San Diego Chargers Have a Pulse, Defeat Titans 33-25
The clock couldn't run out soon enough on Sunday for the Chargers, who made it interesting, but hung on to snap a three-game losing streak against Tennessee.
In "Chargers-like" style, San Diego dominated on both ends of the ball but couldn't put the game out of reach.
After Darren Sproles earned every bit of a 13-yard touchdown toss from Philip Rivers with 6:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, a botched snap on the extra point attempt that would have given San Diego a nine-point lead kept the lead within one possession at 33-25.
On the ensuing drive, Vince Young was hurt while scrambling with less than six minutes to play and had to be helped off the field. Kerry Collins led the Titans to the Chargers 15-yard line before Chris Johnson dropped a pass on 4th-and-2 with 30 seconds to go.
The Titans also lost emerging star and wide receiver Kenny Britt in the first quarter to a hamstring injury.
The Chargers (3-5) won the ball possession statistic for the sixth time in eight games this season, owning the ball for 37:27 in comparison to Tennessee's 22:13.
San Diego chalked up 456 yards of offense to Tennessee's 370, with most of that damage being done in the third quarter where the Chargers outgained the Titans 174-24 in total yards.
Antonio Gates, who's been playing through a toe injury, caught his ninth touchdown pass on a 48-yard connection with Rivers for the go-ahead score midway through the third quarter, giving the Chargers a 24-19 lead. The star tight end was late coming out of the locker room after halftime because he was getting his foot re-taped.
Excluding the injured Gates, the Chargers were without their top three receiving options. Starters Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee were both out with hamstring injuries, and No. 3 receiver Buster Davis was out with an injury to his ribs.
With the absentees in the passing game, the Chargers got just what they needed—and what they've been expecting—out of their three-headed rushing attack.
Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles each found pay dirt, with Tolbert punching in a one-yard run in the first quarter. Mathews scored on a seven-yard run 1:55 before halftime.
The Chargers defense kept All-Pro running back Chris Johnson in check most of the afternoon. The only daylight Johnson saw came on 29-yard touchdown run 4:43 left in the second quarter. He started right and then cut back to his left, avoided two tackles and then picked up a key block from Young, who took out cornerback Antoine Cason at about the 15 to clear the way to the end zone.
Rivers had his fifth 300-yard game of the season, completing 27 of 36 for 305 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Rivers has thrown for more yards through the first half of the season than any QB in NFL history and is now 29-7 at Qualcomm Stadium.
It was a pivotal win to keep the Chargers hopes alive. Since 1990, only two teams have made the playoffs after starting the season 2-5. No team has made the postseason after a 2-6 start.
The Chargers have now won eight straight over the Titans dating back to 1993, and San Diego is the only team Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher hasn't beaten.
The AFC West remains up for grabs, but Kansas City (5-2) and Oakland (4-4) are doing their best to change that. The two teams face off next week in a key divisional showdown.
The Chargers look to make another step in their quest back to .500 when they travel to Houston (5-2) next Sunday before heading into their bye in Week 10.
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