The turning point of any given game can be argued forever, but there was no doubt where the San Diego Chargers – New Orleans Saints game turned on Sunday night. Relentless rookie pass rusher Melvin Ingram pressured Drew Brees into an ill-advised throw that wound up in the waiting hands of Demorrio Williams, who returned the ball for a touchdown. Unfortunately the turning point came just after, when a yellow hanky was found lying on the field, and Ingram’s great play to pressure Brees turned into a roughing the passer call that completely changed the complexion of the entire game.
Now, that’s not to say that the Bolts didn’t still have a legitimate chance to win the game following the play, but the team was clearly deflated. Had the touchdown stood, the Chargers would have held a solid 31-14 lead. Instead, the Saints kept the football thanks to the penalty, and marched the remaining 68 yards of their 87-yard touchdown drive to pull within three points of the Bolts.
The pendulum of momentum had already swung at that point as the raucous crowd in the Superdome wouldn’t let the Chargers regain their composure. Of the play and penalty on Ingram, head coach Norv Turner said: “Obviously it was a critical play. You can’t make those kinds of errors, and we will learn from them.”
Obviously, the rhetoric from Turner is always aimed to turn a negative into a positive, but quarterback Philip Rivers kept things real with his post-game comments. Rivers said: “I can’t tell you how tough it is to lose a game like this. We were right there. We were up by 10 points and just didn’t get it done. We have a great team, a championship caliber team. But we have to win close games like this.”
While one play never wins or loses any game that lasts for 60 minutes, this penalty was a back-breaker for the Bolts. It was easy to see the dejection on the players’ faces and the letdown in their play out on the field. This team is young and will make mistakes, but they certainly have to grow up in a hurry if they want to have a chance at making a playoff run this year. As Rivers said, this is a championship caliber team with loads of talent, but in this particular game, everyone is left to wonder what might have been.
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