Chargers run away from victory

An earth shattering hit near the goal line. You would have thought that hit would be the deal clincher. But the Chargers ran out of fumes in the fourth quarter and passed on the victory.

Maybe the Chargers were fortunate no one took ILB Donnie Edwards off the trade market. Edwards had a sensational game against the Ravens, collecting two turnovers and six tackles. He said the loss was all too familiar to a squad which dropped four fourth-quarter leads last year. "We have to learn from our mistakes from last year," Edwards said. "We have to find a way to win and make the play that count to finish the game." Edwards remains on the trading block and will do so until this month's deadline.

Baltimore tight end Daniel Wilcox endured an up-and-down game against the San Diego Chargers. He drew cheers when he caught a pass from Steve McNair and rumbled into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown that helped the Ravens tie San Diego 7-7 midway through the first quarter. But in the third quarter, Wilcox heard boos when he fumbled at the Chargers' 1.

"I got rocked going into the end zone, and that's something that doesn't normally happen to me," Wilcox said. "I was kind of out of my wits for a second, but the guys came up to me and backed me up and said, 'It's all right, man. Hold your head up, Wilcox, because you're coming back in and we're going to keep fighting.' We just stuck together and pulled this thing out."

Many of the Ravens players and coach Brian Billick singled out the crowd of 70,743 for causing enough noise to wreak havoc with the Chargers' offense late in the game.

On San Diego's penultimate possession, guard Kris Dielman and tackle Shane Olivea were flagged for false starts on consecutive plays, turning a first-and-10 from the 9 into a first-and-17 from the 2.

The Chargers were eventually forced to punt from their end zone and opted to take a safety, which led to the Ravens' game-winning drive.

"We talk about how the crowd can have a tangible effect on a game, and that sounds awfully cliche," Billick said. "But at the end of the game, the miscommunication, the jumping offsides, them being pushed back, not being able to hear the signals, that had a tangible effect on the game. Anybody there can see that."

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Philip Rivers threw his first interception and then was basically shut down in the second half when the Chargers went ultra-conservative. He also overthrew a wide open Antonio Gates over the middle which might had resulted in a touchdown. The pass protection was good -- it did allow its first sack. No drops here as there weren't many chances as Rivers threw it but eight times in the second half. Overall, Rivers was 13-of-22 for 145 yards, an interception and a touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- LaDainian Tomlinson goes for a game-high 98 yards but they were tough yards and the Ravens dared the Chargers to beat them with the pass. The run-blocking was decent, but that same line had too many penalties at critical junctures. Tomlinson isn't going to lat the season unless the Chargers at least give a hint of a passing attack. Michael Turner averaged 6.6 yards on seven carries.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- There was good here, as interceptions were recorded by Quentin Jammer and Donnie Edwards. But the team also allowed two touchdown passes, the killer being the one to Todd Heap with less than a minute remaining. It wasn't like Heap was wide open, instead it was shoddy tackling by Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie which allowed Heap to wiggle in for the game-winning score. What was somewhat surprising was the Chargers managing but two sacks against Steve McNair. The Rav

ens went with extreme pass protection on occasions, but McNair hardly moves like he once did and many thought this would be a big day for the Chargers' pass-rushers. RUSH DEFENSE: A -- DT Jamal Williams was a rock in the middle as Jamal Lewis and the Ravens kept trying to pound the middle. But the Chargers would have none of that and allowed but 56 yards rushing. Shaun Phillips had seven tackles and Donnie Edwards added six. Great job, once again, by the run defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Tough grade when considering Nate Kaeding hit a career-long field goal of 54 yards and P Mike Scifres tied a career-long with an effort of 71 yards. But things went south in the fourth quarter, when Scifres dropped a snap on a field-goal attempt which turned the ball over to the Ravens. The long snapper David Binn one-hopped a snap to Scifres in the end zone which would eventually lead to a safety.

COACHING: F -- Coach Marty Schottenheimer has to trust Rivers and let him throw the ball, especially on third downs. The Chargers ran the ball six times on their 13 third downs and the Ravens at the end didn't even give the threat of a pass a second thought. The Chargers simply got too conservative in their play-calling and played not to lose instead of playing to win. This loss could have long-term ramifications for Schottenheimer unless the Chargers can turn it around quickly.

Ravens Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- It was a repeat from last week for Steve McNair. He shrugged off an ugly three quarters to save the game in the end. He was 4-for-5 for 43 yards on his final drive, hitting tight end Todd Heap for a game-winning, 10-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game. Before that possession, McNair was 13-for-25 for 115 yards. Receiver Mark Clayton has developed into a go-to receiver in the fourth quarter. Tight end Todd Heap has caught a touchdown pass in three straight games.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The offensive line has been physically outplayed the past two games. There were no holes created for Jamal Lewis against the Chargers. Without any openings, Lewis has been a nonfactor in the offense. He rarely bounces to the outside. He finished with 34 yards on 15 carries.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Ravens were rattled when the Chargers came out in a no-huddle offense. Cornerback Samari Rolle allowed a touchdown for the second straight week. The Ravens rebounded in the second half, with a little help from the Chargers. San Diego only threw eight times in the second half. The pass rush was inconsistent for the Ravens, who had been relentless in their pressure.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Ravens didn't allow running back LaDainian Tomlinson to beat them. Going with four linemen and four linebackers early, the Ravens contained Tomlinson, who finished with 98 yards and 3.6 yards a carry. Linebacker Bart Scott has been the Ravens' best tackler this season, finishing with 15 against San Diego.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Rookie punter Sam Koch averaged 48 yards on seven punts and leveled Eric Parker on one return. Returner B.J. Sams had a return of 17 yards. The Ravens coverage teams were solid.

COACHING: B -- Coach Brian Billick has kept this team more focused than previous seasons. The defense came prepared to stop the run, putting eight players in the box. The offense remains a work in progress. The Ravens need to tailor the playbook more to McNair, who has looked hesitant at times.

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