Chargers lose heartbreaker to Steelers Monday Night

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The best thing for the Chargers fans at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego Monday Night was the return of tight end Antonio Gates, who had missed four games due to a suspension after testing positive for PED use.

The second best thing about the game, for the Chargers fans in the stands, was seeing Gates catch three passes in the first quarter, the third pass being his 100th career TD pass. That wasn’t even his last touchdown catch of the game, either. Now he is one of only nine players to have caught at least 100-career touchdown passes.

Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates

It would have been a much better night for Gates and the Chargers had they won the game, but they played the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday Night, a team that won the Super Bowl in 2008.

But they didn’t have their Super Bowl quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. He was injured September 27 when one of his offensive lineman fell on his leg, injuring Roethlisberger’s knee.

In his place was Michael Vick, the left-handed QB who was starting a Monday Night Football game with his third team. Although Vick didn’t have a stellar performance, he was good enough to be a starter on most teams.

Vick reminded the Chargers he could still run the ball if needed, but that isn’t often with the Steelers because they have Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers rang that Bell for 111 yards rushing on 21 carries, as well as four passes for 16 yards.

It was a close game from beginning to end, with the Chargers trailing for most of the game. After that first touchdown to Gates, the Chargers remained scoreless for two quarters as the Steelers put three on the board in the second quarter and seven in the third when Antwon Blake intercepted a pass by Rivers and ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown.

San Diego began a comeback in the fourth quarter, scoring a field goal to tie the game at 10 a piece. They then had an eight-play drive the ended with the second TD pass from Rivers to Gates. The score was 17-10, with less than seven minutes on the clock.

On the first play from scrimmage, on the Pittsburgh 28, Vick passed to Markus Wheaton who took the ball 72 yards for a touchdown. The extra point tied the game and then the Chargers took the ball again.

They moved the ball from their own 20, taking 12 plays to put kicker Josh Lambo in position to kick a 54-yard field goal to give them the lead.

With less than three minutes left on the clock, Michael Vick began to march his team 79 yards down to the San Diego 1-yard line. It was during this drive that Vick ran for 24 yards.

With four seconds on the clock, Le’Veon Bell took a direct snap and veered to his left, bouncing off offensive and defensive player alike. When it looked like the Chargers had stopped him just short of the goal he made one final lunge and put the ball in the end zone.

It was an exciting finish, especially considering 18 seconds were run off the clock, shortening the game. It wasn’t noticed by anyone until after the game was over. The NFL blamed a clock operator for the error and the game officials for not noticing the error.

Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon

It didn’t matter. The Steelers didn’t need the 18 seconds. It’s worth nothing there was a large number of Steelers fans in Qualcomm Stadium Monday. After the game Philip Rivers said it felt like playing a road game.

Philip Rivers had another great passing game: 365 yards on 35 passes, with two touchdowns (both to Gates) and one interception.

Antonio Gates had nine passes, Melvin Gordon seven, Keenan Allen six, Ladarius Green and Danny Woodhead each had five and Malcolm Floyd had three.

Their running game only had 19 carries for 52 yards. The Steelers had 27 carries for 155 yards.

The Chargers record is now 2-3, tied with the Oakland Raiders, who lost to the division-leading Denver Broncos, 16-10.

The Steelers are at 3-2, two games behind the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

Next week the Steelers will face the Arizona Cardinals at home and the Chargers head to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Packers. The Chargers are more than capable of handing the Packers their first loss, but the Packers have been undefeated in Lambeau Field for 12 games.

(L.A. Post-Examiner Staff contributed to this article)
(Photos by Claudia Gestro; top photo: Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates during training camp)