On Alumni weekend, the Chargers honored the greats of their franchise by winning an unforgettable game in shoot-out fashion hanging on to beat the Tennessee Titans 43-35. Melvin Gordon had a historic day with 196 rushing yards averaging 6.1 yards per carry while scoring the go-ahead touchdown and also breaking two runs of more than 40 yards against one of the leagues best run defenses. He Also helped out a banged up receiving corps, by catching four passes for 65 yards bringing his total yards to 261, which ranks 3rd in team history.
The defense deserves much of the credit as well, because though looking lost at times, scored two touchdowns and held a team averaging over 150 rushing yards to only 80 on the day. The Bolts fought through countless injuries to win without Hunter Henry, Jatavis Brown, and Denzel Perryman all ruled out before the game, and Orlando Franklin being put into the concussion protocol in the second half.
The Chargers started off with another opening drive touchdown, their sixth of the season, using two big catches by Antonio Gates, the second a 13-yard touchdown to put the Chargers up by six with Josh Lambo missing the extra-point. The defense followed the lead of the offense by forcing a three-and-out and setting the Bolts up to get on the board again with a Lambo field goal to give them a quick 9-0 lead.
The Titans offense still could not get anything on the next drive, with the Chargers setting the tone on the line of scrimmage, not letting Tennessee run the ball and forcing another punt. Philip Rivers kept the offense rolling along with multiple first down passes before Melvin Gordon started to heat up taking his only carry of the drive 43 yards setting up a 6-yard Tyrell Williams touchdown reception.
Trailing 16-0, and having not gained a first down, the Titans switched up the game plan and went to an up-tempo style to cut through the Chargers injured secondary and linebackers to score for the first time on a Mariota touchdown pass to Rishard Mathews.
The Chargers came up with the next big play of the game when Marcus Mariota tried to loft a pass back across the field to Delanie Walker only to have Casey Hayward jump the pass for his fifth interception of the season, to tie him for the league lead with five picks, taking it back to the Tennessee 25-yard line. The Chargers would add a field goal to their lead, but Philip Rivers would throw an incomplete pass instead of taking a sack and saving the Titans about forty seconds.
With no timeouts and 1:32 remaining in the half the Titans took back the momentum, driving down the field against a prevent defense by the Chargers and scoring the second touchdown by Rishard Mathews to cut the Chargers lead to 19-14 going into the break.
The momentum that the Titans re-captured going into halftime continued in the third quarter as they went to the passing game again, throwing it eight straight times to get to the Chargers 14-yard line. The ninth play was the only rush of the drive when the Titans went with a designed quarterback run, and Mariota took it outside and dove for the pylon to score and give Tennessee their first lead of the game at 21-19.
After giving up fourteen straight points to lose the lead, the Chargers used a 14-play drive to score a Melvin Gordon 1-yard touchdown run after Tennessee was called for defensive holding on 3rd-and-goal. The Titans gave up three first downs because of penalties on the drive, two coming on third down stops.
The offense wouldn’t be able to help as Marcus Mariota was running a read-option and tried faking a pitch to the running back but Korey Toomer hit the ball on the fake and Melvin Ingram’s big hit shot the ball the other way. After bouncing around, Dwight Lowery scooped up the fumble and scored taking it 36 yards for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 33-21.
After trading punts the Titans went back to where they found success and threw the ball on all eight plays in a row, and with the Chargers unable to create any pass rush, Mariota picked them apart and capped it off with an 8-yard missile between powder blue jerseys finding Delanie Walker in the end zone to cut the lead to five.
The Bolts would set-up a field goal after a 15-yard run and a 35-yard reception by Melvin Gordon, deciding not to go for it on 4th-and-1, pushing the lead to eight. Down by only a score, Mariota made his biggest mistake of the game and threw an ill-advised pass to Kendall Wright only to be undercut by Brandon Flowers who easily took it back for a pick-six, all but sealing the game with a 43-28 lead and 4:51 left to play.
The Titans refused to give up, quickly scoring on a 1-yard touchdown by DeMarco Murray after Mariota cut through the Bolts prevent defense and preserved all of their time-outs, to have a chance down by eight.
Then the Chargers did something they hadn’t all season, run the clock out. Melvin Gordon was determined and made the play of the game after Tennessee had used their first two timeouts, Gordon broke numerous tackles on 3rd-and-7 to burst out of the back-end of the Titans defense taking it 47 yards and gained another first down run after that let the Chargers take a knee for the win.
Mike McCoy came out with the strategy of make Marcus Mariota beat them, and he almost did, but that’s more than likely the reason he tried to do a little too much, with the Bolts scoring 17 points off of Mariota turnovers. McCoy also has to take some of the responsibility for a season-high 14 penalties for 107 yards, and the team giving up 35 points and almost 400 yards of offense.
The Chargers have now won three out of their last four and look like they won’t go down quietly as they try to make their way back from the cellar of the AFC West. They will now have a chance to get to 5-5 as they take on The Miami Dolphins (4-4) at home Sunday, November 13th at 1:05 PM Pacific Time.