San Diego take charge with big win over Baltimore
(Reuters) - Surging San Diego overcame Baltimore 34-14 on Sunday to keep alive their postseason hopes while damaging the Ravens' playoff top seed ambitions.
San Diego scored 27 points without reply from the second quarter to the fourth, breaking open a 7-7 tie and dominating on both sides of the ball to steamroll their way to a third consecutive win after losing six in a row.
Ryan Mathews scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 270 passing yards and the San Diego defense tallied seven sacks and two interceptions in a dominant performance.
"We knew we had to outplay their defense to have a chance to win," Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes told reporters.
"The way that I feel (about this team) hasn't changed. Even throughout the six-game losing streak we still believed we could get there."
The victory moved San Diego (7-7) within a game of a playoff spot while the Ravens (10-4) had their four-game win streak snapped and fell a half-game behind Pittsburgh for first in the AFC North Division.
Baltimore welcomed back their defensive leader Ray Lewis, who had missed four games with a toe injury, but they failed to record a sack and they were quickly left in the dust.
The Chargers grabbed a 17-7 halftime lead before Rivers fired a 28-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd in the third where Mathews added a three-yard score to push the advantage to 31-7.
San Diego added a fourth quarter field goal before Torrey Smith caught a consolation touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the game for the Ravens.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, under pressure the entire night, passed for 226 yards but also had two turnovers.
The Chargers also blew away Jacksonville and Buffalo before soundly beating Baltimore to continue their strong stretch and maintain belief they can be involved in the playoffs in January.
"Good teams finish strong," said Rivers, who has gone four games without an interception after previously leading the NFL in the category.
"It was a good win for us. (Baltimore) is a team that will be around in January, and hopefully we'll be around.
"We're going to finish like champs and see what happens."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles. Editing by Patrick Johnston)