- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

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 on Sunday.

“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 Bowl selection and two-time NFL defensive player of the year.

The Chargers needed a touchdown to win and had the ball on the Baltimore 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 making 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 short-handed 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 Baltimore 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.”

Rivers tied Hall of Famer Dan Fouts for third-most passing yards in a game.

A week after amassing a franchise-record 501 yards in a win against Kansas City, the Ravens couldn’t quite put away the Chargers. San Diego was missing running back LaDainian Tomlinson, center Nick Hardwick and right guard Louis Vasquez because of injuries.

Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes, and Willis McGahee ran for two more.

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