The San Diego Chargers fell short of completing an epic comeback against the Washington Redskins despite a come-from-behind effort that saw them score 10 points with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation.
The Redskins drove 78 yards in 10 plays on the first possession of overtime, and Darrel Young scored the game-winner on a 4-yard run (his third rushing touchdown of the game). The Chargers had a prime opportunity to put the game away in the fourth quarter with the offense resting near the goal line but settled for a game-tying field goal after three failed attempts to get into the end zone.
The loss ended the Chargers' two-game winning streak and was the team's first game back after a bye week. In what could potentially be a playoff year for San Diego, a win against the Redskins was much needed.
Now the Chargers will endure the difficult road ahead that includes a four-game stretch against some of the AFC's top talent (Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals). Here are today's takeaways from the overtime loss to Washington.
The Chargers hadn't blocked a field goal since 2002 (175 games), but Lawrence Guy helped snap that drought when he blocked Kai Forbath's attempt from 25 yards on Washington's first drive of the game.
Guy, who was signed by the Chargers on Oct. 8, utilized his lengthy reach again on the ensuing drive for the Redskins when he batted down a pass attempt from Robert Griffin III, which ended up falling into the arms of Sean Lissemore for a Chargers' touchdown.
The 23-year-old defensive lineman was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 draft by the Green Bay Packers with an arm length of nearly 33 inches. Guy now has two blocked field goals on the season, including one that was returned for a touchdown when he was a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chargers defense set a team record for most quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown (12) against the Redskins on Sunday. San Diego could have improved that number to 13, but Alfred Morris spoiled any chance of that with a rushing touchdown late in the second quarter.
Dating back to the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders in Week 5, the Chargers defense had limited opponents to 18 points in those 12 quarters. Despite ranking near the bottom in pass defense and middle of the pack in run defense for most of the year, San Diego has clearly been doing something right at times.
Through seven games in 2012, Rivers had already thrown nine interceptions en route to 15 last season. The Chargers quarterback has limited himself to just six this year, and you could make a case that the two he threw against Washington weren't entirely his fault.
Rivers and his intended receiver (Vincent Brown) were clearly not on the same page on his first interception, and the second interception he threw was in tight coverage, but Keenan Allen was in just as good of a position to win that ball from David Amerson.
Rivers then overcame his mistakes when he led the game-tying drive that was capped off by Nick Novak's 19-yard field goal and a previous drive that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Allen. It was a clutch performance by Rivers, even though most fans would have liked a game-winning touchdown near the goal line instead of a field goal.
San Diego's special teams had a relatively strong day against Washington, particularly against Redskins kicker Kai Forbath. Two of Forbath's field-goal attempts were blocked in the first half by Lawrence Guy and Corey Liuget.
For a team that hadn't blocked a field goal in more than a decade, two in one game was a shocking occurrence for the Chargers.
Batted passes also came into play for the Chargers defensive linemen as four of the team's five pass deflections came from the D-line (Guy, Corey Liuget, Sean Lissemore).
Getting the Redskins offense off the field was a difficult task for the Chargers on Sunday. Washington was 12-of-17 on third down thanks in part to the play of Robert Griffin III, who was moving exceptionally well on his surgically repaired knee.
San Diego's defense had trouble defending the read-option (something they hadn't seen all that much of since Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles), and Griffin made them pay with his ability to extend plays in the pocket.
Defending the pass has been a problem all year long for the Chargers, and the Redskins played to that weakness in racking up almost 300 yards passing to go along with the 500 total.
Pierre Garcon, who had gone over 100 yards receiving just once this year, finished with 172 on seven catches and was the primary target of Robert Griffin III for much of the game (11 targets). The Washington receiver was unable to reach the end zone, but he averaged more than 24 yards per catch and came up big for his team when it needed a conversion.
After posting back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances against the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars, Ryan Mathews carried the ball seven times for a grand total of 34 yards against the Redskins defense (the same Redskins defense that ranks 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game with 123.4).
San Diego ran the ball just 16 times against Washington and apparently opted to have Philip Rivers win the game for them (which didn't work out as planned). Washington, however, pushed its running game and was rewarded with 209 yards and four touchdowns.
Keenan Allen has come on strong in recent weeks, and opposing defenses still don't have an answer for the rookie receiver.
Allen finished with eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins and has now gone over 100 yards receiving three times this season. Allen was targeted 11 times (good for second on the team), and while he did have one pivotal drop on third down late in the game, he certainly made up for it with his performance down the stretch.
Allen was targeted six times on the Chargers' final drive of regulation and came up with five catches for 53 yards. Still, the Chargers couldn't punch the ball into the end zone for the potential game-winning score.
After Danny Woodhead's touchdown in the fourth quarter was called back, the Chargers had three tries to punch the ball into the end zone from the 1-yard line.
Woodhead carried for no gain, and Philip Rivers was unable to complete passes to Antonio Gates or Keenan Allen. Now here's the bigger question—should they have gone for it on fourth down with just a yard to go?
Mike McCoy didn't think so, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN. McCoy did what he thought "was best for the team," but you have to wonder what a fourth attempt would have resulted in.
Coming into Sunday's game with the Chargers, Darrel Young had just two carries for 19 yards on the season and just 14 carries for 60 yards all of last season.
Young scored his first rushing touchdown since 2011 in the third quarter and proceeded to follow it up with two more, including the game-winner in overtime. Alfred Morris led the team in rushing with 121 yards on 25 carries, but it was Young who eventually wore out the Chargers defense in the end with three late scores.