<
>

Rivers, Chargers send Steelers to third straight loss

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- With a flurry of passes, Philip Rivers beat Big
Ben, wiped away the memories of "Martyball" and helped the San Diego Chargers make a pretty big statement.

Rivers threw two touchdown passes, including a 22-yarder to
All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates midway through the third quarter
that boosted the San Diego Chargers to a 23-13 victory over the
slumping Super Bowl champions Sunday night.

Gates' catch capped a remarkable 91-yard drive during which
Rivers, in his first year as a starter, threw eight passes in the
span of 10 plays, completing five.

"It was a little more than a win," Rivers said. "We grew a
lot as a team. We made a big step tonight."

The Chargers know there's a long way to go. But they also know a
win over the defending NFL champions can go a long way.

"They're a great team. And you know what? So are we," said
defensive end Luis Castillo, who had 1½ sacks.

"Like the coaches said, impose your will on them," guard Kris Dielman said. "I know we did."

San Diego (3-1) got its coach, Marty Schottenheimer, off the hot
seat in the process. Schottenheimer, whose conservative approach
has long been known as "Martyball," was heavily criticized after
sitting on a 13-7 halftime lead a week earlier at Baltimore. The
Ravens rallied to win 16-13.

The Steelers (1-3) have lost three straight games. They also
lost three straight late last season, recovered to earn a wild-card
playoff spot and went on to win the Super Bowl.

The Steelers were shut out in the second half and gained just 49
yards after intermission.

"I can't tell you the last time I lost three games in a row,"
said Roethlisberger, who threw two more interceptions, giving him
seven this season, and was sacked five times. "I feel like I have
let my teammates down and let the fans down. I know I can play
better and I know I will."

Rivers and Roethlisberger were two of the top three quarterbacks
taken in the 2004 draft. While Roethlisberger helped beat the
Chargers here 24-22 last year when Drew Brees was San Diego's
starter, his return was a lot more painful.

He did look sharp in directing three scoring drives in the first
half, but he also was pressured most of the night. He has yet to
throw a touchdown pass this season and finished 20-of-31 for 220
yards.

On a colorful night when the Chargers wore their powder blue
throwback jerseys and Steelers fans waved yellow Terrible Towels --
at least early on -- Rivers started slow and finally got the upper
hand.

San Diego's go-ahead drive was set up when Roethlisberger threw
long to rookie receiver Santonio Holmes on a flea-flicker and was
intercepted by Drayton Florence. The Chargers cornerback returned
it to the Pittsburgh 38, but Steelers coach Bill Cowher challenged
and, after a review, referee Bill Vinovich ruled that Florence had
been down by contact at the 9.

LaDainian Tomlinson carried for 1 yard on the first play and
took a lateral for 12 yards on the sixth play, but otherwise the
Chargers went to the air. Rivers had two big completions to Eric
Parker, as well as passes to Tomlinson and Keenan McCardell.

Gates, mostly a forgotten man this season, finished it off when
he outmuscled cornerback Deshea Townsend, then dived into the end
zone for a 17-13 lead.

"The first half we couldn't run the ball a lick,"
Schottenheimer said. "That's part of the reason we threw the ball
more."

As good as Baltimore's run defense was, "we thought Pittsburgh
was even better," Rivers said. "We knew it would be tough
sledding on the run, if you just tried to pound them. So we did the
opposite."

Rivers was 4-for-7 for 5 yards in the first quarter. He was
20-of-30 for 237 yards in the last three.

"We really didn't have any answer for them in the second
half," Cowher said. "He was throwing the ball very accurately. We
couldn't get off the field."

Roethlisberger helped the Steelers to a 13-7 halftime lead.

Willie Parker scored on a 9-yard run with 35 seconds left in the
first quarter and Jeff Reed kicked field goals of 39 and 44 yards
in the second period.

San Diego finally woke up after a lethargic start, with Rivers
leading an 80-yard scoring drive capped when 6-foot-5 Malcolm Floyd
outjumped 5-10 Townsend for a 9-yard catch in the left corner of
the end zone with 1:11 left.

Rivers was intercepted on San Diego's first drive when Ryan
Clark wrestled the ball away from Eric Parker.

San Diego's Nate Kaeding kicked field goals of 28, 33 and 22
yards in the fourth quarter.

Tomlinson gained only 36 yards on 13 carries and had eight
catches for 34 yards..

Game notes
Pittsburgh LB James Harrison injured his left ankle in the
first quarter and didn't return. Tomlinson's backup, Michael Turner, had 56 yards on 11 carries.