The Los Angeles Chargers started the game on offense in a two tight end set, and the first play of the game Philip Rivers found Hunter Henry running down the seam for a 1st down. Despite the initial success throwing early, Ken Whisenhunt immediately ran Melvin Gordon up the middle on consecutive plays to put the offense behind the sticks in a 3rd & 9 situation near midfield. Rivers found Travis Benjamin open underneath, but Benjamin dropped the pass to bring on the punting unit. Rivers also appeared to injure his back on the play.
Pittsburgh took over on their own 20 after the punt. JuJu Smith-Schuster beat Casey Hayward, but Devlin Hodges was unable to get the ball to him. James Conner’s first carry of the game went for a 1-yard loss after Denzel Perryman shot into the backfield to stop him in is tracks. Hodges checked down on 3rd down and thanks to Desmond King’s sure tackling, the drive ended with a punt.
The Chargers picked up where they left off with allowing immediate pressure right in Rivers’ face that forced a throwaway. A backward throw on 2nd down bounced off Gordon’s hands and was picked up and returned for a touchdown by the defense. Chris Boswell then knocked home the extra point.
Consecutive Gordon runs set up 3rd & 4. Rivers finally got time to throw and he hit Henry for an easy 1st down. Rivers’ next pass was tipped straight up in the air and Devin Bush hauled it in for Rivers’ second turnover of the game.
Following the interception, the Steelers offense simply rolled. Ultimately, James Conner capped off the drive with a physical run in which nobody on the defense looked capable of stopping him.
After another ineffective Gordon run, Rivers got some time from his line and went to Allen deep over the middle for a 1st down. They then went right back to Gordon running him into the line twice before being forced to throw on 3rd & long. Rivers eventually checked down to Ekeler who was unable to reach the line to gain. Ty Long took the field for another punt. A moronic penalty by Troymaine Pope forced the Chargers to punt again after what had been a rather good punt.
After the second punt, the Steelers offense took back over and went right back to Conner who easily ran for another new set of downs and brought the 1st quarter to an end. A 7-yard pass to Diontae Johnson on 1st down kept Pittsburgh ahead of the sticks. Two Benny Snell carries later they had another 1st down. Another Conner run for 3 yards followed by a Hodges having all day on 2nd down to find Johnson moved the sticks. Snell then ran for another 4 yards. Hodges scrambled on 2nd down, but he paid for it with a hard hit from King. On 3rd down, Jatavis Brown had an opportunity to stop Conner before the sticks, but he could not bring him down. Snell got another carry on 1st and 2nd down picking up 7-yard chunks both times. A couple snaps later, Brown had another opportunity to make a play and again he could not tackle Conner who then strolled another 20 yards for a touchdown.
Austin Ekeler finally got to start a drive and he immediately had the Chargers’ longest run of the night. An incomplete pass followed by Ekeler getting drilled in the backfield set up another 3rd & long. Rivers stood tall in the pocket and waited for Mike Williams to get open for the 1st which he did. On 1st down, Allen was asked to block Bud Dupree, and that worked about as well as you would expect and he brought down Ekeler for a short gain. On 2nd & 9, Rivers had Williams open very deep down the field, but Rivers’ throw was a little off target and Williams let the ball bounce off his hands. On 3rd down, they made up for it connecting for another new set of downs. Finding success with it, Rivers went to Williams for a third straight play and picked up another 1st down. Then, to kill their momentum, the Chargers handed the ball off to Gordon for another short run to bring us to the 2-minute warning. On the first play after the break, Rivers saw immediate pressure and took an intentional ground penalty to make it 3rd & 19. Gordon took a short pass and ran for a 13-yard gain. Then, despite being down 21-0, Lynn elected to try a 43-yard field goal with Chase McLaughlin. The kicker, of course, missed. Pittsburgh took over and just looked to run out the clock to get to half time with their huge lead.
After the break, the Chargers kicked off and Pittsburgh took over at their own 25 looking to go up by 4 scores. After a 5-yard encroachment penalty against Brandon Mebane, the Hodges dumped the ball off to Conner who ran for a 15-yard gain. A 3-yard Snell run set up 2nd & 7. Michael Davis made a good play to break up Hodges’ pass, but Thomas Davis made a boneheaded decision to hit the receiver in the head and gave the Steelers a 15-yard penalty. Davis then finally made a positive contribution on the next play stopping Conner for no gain. Joey Bosa flushed Hodges from the pocket on the next snap and the rookie had to throw the ball away to set up 3rd & 10. A screen to Snell easily picked up the needed yards and more, but the play was brought back by a holding call against Smith-Schuster. On the second 3rd down, Bosa jumped offside and set up 3rd & 1. Out of shotgun, the Steelers handed off to Snell who easily reached the line to gain. After the play, King was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. An incomplete pass and two runs gave the Steelers 1st & goal inside the 5. The first two runs were stuffed, and on 3rd down snap got away from Hodges, but he was able to pick it up and throw the ball away to avoid taking a loss. Boswell then took the field for an easy 20-yard field goal which he converted.
The offense stalled again and after three plays, Anthony Lynn elected to not bother trying to win the game and called on the punting unit.
Five plays into their drive, Mike Tomlin decided to give the Chargers a break and punt on 4th & 1 at midfield, but Desmond King managed to muff the ensuing punt anyway because of course he did. Luckily, the “muff” was actually the result of interference by the coverage unit and the Chargers retained possession.
On 1st down, Rivers managed to evade a sack and buy enough time to throw the ball away. On the next play, Allen hauled in only his second catch of the game, but it was for a 1st down. A taunting penalty against Bush tacked on 15 additional yards. A holding call on 1st down gave most of it back and a 7-yard reception by Henry came close to getting back to the original line of scrimmage. Rivers dumped the ball off to Ekeler who broke multiple tackles en route to an 11-yard gain. Ekeler then got another carry and picked up the 1st down. An 18-yard pass to Henry and a 14-yard pass to Gordon kept the offense moving and got the into Steelers territory while ending the 3rd quarter. On the first play of the final quarter, Rivers led Benjamin too deep in the end zone and he could not get his feet down for the score. Sam Tevi was flagged for holding on 3rd down, but Rivers was unable to get the ball to Allen anyway.
If the Chargers kick a field goal here, I'm just going to publish the recap right then and go to bed.— Richard Wade (@RichardWade) October 14, 2019
Then Lynn completely gave up any pretense of trying to win and attempted a field goal.
The Steelers offense took over and looked like they would just keep picking up small chunks, moving the chains, and running clock, but then Hodges made an ill-advised deep throw and Rayshawn Jenkins came up with a nice interception.
After the turnover, Rivers took a shot deep, but Benjamin could not run under the ball and he refused to lay out for it. Chris Collinsworth even called him out for the lack of effort. Henry got open again and caught an other 1st down pass afterward. Incomplete attempts on the next two plays would have set up another long 3rd down try, but a defensive penalty instead moved the sticks. After catching a short pass, Williams showed some nifty open field moves before getting upfield and getting out of bounds after picking up the 1st. Rivers’ next pass was behind Henry and was nearly intercepted. Virgil Green got his first reception of the game and then rumbled for a 1st & goal. A doomed-to-fail play to Benjamin and an incomplete back shoulder fade later and it was 3rd down. Rivers found Henry in the back of the end zone. He clearly got both feet in bounds and after a brief discussion, the officials got the call right on the field. An extra point later, the Chargers were finally back within two scores with just over 7 minutes remaining in regulation.
The defense returned to the field and immediately gave up 20 yards on a simple running play to Snell. Snell’s next two runs totaled only 2 yards, however, and Hodges faced a 3rd & 8. Conner caught a short pass and was immediately tackled by Davis. Lynn elected to let the clock keep running instead of using one of his 3 remaining timeouts. After an 8-yard return by King, the Chargers would start at their own 21.
On Rivers’ first pass, he threw what should have been an interception, but Minkah Fitzpatrick could not hold onto the ball. A dumpoff to Gordon on the next play did nothing but run more time off the clock. Jason Moore fresh off the practice squad caught a long pass on 3rd down to keep the drive alive. Another useless dumpoff to Gordon would have run more clock, but a defensive penalty stopped the clock and gave the Chargers another 1st down. After an incomplete attempt to Williams, he limped off the field. Another desperation dumpoff, this time to Ekeler, at least gained yards but also kept the clock running. Geremy Davis saw his first target of the game on the next play and moved the sticks with a catch over the middle, but it also brought us to the 2-minute warning with the Chargers still down 2 scores. Another Moore target resulted in another 1st down, but it also ran over 20 seconds off the clock. Henry got open in the end zone again on the next snap and again he caught a touchdown. McLaughlin’s point after attempt was good and with 89 seconds and 3 timeouts remaining, the Chargers were down 7 points.
The Chargers attempted an onside kick, but the Steelers recovered. Snell was stopped for a short gain on 1st down. On 2nd down, he was stopped for no gain. On 3rd down, they nearly allowed Hodges to scramble for the 1st down, but he gave himself up before the sticks. Tomlin then had the choice of attempting a 54-yard field goal, going for it on 4th & 1, or punting up 7 with 71 seconds on the clock. Tomlin chose to bring on the punting unit. They were able to down the ball at the 1.
Rivers took over needing to go 99 yards in 63 seconds with no timeouts for a chance to tie the game. His first pass, a deep shot to Williams, was nearly picked off. His next deep shot was picked off ending any dream of a comeback.