SAN DIEGO – Adversity: it’s a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty.
It has followed the Chargers for at least the past two seasons so much so that head coach Norv Turner has built themes around overcoming adversity.
Again, adversity has reared its head this season and in this latest instance what couldn’t be overcome came down to one play, one measurement and half-a-yard.
Late in the fourth quarter, Baltimore left with a desperate fourth down and 29-yards to go, and trailing by 3 points, elected to go for it.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hit running back Ray Rice with a short pass up the middle; Rice was able to cut his way up the field, eluding the Chargers defense and securing the first down. The play was not without controversy. With the ball placed at the 33-yard line, referee Gene Steratore was called by the replay booth to review where the ball had been spotted. From the replay, Steratore said he could see the original spot of the ball was wrong and so they moved the ball back about half-a-yard, based on an estimation of where they thought it should be.
Turner said Steratore explained after reviewing all of the camera angles that they couldn’t see the ball and knew it didn’t make the spot where they had originally marked it and that’s why they moved it back.
Even moving the ball back half-a-yard, the spot was still enough for the first down conversion.
“I don’t know, based on not being able to see the ball, how they picked where they were going to move the ball back to,” Turner said. “The views our guys had upstairs, they felt he (Rice) was short.
“Obviously the fourth and 29, we had the chance to not ever let it get to that. We certainly weren’t going to let them throw the ball up the field. They dumped the ball; 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 and give him a chance to cut back and he cut back and made the first down.”
From there the Ravens kicked a field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Chargers, hard pressed to play a complete game this season, were being tasked to play a fifth quarter, which would not turn out in their favor, losing 16-13 after another field goal by Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker with a minute remaining.
With a 4-7 record, the team isn’t trying to win the division any longer, they aren’t even thinking about rallying to win the rest of their games to make the playoffs. Turner said what they’re trying to do is win a game. “We’re trying to find a way to get first downs, find a way to stop them. We’re trying to find a way…to get a lead, to make that lead bigger or try to find a way to win a game.”
When the Chargers players walked back to their locker room they were quiet. Heavy sighs came from some of the players as they made their way up the tunnels that run underneath Qualcomm Stadium, most still wearing their helmets. Some of the Chargers were limping, others had their head down; most were drenched with sweat, covered in grass stains and blood.
Further down the tunnel, the sounds of laughing, shouting and clapping broke the silent pall of the Chargers as the Ravens players headed to their locker room.
Turner admitted that the offensive line struggled at different times, allowing Philip Rivers to be sacked six times in the game, but he was quick to point out that it was not from a lack of effort.
“We’re not struggling from a standpoint of the effort and the way they’re fighting and competing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anyone, if they know anything about football, who watched that game…would question the effort our guys are giving; their commitment; they’re throwing their bodies around. It’s just in certain situations we’re not good enough to get it done.”
For veteran Quentin Jammer, he knows what it means to overcome adversity. He knows what Turner means when he talks about overcoming adversity: “When you’re put in a bad situation, get through it; make the best of it, get out of it. And we hadn’t done that this year,” Jammer said.
On the younger guys, they’re doing a good job of handling the adversity, he said, adding that we got to help them along. “Because they’ll be around and they’ll be the guys to take this thing and put it back on track. What I want to do with my time here is just continue to help the younger guys grow and mature.
“We didn’t overcome adversity in this game,” Jammer said.
Turner’s message is understood throughout the locker room, even with the new players to the team like running back Ronnie Brown. “The other team’s going to make plays, that’s what they get paid to do,” said Brown. “And when things start to go bad you can’t just let them escalate. You’ve got to be able to try and stop the bleeding, and say, ‘when things don’t go in your favor, you’ve got to find a way to turn things around.’
“We’ve got a lot of new guys this season, and I think we’re pretty close as a football team. But at the same time we still have some growing to do individually and collectively. I think there’s always room for improvement and I think we continue to grind it out and try to improve.”
The Chargers play the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
Eric Weddle – concussion
Antwan Barnes – hamstring
Darrell Stuckey – hamstring
Atari Bigby – groin
Donald Butler – groin
Corey Liuget – tibia
Antonio Garay – thigh
Jeromey Clary – thigh
Danario Alexander – thigh