Chargers Defeat Giants 21-20 on Last Minute Touchdown

The Chargers scoring ended as it began; with a touchdown by Vincent Jackson.  In a game in which Charger receivers struggled to hang on to passes, they managed to hang on to just enough against a penalty prone NY Giants team.  The game began poorly for San Diego when the Giants running game came straight at them, including big runs of 15 and 12 yards by New York's monster running back, Brandon Jacobs.  Jacobs would finish the game with 11 rushes for 67 yards and remarkable 6.1 average. Injuries limited his carries or this game might have gone differently.

The Giants game plan looked simple and effective, keep the ball on the ground and take short passes, and no matter what else keep that clock ticking time away from the explosive San Diego offense.  Their first drive bled more than seven minutes off the clock but stalled at the San Diego 21, the defense holding them just shy of the first down marker.  On a bizarre play that would have huge consequences the Giants bungled the snap for the field goal and the Chargers took over.

The Chargers would gain just one first down on the drive, but would wind up winning the field position war as Scifres put New York back at their 18 yard line, San Diego would take their punt at the Giant 45 when New York  failed to gain a first down.  The Chargers burned up the field in a little under three minutes with long passes to Gates and Jackson and finally the TD to Vincent Jackson.  San Diego's running game was feeble throughout as LT struggled impotently against a stout defensive line.

This would begin the Giants second epic drive.  This one lasted 16 plays and devoured an amazing 10.5 minutes of clock as the Charger defense could not get off the field.  The Giants rammed through several penalties, two sacks and several long third down situations, before finally reaching pay dirt with a six yard pass to Steve Smith.  On the drive the Giants appeared to be able to slice the defense when needed, but even after dominating the time of possession, the score was 7-7 going into half time.

Coming out in the second half both teams struggled offensively.  The ball traded back and forth twice, but one aspect of the Giants strategy backfired.  So eager were they to keep the ball away from Sproles that Speagle shanked a short kick that started the Chargers off with a short field, starting at their own 49.  This time in just over three minutes the Chargers pushed 51 yards, the key play being a 29 yard pass interference penalty that would have been a likely third Jackson TD without it.  There is no doubt that Jackson is an elite receiver; and is playing as well as anyone in the league right now.

Down by a touchdown, the Giants fought back by driving 60 yards, capping it off with a field goal.  The Giant defense followed that up by sacking Rivers, dropping Sproles for a 9 yard loss, then stopping Sproles for a one yard game in what had to have been one of the worst San Diego series this season.  The Giants ended up with the ball at the Charger 39 yard line and quickly turned that field position into 7 points and their first lead of the day, 17-14. 

The Chargers next drive featured a Rivers 15 yard scramble up the middle, but stalled out with a four yard loss on a reverse to Vincent Jackson, as the Giants defense stayed at home.  After wasting a beautiful punt by Scifres that had the Giants pinned at their own end zone with a penalty, the Chargers did manage to stop the Giants with over three minutes on the clock; the final third down play was a sack by a resurgent Shawne Merriman.  The defense wasn't stellar, but Rivera had some terrific blitzing packages that led to five sacks and a number of very close calls.

Rivers was set up with the ball at his own ten yard line with plenty of time.  Trusting to the deep ball and the height of his receivers, he threw his second interception of the game, with the return going all the way down to the four yard line of San Diego.  With just about three minutes left the game appeared to be all but over, perhaps the Chargers' season with it.  On the Giants' first play they committed a holding penalty that put them back to first and goal with 13 yards to go; penalties killed them all day.  The Giants decided to go with their game plan and chew clock and run the ball.  They were unable to push the ball in for the final dagger, but instead settled for the field goal and a 20-14 lead.

Philip Rivers got a second chance with two minutes on the clock and 80 yards to go for the win.  The Giants looked to cover the sidelines, probably to keep the clock running, and left the middle but softly defended.  Rivers would take what the Giants gave him, going to Gates for 9, Naanee for 5, Floyd for 12, back to Gates for 10 and then hit Sproles who scampered for 21; all from that soft middle.  57 yards to four receivers in just over a minute, the Giants gave up 5 more yards with a defensive holding penalty.  First and ten from the New York 18 and Rivers would get the ball to the fifth receiver of the drive, this time to the right side of the end zone as Vincent Jackson pulled down the final touchdown with just 20 seconds left on the clock.  Merriman would put the exclamation point on the win with a final sack of Manning on the Giants final desperation drive.

This was a game the Chargers were fortunate to win; with time of possession, yards passing, yards rushing and turnovers all favoring the Giants.  On paper this should have been a New York win, but penalties troubled them all day as they wracked up 9 for 104 yards, and you just can't give Rivers two bites at the big apple in the fourth quarter.

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