While the Chargers controlled Sunday’s outing clearly in the first half – they forgot one thing.
“When you start the way we did …” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. “These opportunities don’t come very often, and you have to make the most of them.”
The inability to finish is the reason why the Chargers are 4-2 right now, after they fell to the New York Jets 27-21 in East Rutherford.
They were up big at one point, but fell for the second time in 2011 after the Jets scored 17 unanswered points.
The biggest reason for the Jets comeback was the play of WR Plaxico Burress, who caught three touchdown passes as the Jets rallied in the second half.
Burress caught four balls for 25 yards in his second career three-touchdown performance. The first came against the Cowboys in 2007 when he was a member of the Giants.
Mark Sanchez completed 18-of-33 passes for 173 yards and an interception for the Jets (4-3), who won for the second straight week.
“We just feel like we’re hitting our stride now,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “This is the football team we thought we had.”
Shonn Greene added 112 yards on 20 carries, and LaDanian Tomlinson carried the ball five times for 14 yards and caught three passes for 37 yards before leaving the game at halftime with an illness.
Tomlinson’s three catches gave him 602 for his career and made him just the fourth running back in NFL history with over 600 receptions.
Philip Rivers threw for 179 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions on 16-of-32 passing in the loss for San Diego.
Antonio Gates caught five passes for 54 yards and a score. With the five receptions, Gates now has 542 for his career, surpassing Kellen Winslow for the second-most catches in team history.
Trailing by a score of 21-10, the Jets started their second possession of the second half at their own 45 after San Diego was forced to punt from its own end zone. Burress capped the 10-play march by catching a four-yard touchdown over the back of a defender.
San Diego managed just one first down in the third quarter but drove deep into the Jets’ territory on their first try in the fourth. On 3rd-and-5 at the New York 25, Rivers’ throw was a little behind Vincent Jackson and the ball deflected off his arm and right to Derrelle Revis, who ran the interception down the field to the Chargers’ 19.
Sanchez later found Burress in the back of the end zone from three yards out to put New York ahead for the first time in the game with 8:41 left to play.
Rivers was intercepted again on the Chargers’ ensuing drive and a defensive pass interference penalty moved the Jets inside San Diego’s 20, but the drive stalled there and Nick Folk converted a 30-yard field goal to make it a 27-21 game with 1:36 to go.
Gates caught an 18-yard pass on the Chargers’ first play to move the ball to midfield, but after completing two short passes, Rivers could not complete another throw and his toss on fourth down sailed out of bounds over the head of his receiver.
Sanchez took a knee to run out the remainder of the clock and seal the win for the Jets.
“The biggest thing on our football team is we have to keep growing and get better,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “We came in here and had a chance to win this football game against a very good football team.”
San Diego took the lead less than two minutes into the game when Dustin Keller caught a short pass and had the ball ripped out of his hands by the Chargers’ Donald Butler, who ran 37 yards to the end zone.
Greene’s 24-yard run on the ensuing drive helped move the Jets into the Chargers’ red zone, but they stalled there and had to settle for a 35-yard Folk field goal.
After forcing the Chargers to a three-and-out, New York took over at its own 30. Keller moved the Jets across midfield with a 34-yard catch-and-run, and Santonio Holmes hauled in a diving 23-yard grab in the end zone. However, the play was called back on a holding penalty and Eric Weddle’s leaping interception in the end zone on the next play gave the ball back to San Diego.
The Chargers then marched 76 yards down the field on 14 plays, ending with Rivers finding Gates in the corner of the end zone for a two-yard score and a 14-3 lead with 12:11 left in the half.
New York answered with an eight play, 77-yard drive, helped by two defensive pass interference penalties. Burress capped the drive by hauling in a three- yard TD catch on a quick slant.
But San Diego quickly moved down the field with a 29-yard run by Mike Tolbert on the first play of the drive and a 28-yard, one-handed grab by Malcom Floyd on 3rd-and-1. Tolbert rumbled in for the score from one-yard out to make it 21-10 at the half.
“If we would have played the second half like we played the first half it would have been a two touchdown victory, but we didn’t,” Rivers said.