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Ravens 31, Chargers 26

Ravens’ Lewis puts stop to Chargers

Lewis’s tackle stops Sproles, saves Ravens

By Bernie Wilson
Associated Press / September 21, 2009

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SAN DIEGO - Ray Lewis took a chance, and what a chance it was.

The star linebacker shot the gap and met Darren Sproles head-on on fourth and 2 in the closing seconds, with brute strength winning out over speed and shiftiness.

A game that seemingly was going to be decided by Philip Rivers instead was sealed by Lewis, whose big play saved a 31-26 win for the Baltimore Ravens over the San Diego Chargers yesterday.

“That was probably one of the greatest plays of my career because of my team, because of what we did as a team,’’ said Lewis, a former Super Bowl MVP, 10-time Pro Bowler, and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Chargers needed a touchdown to win and had the ball at Baltimore’s 15 with 33 seconds left. Lewis came in unblocked and slammed the little running back to the ground for a 5-yard loss, and the Ravens (2-0) ran out the clock.

The Chargers ran the play earlier but Lewis missed the tackle. Knowing the consequences of letting the Chargers convert, Lewis said he needed to shoot the gap - and find the ball carrier.

“When the game was on the line, as soon as Philip dropped down, I shot and he was there. He was there, man,’’ Lewis said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the Chargers know how to win games at the end. “I guess Ray Lewis knows a little more, he knows a little better,’’ Harbaugh said. “He made the greatest football play I’ve ever seen.’’

Rivers almost single-handedly kept the shorthanded Chargers (1-1) in the game, throwing for a career-high 436 yards and two touchdowns. But he also had two interceptions, and San Diego had to settle for field goals four times when it had the ball at the Ravens’ 10 or closer.

Rivers said the Chargers ran the play they felt gave them the best chance for a first down.

“You can’t keep throwing it, throwing it and throwing it - well, you can,’’ Rivers said. “It was a play that we didn’t execute. It’s tough to end that way.’’

A week after amassing a franchise-record 501 yards in a win against Kansas City, the Ravens couldn’t quite put away the Chargers. Joe Flacco (17 of 26 for 190 yards) threw two touchdown passes and Willis McGahee ran for two more.

The killers for the Chargers were their inability to score touchdowns and a bad decision by Rivers.

The Chargers got to the Ravens’ 5, 2, and 1 in the first half, and had to settle for field goals by Nate Kaeding each time.

In the third quarter, Rivers was under pressure from Lewis at the Chargers’ 34, was turned sideways, and blindly tried to throw the ball away. Safety Dawan Landry intercepted and pitched it to Ed Reed for a short return to the 22. Four plays later, Flacco threw a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Todd Heap for a 28-16 lead.

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