Led by passes all over the field, the San Diego Chargers put all the questions about conserative offense to rest on Sunday night, and overcame a 10-0 deficit and beat the struggling Steelers 23-13. Last week against the Ravens, the Chargers had the lead late, yet did not attempt to truly put the game away with throwing the ball, and instead kept it on the ground. In doing so, the team eventually lost the ball, then the game, and in the meantime were beat up all week with words about not letting Phillip Rivers put the ball up in critical times.
After a slow start in which they were outgained and outhit in the first quarter, with minus two yards, Rivers then found his stride, and ended the night with 244 yards and a pair of TD’s, including a TD to TE Antonio Gates that gave the Chargers the lead for good in the third quarter. The Steelers blitz was all over Rivers early, and beat him and RB LaDainian Tomlinson to the ground early in building the 10-0 lead. The Chargers had blown four leads in the 4th quarter over the last two seasons, including last seasons Monday night game at home to the Steelers. This night, things would change.
They kept the Steelers D guessing all second half, and kept them on the field with big third down conversions and some key runs by backup RB Michael Turner, who ended the night with 56 yards on 11 carries, a 5.1 yards per carry average. It was 20 yards better than Tomlinson, who ended with 36 yards on the ground, but did have 34 yards in receptions. Overall, Rivers endured four sacks and a pick early, but was the MVP of this key AFC battle.
The Steelers are clearly in trouble, and are not the team that won their last eight games to capture their 5th Super Bowl title a season ago. Ben Roethlisberger is not the QB he was when he led the team to playoff wins over the Colts and Broncos, and this season has now thrown 7 picks and 0 TD’s in three starts. He ended the night with 220 yards on 20-for-31 passing. In a second half that must have made Steelers fans sick, the team ran 18 plays for 52 yards, and only had four drives, which went interception, punt, interception, downs.
The Chargers on the other hand, had 239 yards in that same second haf, and went field goal, TD, field goal, field goal. In putting on the clinic, they made a Steelers defense that held them to 97 yards in the first half look more than normal in the second half. Overall, the Chargers simply made the plays that the Steelers did not.
San Diego has now allowed just 36 points in four games, and look like contenders with Rivers, L.T. and a defense that plays tough every down. For the Steelers, they look like a team that may be headed for a season in which they will be lucky to end .500, which in the AFC North will not be good enough to even smell a division title.