Article

Chargers rally past Steelers

December 3 2018 6:42 AM

Michael Badgley was given three chances as the kicker delivered to see the Los Angeles Chargers edge the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-30 in the NFL on Sunday.

Quarterback Philip Rivers put together an impressive second half after being held to a single touchdown through the first two quarters and he set up Badgley for the game-winning field-goal attempt from 39 yards away.

But, he missed just left of the upright with no time left on the clock. However, a flag on the play gave Badgley one more chance. This time, it was blocked, but again the Steelers jumped offsides. It would take a third try to eventually reach the game-winning score.

For Pittsburgh, it was the team's largest blown lead since 1981, and the Steelers' largest blown lead at home in franchise history. Before Sunday, they were 174-0-1 at home when up by at least 16 points.​ But, despite two late touchdown drives from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, that streak came to an end.

 

Chargers put it together in the second half

Los Angeles had a lacklustre opening two quarters, which was a complete turnaround from last week's record-breaking performance by Rivers. However, he quickly got things going after half-time to turn this game into an exciting matchup between two AFC powerhouses.

Rivers engineered a 13-play, 88-yard scoring drive, capped off by an impressive catch by receiver Keenan Allen to put the Chargers back in the contest.

This sparked a scoring run that added to Los Angeles' total on their next two possessions, including a punt returned for a touchdown on the ensuing play.

The Chargers scored again on their next offensive drive and held off the Steelers by controlling the clock at the end. Rivers went on to complete 26 of his 36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. His favourite target was Allen, who finished with 148 yards and one touchdown on 14 receptions. It was much welcomed offensive help in the absence of running back Melvin Gordon.

Roethlisberger, who was making a number of impressive throws in the first half, was effectively held at bay later in the game. He finished 29-of-45 passing for 281 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. 

 

One replacement is not like the other

The Steelers replaced starting running back Le'Veon Bell with an equally talented rusher in James Conner. In fact, it is hard to say if Pittsburgh miss the three-time Pro Bowl player on the field with Conner putting up strikingly similar numbers in his first season as a starter.

On Sunday, the Chargers also had to replace their starter. Gordon missed the game with a knee injury, and in his place was second-year undrafted free agent Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler had to face the league's ninth best rushing defense in his first career start. In it, he finished with just 21 yards on 13 carries. He was also a target for Rivers in the air with five catches for 22 yards. Rookie Justin Jackson ended up carrying the load with a game-high 63 rushing yards and one touchdown on eight carries. 

While comparing Ekeler to Conner would be unfair, the Chargers will not get the same production from their replacement as the Steelers are from theirs. But, Los Angeles will most likely not need Ekeler for long. Gordon – who has 802 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with 44 receptions for 453 yards and four touchdowns this season – is expected to only miss the next one to three games, according to ESPN.

 

Turnovers didn't plague the Steelers... for once

Turnovers are something Roethlisberger has struggled with all season. He has thrown 13 interceptions, tied for the second-most in the league only behind Sam Darnold (14), and he threw two critical picks in last week's loss to the Broncos.

But, the lone interception against the Chargers by rookie Derwin James did little damage.

The pick by James, his third of the season, came in the second quarter when Los Angeles struggled to get things going. Three of the Chargers' four possessions ended with a punt, one a three-and-out, and the fourth was cut short for half-time. 

While the Steelers had plenty of other things to worry about with the Chargers surging in the second half, turnovers – for once – were not one of them.

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