Defense handles Chargers when it counts

BALTIMORE -- Midway through the Baltimore Ravens' 16-13 win over the Chargers, San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer all but deflated the football. Following a first half where first-year quarterback Philip Rivers tossed a touchdown pass on the opening drive behind fallen cornerback Samari Rolle while operating out of the no-huddle offense, Schottenheimer reverted back to his conservative ways.

Although San Diego held only a 13-7 lead at halftime, Rivers threw just eight passes in the second half. For the game, San Diego ran it 41 times for 150 yards. "They threw everything at us but the kitchen sink to start the game," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "They did things they haven't show in five years. That no-huddle causes a lot of confusion.
"You don't want that kid beating you, but they weren't going to let him stand back there and do it by himself."
Rivers finished the game 13 of 22 for 145 yards and a 75.0 passer rating.
Instead of expecting Rivers to handle the Ravens' second-ranked defense, the Chargers put the football in the hands of All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Tomlinson wound up rushing for 98 yards on 27 carries, including a 29-yard run, but never really impacted the game.
"They were more aggressive," Tomlinson said. "They won the game and we lost it."
San Diego only converted 2 of 13 third downs, a 15-percent clip, and finished with 284 yards of total offense.
The Ravens entered the game with a league-high 16 sacks, but had only one Sunday as Jarret Johnson sacked Rivers for the first time this season to end the game.
Linebacker Bart Scott intercepted Rivers in the first half when he was trying to throw it to tight end Antonio Gates, returning it 24 yards.
"My responsibility is hook-curl, and I didn't bite," Scott said. "They were expecting me to bite on the out-cut. I had the belief that Adalius [Thomas] would take the out away, and he threw it right to me."
With the Ravens' offense struggling with turnovers, the defense got the ball back for them one more time in the fourth quarter with a three-and-out to set up quarterback Steve McNair's game-winning drive.
"We learned a valuable lesson," said Scott, who led Baltimore with 15 tackles followed by Ray Lewis' 14. "I told the guys we grew up last week in Cleveland, and we realized that if we fight tooth and nail, we still have a chance to win the ball game. We turned it up when the pressure's on, and that's the mark of a champion."
TRAINING ROOM: Left offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo tore his right triceps and said he expects to undergo surgery in the near future after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging exam today. It's unclear how long Mulitalo might be out, but a torn triceps ended former Ravens offensive lineman Leon Searcy's season in 2001.
"It's pretty bad," said Mulitalo, whose arm was in a sling afterward. "I don't know how long I'll be out. There's one guarantee in football: You will get hurt."
Mulitalo was replaced by Jason Brown. SHUT DOWN: For the most part, the Ravens contained former University of Maryland star Shawne Merriman.
The All-Pro outside linebacker known as "Lights Out" recorded one sack, but was dragged into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown by tight end Todd Heap.
While left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was conducting interviews, linebacker Bart Scott quipped: "J.O., are you going to ask Merriman when he turned the lights on?"
SUNLIGHT: Normally sure-handed wide receiver Derrick Mason dropped a deep pass all by himself that would probably have been a touchdown, losing the football in the sunlight.
"As it was coming down, I did not know where it was," Mason said. "I need to call up the centerfielder on the Orioles and try to figure out how they do it when the sun is in their eyes. "Granted, they've got baseball caps and sunglasses. I can't wear a cap and sunglasses, but I'll get another chance."
PLAYING WITH PAIN: Safety Ed Reed and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs played despite missing practice time all week with injuries. Listed as questionable with a toe injury, Reed started and registered seven tackles and a pass deflection.
"We did what we had to do," Reed said.
Suggs didn't start because of a hamstring injury, but played a lot and finished with one tackle. In the locker room, he demonstrated how his right leg felt by vigorously running in place.
"I played with some pain, but no pain, no gain," Suggs said. "I really felt that I could do more for the team with me being out there than on the sidelines."
INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated linebacker Dan Cody for the fourth week in a row, and went with three wide receivers on the active roster again with receivers Clarence Moore and Devard Darling held out. The other inactives were cornerbacks David Pittman and Derrick Martin, running backs P. J. Daniels and Cory Ross and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.
QUICK HITS: The Ravens boosted their all-time record over .500, improving to 82-81-1 behind their first four-game winning streak since 2000. … The win marked their fifth in a row at home, a streak that extends back to a 16-13 overtime win last October over the Pittsburgh Steelers. … McNair improved to 80-55 as a starter.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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