BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers have endured similarly disappointing seasons, mostly because of their inability to come up with a big play in the waning minutes.
Because of this, it came as no surprise that Sunday’s game was decided as the clock ticked down to zero. The Ravens beat the Chargers 29-26, and now the teams have two more things in common: a 2-6 record, and a whole lot of injuries.
Baltimore lost receiver Steve Smith to a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon in the third quarter. The 36-year-old was the Ravens’ top receiver and a leader in the locker room during what he has said would be his final NFL season.
“What hurts the most is I can’t be out there with my guys,” said Smith, who had 82 yards receiving to move into 10th place on the career list with 13,932.
The Ravens also endured the fourth quarter without center Jeremy Zuttah, whose departure with an injury to his arm led to backup John Urschel tossing wobbly snaps to Joe Flacco in the shotgun.
San Diego, meanwhile, played with a makeshift offensive line that was already without starting left guard Orlando Franklin, who was inactive with an ankle injury. Starting left tackle King Dunlap limped off with an ankle problem in the first quarter and was replaced by Chris Hairston, who briefly left the game with a knee injury but returned. Backup center Chris Watt also sustained a shoulder injury.
In addition, receiver Keenan Allen was sidelined for a spell with muscle spasms and finished with only five catches for 35 yards.
“I give the coaches credit for making the adjustments they did,” coach Mike McCoy said. “I think 12 guys at some point came out. It was just one thing after another, so you just have to keep on adjusting. With special teams, all the substitutions you have to do and then changing people around, we did the best we could there.
“I’ve never been in anything like it with that many guys going down in the game.”
The back-and-forth duel was decided on the final drive, when Baltimore took advantage of a pass interference call against Steve Williams that moved the ball 21 yards to the San Diego 22. Three plays later, Justin Tucker’s fifth field goal, a 39-yarder, enabled the Ravens to snap a three-game skid and saddle the Chargers with their fourth straight defeat.
Some things we gleaned from the Chargers-Ravens game:
RIVERS IS REMARKABLE: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is having a sensational year, even if his team is not.
Rivers went 28 for 37 for 301 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It was his franchise-record fifth straight 300-yard game.
“I thought our offense was pretty efficient,” he said “I think your problems get over-magnified when you lose.”
Rivers has completed 70 percent of his passes this season and has thrown for an NFL-leading 2,753 yards with 18 TDs and only seven interceptions.
HALFTIME SCOLDING: After watching the Ravens allow 16 points and 195 yards over the first 30 minutes, defensive coordinator Dean Pees lectured the unit at halftime.
“He was basically like, `We have got nothing to lose. So, I’m going to go out there and call it, and you guys play it.”‘ Cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “We rallied around each other defensively on the sideline, and we knew we had to make plays.”
Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil laughed when told of Smith’s recollection.
“He always gets on us at halftime,” Dumervil said of Pees. “Maybe Jimmy was just paying attention this time.”
Although Baltimore gave up only 10 points in the second half, it was the fifth straight game in which the defense failed to produce a turnover.
RUN REVERSAL: San Diego came in ranked 31st in the NFL against the rush, but the Chargers did a decent job stopping the Ravens’ running attack.
Justin Forsett gained 69 yards, but Baltimore finished with 72 yards on the ground and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.
NEXT WEEK: The Ravens get a much-needed bye, which will give some players time to heal and reflect of a very tough first half.
“It’s going to be good to recover,” Forsett said. “Hopefully we can get some guys back from injury and come out in the second half of the season blazing.”
San Diego hosts Chicago (2-5) on Monday night before getting its bye.
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)