Chargers Fail to Toe the Line

The San Diego Chargers' decimated lines paved the way for a predictable and painful story line. The Chargers dominated at the skill positions but couldn't stop the run and couldn't pound the ball in the red zone as the Baltimore Ravens stormed into Qualcomm Stadium and flew home with a 31-26 victory.

Despite a litany of injured linemen (Jamal Williams, Nick Hardwick, Louis Vasquez and Travis Johnson among them), the Chargers hung with the Ravens until the very end. It wasn't until Ray Lewis stuffed Darren Sproles on a fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 15-yard line with 37 seconds remaining that the Chargers' fate was sealed.

"It was a play we just didn't execute there at the end and it's disappointing to end that way," Philip Rivers said. "But there were many more plays. It didn't come down to just that one."

The numerous missing linemen had their fingerprints all over this game. On offense, the Chargers moved the ball at will but could not punch it into the end zone. The team reached the red zone five teams, resulting in four Nate Kaeding field goals and a turnover on downs.

DL Vaughn Martin
Kevin Terrell/Getty
On defense, the Chargers struggled to slow down the three-headed running back attack of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain. The Ravens compiled 130 net yards rushing and averaged 5.2 ypc.

Nonetheless, Norv Turner was pleased with the effort of his young linemen and believes they'll improve quickly because of the experience.

"The youth in there, what they went through, they'll respond to those things," Turner said.

Among those thrown into the fire were C Scott Mruczkowski and OG Brandyn Dombrowski. The Chargers knew the Ravens would challenge their patchwork interior offensive line and got exactly what they expected -- lots of looks and lots pressure.

Despite giving a crash course to the young linemen during the week of preparation, the Ravens still wreaked havoc up the middle.

"I thought our guys, for everything we went through last week, our guys handled most of the things extremely well," Turner said.

Added Rivers in defense of his young blockers: "It doesn't get much tougher than sorting out those blitzes they were bringing."

Just how desperate was the situation on the lines? OL Dennis Norman, who has been with the team for less than a week, saw action against the Ravens when the Chargers went to their jumbo package. And on defense, DE Andre Coleman played in his second consecutive game after spending the preceding week on the practice squad.

The situation should get better next week, as Louis Vasquez and Travis Johnson both figure to be back in the lineup. And Nick Hardwick has a chance to return from his ankle injury in time for the Week 3 game against the Miami Dolphins, as well.

Unfortunately, Jamal Williams will not be coming back at any point this season. His replacement, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, was frequently blown off the ball by Baltimore's physical offensive line.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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