For the Los Angeles Chargers, playing a game on Sunday Night Football, let alone winning one, was something very foreign before Sunday night.
The Chargers had to go to the Steel City and face a team very familiar with being under the primetime spotlight. Despite digging themselves and early hole, they managed to find a way to get the win, 33-30.
This game was definitely the tale of two halves. The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the Bolts in the first half and it looked as though things might get ugly. NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth even noted that if not for the play of Derwin James, the Steelers might hang 50 on the Chargers.
However, in the second half, the Chargers showed the kind of grit, determination and resiliency that fans just haven’t been accustomed to seeing.
The Chargers fell behind 23-7 at the half, but oustcored the high-powered Steelers 26-7 in the second half. With the score tied 30-30 with just three seconds remaining, Mike Badgley kicked the game-winning field goal from 29 yards out, sending the Bolts to a 9-3 record where they keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs, a team they face in just two weeks.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there is plenty to talk about here.
Though Chargers fans won’t likely admit it, the two biggest plays in this game were helped by the referees seemingly missing obvious calls. On the team’s first touchdown, a 46-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin, Sam Tevi clearly committed a false start. The Steelers slowed up, thinking a whistle would blow and when it didn’t, Philip Rivers stepped up and lofted it to Benjamin for an easy touchdown.
#Steelers LB TJ Watt is exhorting the officials to look at the replay – and the blatant false start they missed by #Chargers RT Sam Tevi. Ref not swayed. It'll go for a 46-yard TD, from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin.Steelers 13, Chargers 7
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) December 3, 2018
Trailing 23-15 in the fourth quarter, Desmond King returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown in which there was a pretty obvious block in the back penalty right as he fielded the ball. No flag was thrown.
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But the Chargers don’t owe anyone an apology for the missed calls. They made the most of every play and held on to beat a good team in a tough environment.
Rivers threw for 299 yards on the night with a good chunk of that going to Keenan Allen, who caught 14 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown. It was also a good night for rookie running back Justin Jackson. He led the team with 63 yards rushing on just eight carries while scoring his first career touchdown.
And here’s the stat of the night and one of the most amazing notes you’ll read anytime soon. In team history, the Steelers had never lost a game in which they led by 14 or more points at home. They had a 220-0-2 win-loss record in those situations.
The Chargers gave them their first loss in that situation in the history of the team.