Chargers still in the playoff hunt
Philip Rivers isn’t going to get caught up trying to figure out what it will take for his San Diego Chargers to reach the playoffs.
He just knows that if San Diego can’t win its final two games — on the road, no less — it’s not going to matter.
Rivers threw for one score and reached the 4,000-yard mark for the fourth straight season, Ryan Mathews ran for two scores and hit 1,000 yards rushing, and the Chargers won their third straight game, beating the playoff-bound Baltimore Ravens 34-14 on Sunday night.
Unlike Joe Flacco and the Ravens, Rivers and the Chargers played as if they were postseason-bound. San Diego might not make it to the playoffs, though, because of an earlier six-game losing streak.
”The one thing that stays true in all the scenarios is, we have to win our next two games,” Rivers said. ”Let’s just worry about us. If it’s not enough on Jan. 1, it’s not enough. But we’re going to go down fighting.”
The Chargers (7-7) are tied with Oakland for second in the AFC West, a game behind Denver with two to play. Denver and Oakland both lost on Sunday. The Chargers finish with road games against Detroit and the Raiders.
The Ravens (10-4) had their four-game winning streak snapped, but clinched a playoff berth earlier in the day thanks to losses by the New York Jets, Oakland and Tennessee.
”It’s a reality check,” said Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was anything but the disruptive force that he has been in accumulating a career-high 13 sacks this season. ”You don’t show up to play in a game like this, you’re going to get your (butt) whupped. Championship teams get on the road and keep playing — they peak — they don’t take a step back.”
Even though Ray Lewis was back with the Ravens after a four-game injury layoff, Baltimore only had two punishing hits on Rivers. Rivers was dominating, completing 17 of 23 passes for 270 yards to lead the Chargers to scores on six of their first seven possessions. He didn’t throw an interception, and the only sack the Ravens got was wiped out on a personal foul against Suggs.
”It was good to win a big game like this at home against a good team,” Rivers said. ”It was a rough six-game stretch, but we hung tight together and fought our way back to .500 with two to play and we’re still alive.”
Rivers joined Peyton Manning (1999-04 and 2006-10) and former teammate Drew Brees (2006-11) as the only QBs in NFL history with at least four-straight 4,000-yard seasons.
Flacco got the treatment many thought Rivers would. Flacco was sacked five times — three by former Ravens linebacker Antwan Barnes — and intercepted twice. Overall, the Chargers had seven sacks, and Barnes finished with four.
Chargers coach Norv Turner said it was San Diego’s most complete game this season.
”We are building on some things we have done over the last couple weeks,” he said.
Turner said the Chargers have to ”play as good as we can” to keep their playoff hopes alive. ”That’s the only thing we can control. You obviously need some luck in the situation we are in.”
Mathews gained 96 yards on 23 carries, including scores of 1 and 3 yards. He’s at 1,033 yards for the season.
Rivers surpassed 4,000 yards on a 21-yard completion to Malcom Floyd that set up Mathews’ 3-yard TD run late in the third quarter. The drive was set up when Takeo Spikes intercepted Flacco and returned it 45 yards to the Baltimore 27. The Chargers were flagged 15 yards for excessive celebration.
”We did not play particularly well at all,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ”I think the mistakes we made, they were able to capitalize on and turn them into points, especially early on. We’re disappointed, but we’re moving on.”
Nick Novak, who earlier kicked a 45-yard field goal for the Chargers, had a 37-yard attempt bounce off the right upright late in the third quarter.
San Diego took the second-half kickoff and moved 80 yards, with Rivers throwing a perfect 28-yard TD pass to Floyd for a 24-7 lead.
Mathews scored on a 1-yard run and Novak kicked a 45-yard field goal to help the Chargers take a 17-7 halftime lead.
Novak became the first Chargers kicker with 11 field goals of 40 yards or longer in a season when he booted his 45-yarder for a 10-7 lead. Rivers was sacked on the drive by Cory Redding for an 8-yard loss, but Suggs was whistled for a personal foul for head-slapping tight end Randy McMichael.
Instead of a third-and-17 on their 27, the Chargers had a first down on the 50 after the 15-yard penalty.
After forcing a Ravens punt, the Chargers moved 80 yards in seven plays. Rivers pitched to Mathews for a 1-yard TD run and a 17-7 lead. The key play was Vincent Jackson’s 58-yard reception, which put him over 1,000 yards for the season.
San Diego’s Mike Tolbert scored on a 2-yard run on San Diego’s opening drive, and Flacco’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson tied it early in the second quarter.
NOTES: Chargers TE Antonio Gates had two catches, leaving him three shy of breaking Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner’s franchise record of 586. . . . San Diego linebacker Travis LaBoy hurt a knee. . . . It was the first time in franchise history — 254 games — that Baltimore allowed a team to score on its first five drives. . . . The Ravens allowed a season-high 34 points.