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The Fourth Down Play That Ended The Chargers 2012 Season

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By Danny Cox

Sunday’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens is one that was rather expected for the San Diego Chargers, but one that is incredibly hard to take. It was a loss that saw the Chargers blow a big lead late in the game and then completely fall apart near the end. This of course, wasn’t the first time.

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 25: San Diego Charger fans display signs during a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium on November 25, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Credit, Harry How/Getty Images)

Earlier this season, the Chargers had a 24-point lead on the Denver Broncos at halftime, only to watch themselves collapse in the second half. The Broncos rolled off 35 unanswered points for one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

There is a huge difference between that week six loss to the Broncos and Sunday’s loss to the Ravens though. Sunday’s defeat saw one play essentially sum up the entire season for the Chargers and veritably end the 2012 season for them.

With less than two minutes to go in the game and a three-point lead, the Chargers had pinned the Ravens back with a fourth-and-29 situation. Victory was about 99.99 percent in the hands of Philip Rivers and the rest of the team. All they had to do was keep the Ravens from gaining almost one third of the entire field on one down.

Easy, right?

“I’ve never seen a play like that before,” said Corey Liuget. “Those kinds of plays are not acceptable in the NFL or any sports you play in and compete in.  But they happen.  And when they happen, you just have to have someone make the play.  The defense, we were fighting.  We were trying and we came up short.”

Well, Ray Rice caught a check down pass from Joe Flacco in the middle of the field and had a lot of work to do. Rice weaved.

He zigged.

He zagged.

He gained almost 29 yards exactly and found himself finally being tackled right at the first down marker.

“The last thing I remember was getting ready to tackle him, and then I was heading into the locker room,” said Eric Weddle. “It’s just unfortunate.  We should have won that game.  It was 4th-and-29. We can’t give something like that up.”

Rice’s gain was far too close to just take the spot as word though, and the spot was challenged by the replay official. The ball ended up being moved back the slightest bit, but it was still enough to give the Ravens a first down. Eventually, Justin Tucker came in to kick a game-tying field goal and then the game-winner in overtime.

Still, things didn’t sit right with the Chargers on the spot of the ball after Rice’s run. The explanation from the referees was the main problem here as the team of officials said they couldn’t see the ball on replays. It was therefore placed in an “arbitrary position.”

“The explanation we got was that where they spotted the ball, they couldn’t see the ball,” said head coach Norv Turner.  “They knew it did not make it to the point where they marked it so they moved it back.  I don’t know how if they can’t see the ball how they pick where they were going to move the ball back to.  The view our guys had upstairs, they felt it was short.”

Turner is not happy with the explanation from the officials, and rightfully so as it just seems rather absurd. Nonetheless, Turner knows that his team never should have put the game in the hands of the referees in the first place.

“Obviously on 4th-and-29 we had the chance to not let it get to that,” he said. “We certainly weren’t going to let them throw the ball up the field.  They dumped the ball and we thought we’d converge on it and get them well short of the first down. I thought we had a couple guys take bad angles.  We gave him a chance to cut back, and he cut back and made the first down.”

With the loss, the Chargers drop to 4-7 on the season and aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they might as well be. Three straight losses and five losses in the last six games are nothing to smile about and San Diego might as well start looking forward to 2013.

For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Chargers news, see CBS Sports Los Angeles.

Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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