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Blown 4th-and-29 was a Buckner moment for Bolts

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Blown 4th-and-29 was a Buckner moment for Bolts

SAN DIEGO (AP) In a sense, it was the San Diego Chargers' Bill Buckner moment of 2012.

Although nothing as momentous as a World Series title was on the line, the Chargers' desperate attempt to reach the postseason - and save their coach's job - took a hit with their stunning inability to stop Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens from converting on fourth-and-29 late in regulation Sunday.

It was an ``Are you kidding?'' moment, for sure; one that neatly yet painfully summed up a season in which the Chargers have perfected the come-from-ahead loss.

Joe Flacco took the snap in shotgun formation, looked down field and then dumped the ball to Rice, who had slipped just past the line of scrimmage. The running back cut past three defenders at the 50, kept going and then slammed into two defensive backs.

The ball originally was spotted at the 33. After a long video review, it was moved back to the 34. The refs stretched the chains for a measurement and the Ravens got the first down by the length of the ball. Officially, it was a 29-yard gain.

Six plays later, Justin Tucker kicked a 38-yard field goal as regulation expired, and then won it with another 38-yarder with 1:07 left in overtime.

Afterward, a smiling Rice said the name of his big play was, ``Check down, Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the middle.''

The Chargers (4-7) were pushed closer to oblivion and with it the expected end of the Norv Turner era. Who knows, general manager A.J. Smith might get fired, too, for the glaring deficiencies on a team that Turner at one point said could be ``outstanding'' and started the season at 3-1.

The Chargers led the Ravens by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter and were up by three with two minutes left.

Pushed back by a holding call against guard Marshal Yanda and a 9-yard sack of Flacco by Antwan Barnes, the Ravens were down to their last desperate shot. All the Chargers had to do was get a stop and run out the clock to secure their first win against a team with a winning record this season.

They couldn't do it.

Letting Rice convert was right up there with the Chargers blowing that 24-0 halftime lead against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and letting former teammate Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints escape from a 10-point, second-half deficit.

Asked if Rice's play summed up the Chargers' season, Turner said: ``I guess for you guys, you can say that, and it's easy to say. It's a play we had guys in position to make the play and we didn't handle it very well.''

Linebacker Jarret Johnson, who played his first nine seasons with Baltimore before joining the Chargers as a free agent, was asked the same question Monday.

``You know, I mean, you could say that,'' Johnson said. ``I mean, it's frustrating. It's extremely frustrating because we were just in the locker room talking just as a group of guys, and we have a hard time putting our finger on how we're in this situation or why we're in this situation. We do everything there is to do to win, you know, got them backed up, big play by Barnes getting a sack, and then the inconsistent play to come back and give up a check down for 29 yards to convert and give them the opportunity to kick a field goal is just extremely frustrating.

``I know as media you want something more dramatic than the old technique and fundamentals and all that, but that's what it was,'' he said. ``We took bad angles, didn't get him boxed in when we had the opportunity to, he got out and did what great players do and make a great play. He had a huge block that got him over the line. It's extra frustrating.''

Johnson said the Chargers covered the Ravens deep.

``That's what you want; you want them checking down and you coming up to make the tackle. I've practiced against that guy for five years. The worst thing you can do is get him in the open field. But you still have to get him down and we didn't do it.''

Adding insult to the big gain was when safety Eric Weddle sustained a concussion when he was blocked by receiver Anquan Boldin.

Turner said he spoke with Weddle on Monday.

``Other than feeling that he had been rear-ended on Highway 5 with a clip and a helmet-to-helmet collision, he felt pretty good and it was very positive and he didn't have any signs from having that collision,'' Turner said. ``I thought it was a clip and I thought it was helmet-to-helmet on a defenseless player. It really doesn't matter what I thought, though. Obviously, what matters is the way it's called.''

After 11 games, Turner is still talking about how the Chargers can't put together a complete game.

While Philip Rivers got through just his third game this season without committing a turnover, he was sacked a season-high six times.

Interestingly, Rivers didn't throw a single pass to Robert Meachem, who has all but disappeared since dropping what appeared to be a certain touchdown pass in a 7-6 loss at Cleveland on Oct. 28.

The Chargers certainly expected more from Meachem when they signed him to a four-year deal worth $25.9 million, with $14 million guaranteed, hours after Vincent Jackson left San Diego to sign a five-year, $55.55 million deal with Tampa Bay in March.

Meachem has only 14 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Another big free agent, Eddie Royal, has just 16 catches for 134 yards and one TD.

Meachem, Royal and left tackle Jared Gaither, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Friday, represent some serious dead weight in the big class of free agents signed by Smith.

Smith did make a key move by signing receiver Danario Alexander on Oct. 22.

Alexander has become San Diego's fifth-leading receiver in just five games, with 20 catches for 365 yards and three TDs in five games. Their leading receiver is Malcom Floyd, who has 47 catches for 704 yards and four scores.

``Again, some of it comes down to what we're using in personnel groups,'' Turner said. ``We have a comfort level, obviously, with Malcom. Malcom plays all the positions. We're trying to get Danario going and he's made some plays for us. As I've said, that's where we're at right now.''

San Diego hosts Cincinnati (6-5) on Sunday.

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Fantasy Football: Finding Playoff Help In Week 14 Waiver Wire

Fantasy Football: Finding Playoff Help In Week 14 Waiver Wire

Week 14 of the fantasy football season means owners are entering the playofs or battling for a berth. Well, some are shakng their heads at Adrian Peterson, DeAndre Hopkins and Eddie Lacy and wondering how it all went so wrong, but let's focus on those still alive or glory. Week 14 also means it's time for two lineup reminders:

1) Don't overthink things: Just because Brock Osweiler has by far the easier matchup on paper don't you dare start him over Andrew Luck.

2) Leave stubborn behind: Yes, you drafted Todd Gurley in the first round. Yes, you're feeling like a boss for stashing Dion Lewis. Yes, Dak Prescott is awesome and only you believed in him from Jump Street. That doesn't mean you MUST start them. Use that brain of yours to assess the scene in terms of production and matchup.

Either way, the Waiver Wire remains a viable tool, even if just to prevent others owners from getting help. Here's a look at some of that potential help.

Quarterbacks 

1.  Joe Flacco, BAL vs. Patriots
 
2.  Trevor Siemien, DEN vs. Titans
 
* More than likely you're set at QB so consider this just the writer doing his due dillegance. I'll assume Andy Dalton (vs. Browns) isn't available, which leaves two other AFC options as your best hope if in need. Flacco is coming off a monster and now faces a situation where he could be in catch-up mode during the second half against New England. As for Siemien, who missed last week with an injury, he gets a Tennessee defense allowing the sixth most points to fantasy quarterbacks and at least two touchdown tosses for seven straight weeks.

Running Backs

1. Mike Gillislee, BUF vs. Steelers

2. Jacquizz Rodgers, TB vs. Saints

3.  Kenneth Dixon, BAL vs. Patriots

4. Rex Burkhead, CIN vs. Browns

Others: Charles Sims, TB;  Justin Forsett, DEN, Shane Vereen, NYG

* No screaming must adds, intrigue exists. Gillislee has four rushing touchdowns over the last four weeks with rushing totals of  85, 32, 72 and 49 yards in that span. ...The Bucs backfield is possibly for grabs after Doug Martin sat out the final three drives in Week 13. ... Jeremy Hill likely leads Cincinnati in attempts against Cleveland, but Burkhead should be all kinds of active in the regular game plan and possible garbage time. 
 
Wide Receivers 

1.  Pierre Garcon, WAS at Eagles
 
2.  Malcolm Mitchell, NE vs. Ravens

3. Adam Thielen, MIN vs. Jaguars
 
4.  Dontrelle Inman, SD at Panthers

5. Tyler Lockett, SEA at Packers
 
5.  Ted Ginn, CAR vs. Chargers
 
* If you like your otther lineup options and need safe help at receiver, look at Garcon (At least 6-67 in four of last five weeks) and Thielen (7 for 89 in Week 13). Mitchell (17 catches, 222 yards and three touchdowns over last three games), Inman, Lockett and Ginn, have higher ceilings.

Tight Ends 

1.  Gary Barnidge, CLE vs. Bengals
 
2.  Dennis Pitta, BAL at Patriots
 
3.  Lance Kendricks, LA vs. Falcons
 
* The Barnidge recommednation isn't about the expected return of Robert Griffin II -- as if -- but facing a Bengals defense allowing the second most points to fantasy tight ends.
 
Defenses – Because you stream this position

1. 49ers (vs. Jets)

2. Colts (vs.Texans)

3. Jets (at 49ers)

* For those already in the playoffs, look ahead to Week 15 and 16 for possible additions.

MORE NFL: Hungry Flacco can almost taste the playoffs

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Joe Flacco leading by example as he tries to lead Ravens to playoffs

Joe Flacco leading by example as he tries to lead Ravens to playoffs

Joe Flacco is trying to make the playoffs for the seventh time in nine NFL seasons, and you can tell he smells the postseason.

Judging from Sunday’s sparkling performance against the Dolphins (36 for 47, 381 yards, four TD’s), the Ravens’ quarterback is ready for the stretch run. The next challenge is Ravens at Patriots on Monday Night Football, which will have the intensity of a playoff game.

Ravens veterans like Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and Marshal Yanda have been through epic battles in New England before, and have delivered in clutch situations. Part of their job this week is to prepare younger teammates, not only for Monday night, but for a December run that the Ravens (7-5) hope will carry them to the playoffs.

“You try to look around you and see who’s been through it with you before, and you see a couple of guys, really,” said quarterback Joe Flacco. “The biggest thing is just trying to somehow get it through to the young guys how unique of an opportunity we have. Getting to the playoffs is a big-time accomplishment, and to position yourself in December to play these meaningful games is also a big-time accomplishment, and you can’t take it for granted. You’ve got to keep your focus 100 percent of the time.’’

To beat the Patriots, the Ravens will need contributions from several young players who have never played against the Patriots, like left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Tavon Young, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, and outside linebacker Matt Judon. Flacco isn’t one for rah-rah speeches, but he’ll be delivering messages this week.

“When you’re a young player, sometimes you might think, ‘Oh, there’s always tomorrow,’ and in this league, you never know when you’re going to get your golden opportunity,” Flacco said. “So you have to take every little thing as a big opportunity and make the most of it.”

MORE RAVENS: Ravens fan-favorite on the move again