Chargers vs. Steelers final score, takeaways: L.A.'s epic comeback win aided by Pittsburgh collapse, blown calls
The Chargers stormed back to shock the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday night
One of these halves was not like the other. The Steelers dominated the first 30 minutes, and should've led by more than the 23-7 score at halftime, both because of some truly terrible officiating and arguably worse play from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who can go from being the best player on the field to the worst in a matter of seconds -- and flip back between the two several times a night.
Over the final 30 minutes, the Steelers' offense was stymied while the Chargers' offense, which had been manhandled in the first half, came to life, and Philip Rivers did what he's done for the better part of 15 years: stood in the pocket, took huge hits, and delivered strike after strike in the most important win of the season for Los Angeles. It came down to one of the weirdest sequences you'll see -- three straight offsides by the Steelers as the Chargers attempted the game-winning kick -- third time, it turns out, was the charm. And when it was over, Los Angeles escaped with a 33-30 win.
How we got here from there
Coach Mike Tomlin has a saying about primetime games: "It's a five-star matchup because we're in it." And those words were self-evident early. They scored on four of six first-half possessions that featured a lot of Antonio Brown.
That touchdown above was the culmination of a 91-yard drive in 78 seconds that gave the Steelers a 23-7 halftime lead.
But it wasn't just the usual playmakers making plays. The offense line was dominant; take another look at Brown's touchdown and note what left tackle Alejandro Villanueva did to Joey Bosa. That wasn't out of the ordinary on Sunday night. And the Steelers' defense was just as good. They harassed Rivers for much of the first half, thanks in part to making the Chargers one-dimensional. With Melvin Gordon sidelined, Austin Ekeler managed just one yard on eight carries. Eight!
But Chargers coach Anthony Lynn must've given one of the all-time great halftime speeches because his team came out balling in the second half. After forcing a Steelers three-and-out, Los Angeles scored the second-weirdest touchdown on the evening when Joe Haden had an interception but was blasted by teammate Sean Davis. While both players were on the ground, the ball floated to Keenan Allen:
This is where we point out Keenan Allen is one of the best wideouts enough people aren't talking about. He's not the fastest wide receiver on his team -- not even close, we'd imagine -- but he has the best feet of just about anybody in the league. That was repeatedly on display Sunday night. He finished with 14 catches for 148 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
That cut the lead to 23-15. The Chargers' D held again -- Bosa finally got to Big Ben:
And on the ensuing punt, this happened:
Tie ball game, folks.
The Chargers forced a three-and-out and Rivers marched down for another touchdown to give L.A. its first lead of the night. Pittsburgh's offense finally found its way into the end zone to tie it, 30-30, but the defense had no answers on Rivers' final, fateful drive that ended in the game-winning field goal as time expired.
For as huge a win as it is for Los Angeles, it's a demoralizing loss for Pittsburgh, who is now just a half-game up on the surging Ravens.
Obvious blown call may have cost Steelers
We generally don't look to blame the officials for the outcome of games, but it's hard to overlook just how god-awful they were on Sunday on at least two occasions. The first came on the Chargers' lone touchdown pass in the first half.
You might notice right tackle Sam Tevi should've been flagged for a false start. It was as plain as day and there wasn't an easier call to be made all night. Except there was no flag thrown and the play can't be challenged or reviewed. So the touchdown stood. If that sounds familiar, it should; another officiating crew blew a similar call earlier in the season -- in favor of the Chargers, it turns out -- and the down judge, whose sole job is to look for false starts before the snap, in that contest .
Not all is lost, however; the officials told Tomlin at half that they blew the call. So there's that.
But there's more: In the second half, during Desmond King's punt return, a Steelers player was blocked in the back.
Here's the moving-pictures replay:
Again, no flag.
That was a 15-point swing.
But the Steelers weren't without blame; Roethlisberger threw this interception as the Steelers were driving in the first half:
And he also missed a wide open Justin Hunter in the end zone on an unconscionable overthrow. That's at least 10 points the Steelers left on the field.
Philip Rivers can start his own team. No, seriously.
And before you ask ...
The Steelers (7-4-1) head to Oakland, and they desperately need a win. There is no way they're going to catch the Chiefs or Patriots for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but they need to keep the Ravens (7-5) at bay. The Chargers, meanwhile, move to 9-3 and remain a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. They host the Bengals (5-7) next week. Both games can be streamed on fuboTV (Try for free)
You can relive all the Sunday night action in our live blog below.
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