SD-BAL: What Worked, What Didn't, What's Next

For the second week in a row, the Chargers rallied in the second half and won a game in the final minute. All the drama results in an 8-4 record and the chance to host the AFC's two powerhouse teams over the next two weeks. But before we get to that, we take our weekly look at what worked, what didn't and what's next after the 34-33 win over the Ravens. (Photo by Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY)

What Worked

--Philip Rivers did a lot of amazing things against the Ravens. His accuracy (75.5 percent), toughness and leadership are beyond compare. But what really set him apart on Sunday was his work in two-minute situations at the end of both halves.

The Chargers got the ball back with 1:41 remaining in the first half trailing 16-7. Rivers strung together four consecutive completions -- sandwiched around a couple of quarterback keepers -- to put San Diego in position for a 52-yard field goal by Nick Novak. The drive ensured it was a one-possession game going into halftime.

The stakes were even higher at the end of the game, when San Diego got the ball back with 2:22 left to play. San Diego had no timeouts and had to drive 80 yards for the game-winning score. Rivers completed six-of-eight passes on the drive, which doesn't include the jump-ball he threw to Malcom Floyd that drew a 23-yard pass-interference penalty. His 1-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal -- his third scoring toss of the day -- put the Chargers ahead for good. It was the 20th fourth-quarter comeback of Rivers' career.

"Eddie did a great job there," said Rivers of the final touchdown. "And Keenan [Allen] had a great block for him."

--For the first time in Chargers history, four receivers finished with 80 or more receiving yards in the same game. Allen did the lion's share of the work, catching 11 passes for 121 yards and two scores. Antonio Gates also had a big day, with his first three receptions all coming on third down.

"[Allen] was able to get into a rhythm today and that was big for us," Royal said. "We know what type of player he is and whenever he's hot he's going to make our offense that much more explosive."

With the passing game clicking so well -- and with San Diego playing from behind for most of the game -- the running game took a backseat. But the Chargers averaged a respectable 3.6 yards per rush against an elite Baltimore run defense, including a 14-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mathews.

--The defense did a great job of keeping the Ravens out of the end zone. Four times the Ravens marched inside the San Diego 15-yard line only to settle for three points. If Baltimore converted one of those opportunities into a touchdown, San Diego would have flown home with a loss.

A couple defenders had sensational games. Corey Liuget had three tackles for loss, which is as many as he had during the first 11 games of the season combined. It is Liuget's second big game in a row after his sack-strip last week against the Rams resulted in a defensive touchdown. He is coming on at the right time, as the Chargers need him to drive the pass rush against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning over the next two weeks.

Also, Brandon Flowers did a sensational job in coverage against Steve Smith. Baltimore's leading receiver, who entered the game with 817 yards and five touchdowns, was held to just one catch for 2 yards. Flowers was all over Smith, including a diving breakup of a pass in the end zone.

What Didn't Work

--The Chargers need more big plays on defense. Not one linebacker had a big game ... the team has invested too much in Melvin Ingram, Donald Butler, Manti Te'o and Jerry Attaochu to have them make such a minimal impact. Joe Flacco was never sacked in 31 drop-backs and the Ravens never turned the ball over.

The other defender to have a really rough day was Shareece Wright. The Ravens gave Flowers the Richard Sherman treatment and went at Wright time and time again. To Wright's credit, he never got frustrated and managed to break up a pass for the fifth consecutive game. But he needs to provide tighter coverage and be more aggressive when the ball is in the air.

"We're all human here," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "We'll have a bad call as a coach. Someone's going to give up a deep ball or miss a tackle or give up a sack or throw an interception. That's going to happen. But the question is, what do you do the next play?"

--It was a bad day for San Diego's special teams. Not 2010 bad, but not far off. San Diego attempted squib kicking to Jacoby Jones, only to see the Ravens start drives at their 39-, 31-, 44- and 47-yard lines. When San Diego finally opted to kick deep, Jones returned it 72 yards on a play that nearly broke San Diego's back.

This a week after Tavon Austin nearly beat the Chargers with a long punt return late in the fourth quarter.

"It was a cat-and-mouse game," McCoy said. "But I will say this: When the game was on the line, look what (our special teams) did. And that was the big thing."

San Diego tackled Jones on his own 14-yard line on the game's final kickoff, although Jones' mishandling of the ball certainly helped.

--The injury bug bit again. And amazingly, it happened at center ... again! Chris Watt was knocked from the game with a calf injury, forcing Trevor Robinson to step in as the fifth man to play center for the Bolts this season. The offense didn't skip a beat with Robinson, who played with Watt at Notre Dame.

Speaking of injuries: the game against the Ravens made the absence of two players painfully obvious. While the Chargers are still legitimate playoff contenders, they are not realistic championship contenders mainly because of the absences of Jason Verrett and Danny Woodhead.

The Chargers could have really used Verrett in Baltimore, as the Ravens opted to play keep-away from Flowers. Verrett's speed, fluid coverage and ball skills would force opponents to think twice about employing that strategy.

The loss of Woodhead has been painfully obvious, as well, and will be even more so over the next two weeks. He has an elite ability to turn check-downs into big gains and always keep the offense on schedule, which will be key against the Patriots and Broncos. San Diego's converted 81 percent of its third-down attempts in Baltimore, an incredible number, but that will be hard to sustain without someone like Woodhead there to bail Rivers out and move the chains.

What's Next

Because of San Diego's three-game winning streak, there are only two teams in the conference with more wins than the Chargers’ eight. And the Bolts will host both of those teams over the next couple weeks.

It starts this week on Sunday Night Football in a prime-time match-up against the Patriots. New England is coming off a 26-21 loss to the Packers, the Patriots' first loss in the last eight games.

The Patriots secondary is vastly superior to Baltimore's, so San Diego will need a more balanced effort to make it four wins in a row. Mathews and Branden Oliver will have to be more involved; the defense will have to author more big plays; and the special teams must tighten up if the Chargers are to improve to 9-4.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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