flowers and Steve Williams. In total, 12 different players left the field at various points in the game.
The Chargers led in the first half for just the third time all season, and managed to hold their 16-13 lead until the half ended. When the Chargers took a 10-6 lead early in the second quarter, it was the first time San Diego had any lead in a game since it was up by three points against the Steelers in the fourth quarter.
Melvin Gordon returns
Melvin Gordon ran the ball just seven times in each of his last two games. Against the Ravens, he was much more active. After not starting against the Raiders because of missed practice time (according to Mike McCoy), Gordon was on the field for the Chargers first snap and was used throughout. He finished with 18 rushes for 54 yards, including five receptions for seven yards. Branden Oliver ran four times for 18 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards while Danny Woodhead finished with nine yards on just three rushes, and 36 yards on two receptions.
The Chargers had just three punt return yards total on the season heading in to Baltimore. Returner Jacoby Jones, who missed three games earlier this season with an ankle sprain, struggled once again. He returned just one kick and lost two yards. More importantly, however, was late in the fourth quarter when Jones elected not to fair catch a punt that bounced 18 yards in favor of the Ravens. The ball was pinned at San Diego’s three-yard line. The Chargers couldn’t get anything goeing on the ensueing series and were forced to punt. Baltimore took the lead, 26-23, on its next series.
More big plays allowed on defense
Big plays have killed the Chargers all season on defense. It was the same story versus Baltimore. San Diego allowed a 46-yard reception to Steve Smith, and two 39-yard receptions, one to Chris Givens and the other to Kyle Juszczyk.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)