Chargers overcome 16-point deficit to beat Steelers
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Philip Rivers watched Ben Roethlisberger do what the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback so often does — lead a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter — and decided it was time for the Los Angeles Chargers to do something they so rarely do: win a big one on the road against a team with Super Bowl aspirations of its own.
So the longtime Los Angeles quarterback gathered his teammates around him and delivered a very blunt message.
“It was ‘Let’s go win it,'” Rivers said. “‘Let’s make this the last drive and win it.'”
Done and done. Rivers drove the Chargers 64 yards in 11 plays to set up Michael Badgley‘s 29-yard field goal on the final snap as the Los Angeles rallied for a 33-30 victory on Sunday night.
Badgley’s initial 39-yard attempt sailed wide left, but the Steelers were called for offsides. Badgley’s ensuing 34-yard attempt was blocked, but Pittsburgh’s celebration was cut short when the Steelers were again flagged for crossing the line of scrimmage early. The Steelers jumped once more Badgley’s 29-yarder, but the Chargers gleefully declined the penalty as they spilled onto the field.
“There was no worry or doubt,” Badgley said. “It’s just one of those things where you stay tough. It’s a situation you never really plan out there where you get three in a row like that. You just have to go do what you know how to do.”
Down 23-7 at the half, the Chargers (9-3) became the first visiting team to win in Pittsburgh after trailing by 16. The Steelers (7-4-1) had been 174-0-1 when up by that much at home. Now Pittsburgh heads into the final quarter of the season having its once comfortable lead in the AFC North trimmed to just a half-game over surging Baltimore (7-5).
“Don’t need to panic,” Roethlisberger said. “Don’t need to worry.”
Might be time to start. The Steelers have dropped two straight for the first time this season and seemingly had no answer for the Chargers in the second half.
Rivers completed 26 of 36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns for Los Angeles. Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 148 yards and a score and Justin Jackson ran for 63 yards and a touchdown in place of injured starter Melvin Gordon. Desmond King added a 73-yard punt return for a score as the Chargers bolstered their postseason chances by winning in Pittsburgh for just the fourth time in 19 tries.
“These guys, they believe,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “When you believe in something strongly, you can will it to happen.”
Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards with two scores and an interception for the Steelers. Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for a season-high 154 yards and a touchdown. James Conner added 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
STEELERS SOAR … THEN STUMBLE
Roethlisberger and Brown are among the most productive quarterback/wide receiver tandems in the league but that didn’t stop Roethlisberger from publicly tweaking Brown following a loss to Denver last week, though the star wide receiver stressed he understood it was nothing personal.
The minor dust-up certainly didn’t seem to have an impact on their play. Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 9-yard gain on Pittsburgh’s second play from scrimmage and again for 46 yards on the following snap. The two connected on a 28-yard score late in the second quarter that seemed to put Pittsburgh firmly in control on a night the franchise celebrated the 1978 and 2008 Super Bowl champion squads.
Suddenly, a team that looked capable of joining them appears to be in a bit of a tight spot with a somewhat daunting final month ahead that includes games against New England and New Orleans.
“There’s a quarter left of football,” Brown said. “We’ve got to continue to figure out a way to win and get ourselves to the dance.”
GETTING A HEAD START
Down 13-0 in the first quarter, the Chargers appeared to be in trouble before Rivers hit a streaking Travis Benjamin for a 46-yard touchdown to get Los Angeles on the board on a play that began with Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi standing up and shuffling his feet backward an instant before the ball was snapped.
Several Steelers pointed at Tevi as the play began looking for a penalty, but there were no flags on the field when Rivers lofted a rainbow down the right sideline to Benjamin.
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin called it “unfortunate” but declined to criticize the officials.
“I am going to keep my mouth shut,” Tomlin said. “I am going to do that because I send enough money to (the NFL in fines).”
It marked the second time this season Los Angeles benefited from a non-call on what appeared to be a pre-snap penalty. The Chargers scored a touchdown in Cleveland in October on a play in which left tackle Russell Okung moved before the ball was hiked to Rivers.
Austin Ekeler was given the first crack at filling in for Gordon but managed just one yard on eight carries in the first half. The Chargers turned to Jackson, a rookie seventh-round pick from Northwestern, in the second half. Jackson’s quickness appeared to catch Pittsburgh’s defensive front off guard, and his 18-yard dart up the middle early in the fourth quarter marked the first touchdown of his career.
Pittsburgh WR Justin Hunter, given a spot on the game-day roster over rookie James Washington, left in the first half and did not return after injuring himself while diving for a Roethlisberger pass in the end zone. … Steelers WR Ryan Switzer was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a vicious hit by Los Angeles linebacker Jatavis Brown in the fourth quarter.
Chargers: Host Cincinnati next Sunday.
Steelers: Travel to Oakland to play the Raiders next Sunday.