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3 things we learned about the Chargers

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The Sports Xchange

BALTIMORE — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and his teammates have fallen just short on several fourth-quarter comebacks this season.

So, when Flacco got the ball back with just over two minutes left in a tie game against the San Diego Chargers, he was determined to help his team finally do the celebrating.

Flacco drove the team down the field, and a 39-yard field goal by Justin Tucker with three seconds remaining gave the Ravens a 29-26 victory over the Chargers on Sunday that snapped a three-game losing streak.

Despite the win, the Ravens suffered a major blow when leading wide receiver Steve Smith tore his Achilles tendon late in the third quarter and is out for the season.

“Joe Flacco made plays under duress,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He always plays that way, but he stepped up today and made some plays that were phenomenal football plays that great players make.”

Flacco threw a big 18-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Givens on the final drive. The winning kick was then set up by a 21-yard pass interference penalty on Chargers cornerback Steve Williams on a third-and-19 play that gave the Ravens the ball on the San Diego 22-yard line.

Flacco completed 25 of 37 passes for 319 yards. He threw for a touchdown and ran for one.

“It feels good,” Flacco said “We don’t make it easy.”

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, including a 70-yard strike to wide receiver Malcom Floyd. Rivers was 28 of 37 for 301 yards. He set a franchise record with four straight games with 300 passing yards or more.

“After the game, I said to Joe (Flacco), ‘It’s been a crazy year for both of us,’ ” Rivers said. “That’s not a 2-6 team over there. I know the Ravens can say the same things we’re saying about penalties and injuries. There’s just no easy solution.”

What we learned about the Chargers:

1. With no effective running game, the Chargers have relied on quarterback Philip Rivers to essentially sling the ball for four quarters. The 12-year veteran put the team on his back once again against the Ravens, completing 28 of 37 passes for 301 yards with three touchdowns. River has thrown for more than 300 yards in a franchise-record four straight games. Still, it was not enough as Baltimore got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining and Justin Tucker kicked a field goal as time expired, handing San Diego a 29-26 setback. In a season that started with promise, the Chargers are 2-6. “Until we are mathematically eliminated, we’re playing to make the playoffs, Rivers said. “We’ve been very successful the last few years and this is unchartered territory.” San Diego managed 81 yards on 26 carries against a Ravens’ defense that has struggled for much of the season. Running back Melvin Gordon had 54 yards on 18 carries. “We had some guys get hurt up front but we were moving the ball,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t big runs, but we were getting three, four or five yards on a run. I kind of like the way we looked.” The Chargers are going to need to get more production out of their running backs to take some of the pressure off Rivers. When he sits back in the pocket, teams aggressively come after him. Rivers’ lack of mobility could put him in harm’s way.

2. The Chargers entered the game against Baltimore with the 31st-ranked run defense. San Diego played much better against the Ravens, holding starter Justin Forsett to 69 yards on 17 carries. It helped that Baltimore does not have a formidable receiving corp. so the Chargers’ secondary had a favorable matchup. This allowed San Diego’s front seven to focus on pushing back the Ravens’ offensive line. The Chargers had several big stops against the Ravens. On a third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, inside linebacker Donald Butler crushed Baltimore running back Buck Allen in the backfield for a 7-yard loss, forcing a punt. The Chargers also sacked quarterback Joe Flacco three times. Still, San Diego will face more balanced teams in the coming weeks and will need its run defense to continue to come up with big plays. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make enough plays at critical times to get over that hump,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said.

3. San Diego has gotten some solid play from its secondary this season. However, that unit fell apart when the team needed them the most against the Baltimore Ravens. A pass interference penalty on Chargers cornerback Steve Williams against Baltimore wide receiver Kamar Aiken on a third-and-19 that gave the Ravens the ball on the San Diego 22-yard line. That set up the game-winning kick by Justin Tucker. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco entered the game with eight interceptions in his first seven games, but the Chargers could not force a turnover. This proved to be critical in the game as Flacco completed 25 of 37 passes for 319 yards. “As a defense, we have to get off the field at the end,” Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “We can’t hang our heads about it. We just need to get back to work and figure out a way to fix it.”

Etc.:

–LT King Dunlap carted to the locker room after injuring his ankle on the first series of the game. As a result, Chris Hairston moved from left guard to left tackle. Kenny Wiggins took over at left guard. Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked on the next play, forcing the Chargers to punt. Dunlap’s status for the next game is uncertain.

–WR Stevie Johnson injured his left shoulder injury in the first quarter against the Ravens. He was able to jog on the sideline and returned to the game in the second quarter. Johnson had two receptions for 28 yards.

–C Chris Watt injured his shoulder in the first half against the Ravens. He had not played since Week 3 against Minnesota because of a groin injury. Trevor Robinson got reps in his place.

–LG Chris Hairston suffered a knee injury against Baltimore and could not return. Hairston was already filling for the injured Orlando Franklin (knee). Franklin (knee) was able to play briefly last week against the Raiders. However, he missed practice following the game and was a scratch against the Ravens. It was the third different position on the offensive line Hairston has played this season.

–CB Patrick Robinson went down with an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter against Baltimore. He was able to walk off the field. His status is uncertain.

–TE Ladarius Green injured his ankle in the first quarter against Baltimore. After having the ankle wrapped on the sideline, he could not return. Green finished with one catch for 10 yards.

–S Eric Weddle (groin) missed his second straight game. The Chargers’ secondary struggled mightily against Oakland without him in coverage. Jimmy Wilson got extended reps in Weddle’s place and finished with a pair of tackles.

–NT Sean Lissemore (hamstring) was listed on the injury report earlier this week. However, he was able to play against the Ravens and did not appear to have any lingering effects from the injury, finishing with a tackle.

–LB Manti Te’o (ankle) missed his third straight game, which hampered the Chargers against the Ravens. Despite missing three games, Te’o is second on the team with 40 tackles. He could return for the Monday night game against Chicago. Kavell Conner started in his place and had three tackles.

–LB Denzel Perryman (arm) was not able to play against the Ravens after getting injured last week in the first half against Oakland. The team was worried Perryman suffered a season-ending a torn pectoral muscle. However, an MRI revealed a strain.

–TE Antonio Gates (hamstring) was back in the lineup after missing last week’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Gates, who already served a four-game suspension, was active for just the third time this season. He had four catches for 56 yards. “I wanted to be out there with my teammates if I could contribute,” Gates said. “


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