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NFL: Chargers Upset of Steelers Make for a Tighter AFC, But a Rematch Would be Fun
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4 Dec 2018 10:40 AM EST

-by Bo Marchionte, Contributing Writer; Image: San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in Pittsburgh. (Image Source: Frank Hyatt/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh, PA— Quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers have been forever intertwined after being drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Rivers originally by the New York Giants, before he was traded to the San Diego Chargers for Eli Manning on draft day, while Roethlisberger would hear his name called seven selections later when the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the clock.

“Great deal of respect for Ben (Roethlisberger),” said Rivers after a 33-30 come-from-behind victory over the Steelers on Sunday night.

Standing in a brown suede suit jacket and cowboy boots, Rivers was jubilant after leading his team back from a 23-7 halftime deficit.

“I think it is a big win for us,” Rivers said. “We haven’t had one like this on the road against this kind of opponent. Then add the fact that it was come from behind.”

The win places Los Angeles within striking distance of the Kansas City Chiefs, who hold the best record in the AFC at 10-2 and are a game ahead of the Chargers in the AFC West.

“I don’t have a voice right now, but that was a hell of a football game,” said second-year head coach Anthony Lynn of the Chargers. “I’ve been saying all year we have a tough football team, very tough, and I think you saw it tonight.”

As for the Steelers, they are now more exposed in the AFC North, with the rival Baltimore Ravens coming on strong pulling within just half of a game of first place. Pittsburgh also falls further behind New England and Houston in the AFC pecking order with games against the Pats and New Orleans Saints upcoming.

“Disappointing game in a lot of ways,” said headman Mike Tomin. “First and foremost, the result. Got to win those, we didn’t. There are consequences, we’ll absorb it, we’ll be back.”

Disappointing in large part because the Steelers looked to be in control early on against the Chargers. A well-balanced offense featuring James Conner had Pittsburgh up 13-0 early following his 11th and 12th touchdowns on the season. Moments before half time Roethlisberger would hit Antonio Brown for their 12th touchdown connection of the season to extend their lead.

Then in the second half, despite a struggling running game without Melvin Gordon III, Rivers would slowly begin to carve out yards and more importantly points, as the Chargers mounted their comeback.

“Rivers is a great quarterback,” Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort said after the game. “Felt like he kind of had a beat on us after the first half. He was able to dissect it, coming out the second half.”

Even when Rivers figured out their defense, Pittsburgh stuck with their approach.

“I think they kind of stuck with it,” Rivers said of their defensive scheme. “That is what this team does, they stick with what they do, and they do it very well. Keenan (Allen) is a tough cover in the slot and inside. I think the big thing was, it wasn’t that we were getting 25-yard chunks it was the seven, eight, nine-yard gains. There were big third downs, those completions that kept the chains moving.”

Allen caught a deflected pass in the end zone for LA’s second touchdown of the game, which began a barrage of points for the Chargers. Los Angles would score the next 23 points of the game to take a 30-23 lead. It wasn’t just the passing offense, as Rivers stood on the sidelines cheering as Desmond King returned a punt 73-yards for a score. The running game finally caught fire when rookie runner Justin Jackson was inserted into the lineup and ripped off 63 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.

Los Angeles took over on their own 25-yard line in the final minutes of a tied game, 30-30. Once again, the Chargers leaned heavy on the savvy of Rivers on the final drive. Pittsburgh was unable to force them off the field and systemically, Rivers marched the Chargers into position for the game-winning field goal.

We can talk about questionable calls, but at the end of the day a 23-7 lead at home was mishandled into a 33-30 loss at home.

Sunday night was the sixth matchup between the likely two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. A game that that held big-time playoff ramifications for each team. The Rivers-led comeback win evens things at three wins a piece in their head-to-head matchups.

If we’re lucky we’ll get a Game 7 in the postseason.

To read more from Bo Marchionte at College2Pro.com, click here.

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