The tables were turned on Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers’ offense.
Instead of controlling the clock, avoiding mistakes and putting the pressure on the Baltimore Ravens’ run-heavy offense and rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, it was Rivers who was left flustered and frustrated by a lack of opportunities and a series of self-inflicted errors when the Chargers seemed ready to turn things around.
Penalties at critical moments, turnovers and an inability to sustain drives all popped up in the Chargers’ 22-10 loss to the Ravens on Saturday night. For all those reasons, Rivers was left to praise Baltimore’s dominant pass rush and lament his own team’s gaffes.
“I thought we could have a lot more success than we did, but I thought it could be this kind of back-and-forth December, January type game against a physical, tough opponent. And it was,” Rivers said. “And we had opportunities there, a handful there at 16-10 and we didn’t get it done.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Chargers finished with 198 yards of offense, the fourth-lowest output in Rivers’ 13 seasons as the team’s starting quarterback. Rivers was sacked four times, and Los Angeles turned the ball over three times as its hopes of winning the AFC West were effectively ended.
Kansas City can wrap up the division title and a first-round playoff bye with a win at Seattle on Sunday night, but Rivers said that was not as important as getting the offense back on track going into the playoffs.
“One more game is added to the slate to win the whole thing and it won’t be here,” Rivers said. “That’s all that we know. Today is disappointing, but we can’t wallow in that disappointment very long.”
What caught Rivers and the Chargers by surprise were unexpected struggles in pass protection. Coach Anthony Lynn said the Ravens “got after us pretty good up front.”
That pressure resulted in Rivers completing 23 of 37 passes for 181 yards and two interceptions.
It was the first time this season that Rivers did not throw a touchdown pass.
Compounding matters were frequent penalties that kept the Chargers from extending drives, even when Rivers was given plenty of time. On the Chargers’ third possession, Keenan Allen had a 27-yard catch to the Ravens’ 24 on third down wiped out because of offensive pass interference. A 28-yard grab by Mike Williams on the next play was negated by an illegal shift, and the Ravens pressured Rivers into throwing the ball at the feet of running back Justin Jackson with a third chance to get off the field.
Rivers admitted to frustration at seeing so many yellow flags, but said those penalties reflected the offense’s overall struggles in facing so many third downs.
“You don’t want to just point to that, but that was part of us not executing as well as we can and need to,” Rivers said.
The Chargers were 4 for 13 on third down, with three conversions coming on a fourth-quarter drive that ended in a punt while trailing 16-10.
When their defense held to give the Chargers another possession and chance to take the lead with 3 minutes remaining, tight end Antonio Gates was stripped by linebacker Patrick Onwuasor and cornerback Tavon Young returned the fumble 62 yards for a touchdown.
“We just couldn’t sustain anything for the most part,” Rivers said. “Our only touchdown was on a short field, off a great play by our defense. Shoot, we just couldn’t get going, so that’s why I say credit to them.”
Rivers understood the defeat likely sets up a playoff matchup against the winner of the AFC North in the Wild Card round, putting a possible rematch with Baltimore in play.
But, ever the optimist, Rivers felt it was better to play poorly against the Ravens now and not with their season at stake.
“If we were going to have one like this, better now than later,” Rivers said. It’s a good defense and they outplayed us today. Depending on what happens, we may get another crack at them in two weeks.”