This was going to be a close game that came down to the wire even if the Chargers hadn't lost numerous key players to injury. It did come down to the wire anyway, and San Diego fell short due to weakness in the middle of the offensive line more than anything else.
On a call that I'm sure Norv Turner will wish he had back, Ray Lewis shot through the center of the line on 4th and 2 at the end of the game to hit Darren Sproles in the backfield. Had Nick Hardwick had been in the game at center, maybe that blitz gets picked up and maybe the Chargers go on to score that touchdown and win.
It did seem like a strange choice to run the ball in that situation with a double-tight end set when the passing game was working fairly well. You take away your own options and tell a run stopping defense that you're going to challenge them? With your patchwork offensive line? Fans will be upset, but I'm sure Norval will be having the same thoughts as he tries to sleep tonight: Why not a short pass to Gates? Hester in the flat? Naanee on a quick slant? Another jump ball for Vincent Jackson?
Despite this heartbreaking loss, I think this game showed a team that fought through mistakes, some bad calls, and bad luck to put themselves in a position to win the game in the end against a top tier opponent.
Even with the significant injuries sustained so far this season, the Chargers have shown they still have confidence and fight. They will win the AFC West and make their way into the playoffs again this year.
Because of the ongoing run blocking problems and the absence of Jamal Williams, San Diego will in all likelihood, not have one of the best records in the AFC and will again have to go through Pittsburgh, New England, or Baltimore on their home turf to get to the Super Bowl. It's possible to make it through, but also possible the Chargers will be shaking their heads again this January saying "Only if..." one more time.
Our saving grace on this squad is the amazing Phillip Rivers and Darren Sproles. These two seemed to will the team back into the game time and again. It seems like the offense is already clicking even though the Ravens kept us out of the end zone multiple times today. As long as the run game is broken, the Chargers will have trouble in the red zone, but the passing game seems as if it will be able to gain yards in chunks against any defense in the league.
The defense again had some breakdowns, but overall stood up to the Ravens nicely in the second half with some key stops. If they can find the rhythm and aggressiveness they had when the game was on the line today, San Diego will be close in every game this season.
So, even though the Chargers lost and are literally somewhat broken, they're head and shoulders above the rest of the AFC West and will get one more shot at the Super Bowl tourney.