This game looks a lot closer than it was, although the Chargers did have a chance to come back and win. I say this because if it wasn’t for two turnovers, and a couple lucky special teams plays, the Chargers probably would have been kept off the board.
However, I will give the Chargers some credit, as they battled right down to the end, and their defense and special teams played pretty well, on a day when the normally explosive offense was really struggling. This must be a very sweet victory for Michael Turner, who was not re-signed this offseason by San Diego after being Ladanian Tomlinson’s back-up for four seasons, and to do it in San Diego makes it even sweeter.
Turner not only got the win, but he also significantly out played LT, and virtually eliminated his former team from play-off contention, barring a miracle, while his new team is in the thick of the NFC play-off hunt.
Things did not start well for the Chargers offense, which would turn out to be a theme on this day. After driving down to the Atlanta 34 yard line, Norv Turner decided to go for it on fourth and three, but could not convert.
The Falcons would drive down into Charger territory after the turnover, but could only muster a field goal, as the Chargers’ defense held in the red zone. After forcing the Chargers to punt on their next possession, Harry Douglas muffed the return, which was then recovered by Anthony Waters of the Bolts deep in Falcons’ territory. This proved costly for Atlanta, as Tomlinson would punch it in from 3 yards out. Atlanta would add a field goal on their next possession to close out the first quarter down 7-6.
After forcing a three and out by the Chargers, Harry Douglas would redeem himself with a 32 yard return, setting up the Falcons with great starting field position. Matt Ryan would make the Chargers pay, as he connected with tight end Justin Peelle on an 18 yard score to give the Falcons the lead. After a botched kick off return from the San Diego special teams unit, the Falcons had them pinned deep in their own territory.
This would prove costly, as Philip Rivers would get flagged for intentional grounding while standing in his own end zone, which is by rule a safety. When the Falcons got the ball back they wasted no time in getting into great position to take a commanding lead heading into the break. However, the Chargers’ defense again came up big in the red zone, with a huge stand at their own one yard line, stuffing Michael Turner on fourth and goal.
This was a potentially momentum shifting play for San Diego, as the defense had been run over by the Falcons offense throughout the first half. Matt Ryan closed out the half with 140 passing yards, 66 of which went to Roddy White, while Turner out gained LT on the ground, 67 yards to 14.
The second half would start off magnificently for the Chargers, as Eric Weddle would return a Brian Finneran fumble, forced by Quentin Jammer, 86 yards for a score. However, the Bolts could not tie the game up at 15, as they missed the two point conversion.
To begin the fourth quarter, the Falcons got momentum back on their side, as Harry Douglas further redeemed himself with a 5 yard touchdown reception, after an 11 play, 72 yard drive took almost 6 minutes off the clock. On the next possession, the Chargers drove it down the field, helped mostly by a 28 yard Jacob Hester run on a fake punt, only to have a Nate Kaeding field goal attempt blocked by Jamal Anderson.
However, the Falcons would give it right back, as Quentin Jammer would force his second fumble of the game, and recover this one himself in Atlanta territory. The Chargers would get a field goal, putting them down by 6 with about four minutes left in the game. The Chargers needed to have a defensive stand, and they would get one from their defense that had struggled all afternoon. The Falcons had two chances for a first down, with only one yard to go, but were stuffed on both occasions, and had to punt it away.
The Chargers now had the ball with 2:46 left in the game, certainly they had to have karma on their side after their fourth loss with under 24 seconds to go last week, but it was not to be. After LT gained no yards on first down, John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux sacked Philip Rivers for a loss of nine yards. The Chargers were forced to punt, but still had a chance to get the ball back, as they had two timeouts left. On the punt, though, the normally reliable Mike Scifres shanked it out of bounds for only 32 yards, giving the Falcons the ball in Chargers’ territory.
Turner would then ice the game with a huge 14 yard run, allowing his team to kill the clock. This capped off a great afternoon for him, in which he rushed for 120 yards on 31 carries. Matt Ryan also had a nice game going for 207 yards and 2 TDs, on 17 of 23 passing, while his favorite target Roddy White had 112 yards receiving on 6 catches.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the LT and the Chargers, as he was held to 24 yards rushing on 14 carries, and the team collected 84 yards in penalties. Philip Rivers was sacked 3 times, and seemed unable to come up with a big play when his team needed it. The Chargers seemed to have given up on the season, and the coaching staff, and will basically have to win all of their remaining games, and hope the Broncos lose all of theirs to have a shot at the postseason.
This is unlikely to happen, so it may be time for the team to make some decisions on what is going to happen, and who is going to be around next season. This is especially the case on defense, as it has been nothing short of pathetic this season. It is hard to imagine that all of their struggles can be attributed to the missing Shawn Merriman, so clearly changes will need to be made.
Meanwhile, the Falcons continue their surprising season, and are in position for a wild card spot, with key divisional games coming up against the Saints away, and then the Buccaneers under the Georgia Dome.