The Chargers lost to the Steelers Monday night, in front of a national audience, in a game they should have won.
This one hurt.
Nevermind that Qualcomm Stadium was full of Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Nevermind that the Chargers offense, after an efficient touchdown drive to start the game, sputtered and stalled until the fourth quarter.
This one was still in their grasp. They just couldn’t make the necessary plays when it counted.
Notables from the game:
On the Chargers opening drive, Rivers and Co. marched 84 yards to get tight end Antonio Gates his 100th career touchdown, making him only the second tight end in history to do so (behind Tony Gonzalez).
Gates finished the game – his first since returning from his four game suspension – with nine catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was excited,” Gates said. “Just to see the fans and the appreciation they have for me and what I have accomplished. The way the fans embrace me and the way my teammates embrace me is great. My teammates have always embraced me and they did even more so today.”
THIS ONE IS FOR ALL THE MARBLES
With five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the ball at the one-yard-line, the Steelers went for it instead of kicking a field goal to tie the game. The ball was snapped to RB Le’Veon Bell and he muscled his way through Chargers defenders, just crossing the plane before his knee touched the ground. The touchdown score was reviewed, then confirmed by officials.
“You have to play for 60 minutes,” safety Jimmy Wilson said. “We played for 58.”
The Steelers also had another big drive in the fourth quarter – a one-play, 72-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Michael Vick to WR Markus Wheaton, who took it to the house to tie the game. Cornerback Brandon Flowers was beat on the play.
Although it gave up a few big plays – especially in the fourth quarter – the defense kept the Chargers in the game, holding the Steelers to a field goal until the third quarter. Don’t put the blame just on the defense, because …
THE OFFENSE SPUTTERED
After the opening touchdown drive, the Chargers offense sputtered and stalled, unable to put up more points until the fourth quarter. Penalties by offensive linemen killed several consecutive drives, pushing the Chargers into a third-down deficit they couldn’t overcome.
The run game was mostly fruitless; the Chargers rushed for 52 yards total. Running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 42 yards on 15 attempts and had one fumble.
“The fumble was pretty big,” Gordon said. “We had big time momentum going down the field. It was third and one and I got the first down. He just got a good hand on the ball. It is a mistake like that kind of cost us when we had the momentum going down the field. I felt like we were for sure going to score [on] that drive. But [when] you make mistakes, you just have to bounce back.”
MORE OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLE
It would take too long to explain all the moves this offensive line endured Monday night. Backups replaced backups replaced backups. It’s gotten to the point of absurd.
Center Chris Watt, who entered the game to play left guard in place of backup Kenny Wiggins, who moved to right tackle in place of Joe Barksdale, who moved to left tackle in place of Chris Hairston (who left the game with an ankle injury), appears to have suffered a concussion.
Yeah. It was that kind of game.
Steelers fans packed Qualcomm, waving their Terrible Towels and making it more like a road game than a home game for the Chargers.
“Odd is one word we could use,” Rivers said. “We’re checking in and out of plays. I’m usually hoarse after those road games. I’m going to be today was well. Our fans that were here did their best … it was unique to say the least.”
ONTO GREEN BAY
The Chargers need to learn from this one and move on. Green Bay is coming quick.
“I just think the message for all of us is just that there’s no time [for] ‘poor us. Gosh, a play here, a play there, we should’ve won that game. Look how close it was.’ There’s no time for that because the place we’re going, they will run us out of the stadium if we don’t go there ready to play. The team we’re going to next week is – again, I’m not stacking or comparing teams – but you’re going into an undefeated team that doesn’t hardly ever lose at home. We know we got our hands full, so we’ve got to go in ready to roll. And yes, do I feel like we can go in there and win the game. Sure, it’ll be tough, but I think we can.”