A fourth-quarter rally from a 24-point deficit fell short as the Los Angeles Chargers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-17, Sunday evening, their fourth loss in five games.
Quarterback Philip Rivers committed two first-quarter turnovers, which the Steelers converted into touchdowns before throwing 5- and 11-yard touchdown passes to Hunter Henry in the fourth quarter, when the Chargers scored all their points.
The Chargers hopes of completing the comeback ended when Rivers’ hurried pass from inside their own end zone was intercepted by Cameron Sutton at their 34-yard line with less than a minute to play.
Operating with a patchwork offensive line, the Chargers (2-4) were outgained 348 yards to 256, and 34:05-25:55 in time of possession, but led 23-18 in first downs before a decidedly pro-Steelers crowd announced at 25,425 at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Chargers running game was held to 32 yards on 14 carries.
Rivers completed 26 of 44 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions. Despite being pressured all night, he was sacked only once.
In his first NFL start, undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges completed 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown, with one interception as Pittsburgh (2-4) avoided its first 1-5 start since 1988.
The Steelers only previous victory this season was over the winless Cincinnati Bengals. Three of their losses were by four points or less. Two of the losses came to the league’s only undefeated teams, the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
In their first game in the Los Angeles area since Nov. 27, 1994, when they defeated the Los Angeles Raiders 21-3 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Pittsburgh opened the scoring 4:09 into the game when rookie linebacker Devin Bush picked up what became a backward pass Rivers tried to lateral to Melvin Gordon and ran 9 yards into the end zone.
The Steelers then scored on back-to-back possessions to increase their lead to 21-0.
James Conner ran 12 yards for a touchdown with 4:29 left in the first quarter, seven plays after Bush intercepted a Rivers pass and returned it 6 yards to the Chargers 40-yard line.
Conner caught a short pass from Hodges, broke out of an attempted tackle by linebacker Jatavis Brown and ran into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown 6:34 before halftime to complete a 14-play, 86-yard drive that consumed 9:09.
The Chargers crossed midfield just once in the first half when they advanced to the Pittsburgh’s 26-yard line on their fifth and final possession of the half. Chase McLaughlin’s 43-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright.
Chris Boswell kicked a 20-yard field goal with 8:12 left in the third quarter for the Steelers only second-half points. McLaughlin kicked a 38-yard field goal with 14:00 to play for the Chargers first points.
The Chargers were playing without center Mike Pouncey for the first time in 2019. The four-time Pro Bowl selection was placed on reserve/injured Wednesday because of a neck injury that required surgery and will sideline him for the rest of the season.
Dan Feeney replaced Pouncey at center after starting the past 30 regular-season games at left guard. Forrest Lamp started at left guard in place of Feeney, making the first start of his injury-riddled three-season NFL career.
Hodges started because Pittsburgh’s starter the past three games, Mason Rudolph, could not play because of a concussion suffered in last Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Rudolph replaced Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a season-ending injury to his right elbow in the 28-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sept. 15 that required surgery.
Hodges made his NFL debut last Sunday, completing seven of nine passes for 68 yards. The Steelers drove 87 yards for a touchdown on 10 plays on his first drive.
The Samford University alumnus began the regular season on the practice squad, then was promoted to the 53-man roster following Roethlisberger’s injury.
Hodges is the career Football Championship Subdivision passage yardage leader with 14,584, breaking the previous record of 14,496 held by Steve McNair. Hodges received the 2018 Walter Payton Award as the top FCS offensive player.
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