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|01-12-2009, 10:46 AM||#1|
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Fluky third quarter seals Chargers' fate
Fluky third quarter seals Chargers' fate
By Bill Beckner Jr., VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Monday, January 12, 2009
Philip Rivers was more baffled than he was frustrated after the San Diego Chargers' 35-24 loss to the Steelers in the AFC divisional playoffs Sunday.
He may have been a little shaken, too — and it had nothing to do with LaMarr Woodley body-slamming the San Diego quarterback to the frozen Heinz Field turf.
Although, Rivers said, "I was certainly a little cuckoo for a few seconds after that."
Rivers was frustrated because the Steelers played keepaway in the third quarter, limiting the Chargers to one offensive play — a pass that was intercepted by linebacker Larry Foote — and 17 seconds of offensive possession.
Seventeen seconds. Ben Roethlisberger's pooch punt in the first quarter took longer.
The Steelers used the third quarter to break open a close game and spoil the Chargers' hopes of advancing to the AFC Championship Game.
"It was such a weird third quarter; it obviously had a huge impact on the game," Rivers said. "It was such a smash-mouth, in-your-face game (up to that point), but it was such a bizarre quarter. We had one play that quarter, and that's hard to believe."
The interception occurred after the Steelers used the first 7:56 of the third quarter to drive 77 yards and take a 21-10 lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to tight end Heath Miller.
After forcing the Steelers to punt, another quirky play gave the momentum back to Pittsburgh. A Mitch Berger punt came down on the helmet of the Chargers' Eric Weddle, bounced and ended up in the hands of the Steelers' William Gay.
The Steelers again took advantage. Hines Ward caught an 18-yard pass to set up a Gary Russell touchdown to make it 28-10.
"It was unlucky; there wasn't much I could do about it," Weddle said. "Something like that, you just try and move on from."
"Those plays (in the third quarter) — I don't want to call them fluke plays — aren't the only reason we didn't come out on top," Rivers said. "They made more plays than us and when we got behind ... it's tough. That's why you never want to get behind on the road in the playoffs, especially against this type of team."
Although their offense moved the ball well at times, the Chargers also failed to get pressure on Roethlisberger defensively, two weeks after the Steelers' quarterback was bumped around by the lowly Cleveland Browns.
Roethlisberger was sacked only once yesterday. He was given time to deliver a 41-yard pass to Ward just before the half, on second-and-15, which set up Willie Parker's 3-yard touchdown that gave the Steelers their first lead, 14-10.
"They do a good job of mass-protecting," Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "I knew we could get after him, they just did a great job with their blocking schemes."
Speedy running back Darren Sproles, playing in place of LaDainian Tomlinson, who missed a game due to injury for the first time in his career, was held to 15 yards on 11 carries.
Last week against Indianapolis, Sproles touched the ball 35 times and racked up 328 all-purpose yards.
Sproles, who had a 63-yard kickoff return prior to Rivers' interception, had one word to describe the Steelers' defense.
"Havoc," he said. "That's what it is. "
Sproles finally broke free for a 62-yard touchdown reception, which proved inconsequential, with 1:53 left.
"We had the one play in the third quarter, so I mean you don't get many runs when you only have one play and it's a batted ball," Chargers' coach Norv Turner said. "They made the most of their situation."
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