Gilchrist’s interception saves Chargers’ 27-24 win
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marcus Gilchrist was in position to make the final big play in a game full of crazy twists and turns.
The strong safety intercepted journeyman Shaun Hill at the goal line with 56 seconds left to preserve the San Diego Chargers’ 27-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday that helped tighten the AFC West race.
Gilchrist jumped the route as Hill tried to force a pass to Kenny Britt, who also was covered by Shareece Wright, on second-and-goal from the 4.
Hill had beaten Gilchrist on a 7-yard TD pass to Stedman Bailey with 2:04 left that pulled the Rams within three points.
“My man didn’t really do too much, so I just looked back at the quarterback and I saw a crossing route coming up and I was able to go at it,” Gilchrist said.
His immediate reaction?
“Thank you Lord,” Gilchrist said. “It’s one of those plays that as a kid you dream of. In basketball you want to make the game-winning shot, and in football you want to make the game-winning play, somehow.”
Here are some things learned from the Chargers’ victory:
THE PICKOFF: “They had good coverage on my primary, and Kenny just kind of flashed and I pulled,” Hill said. “It was just a reaction.
“The coaches put the ball in my hands with a chance to win the game, and I appreciate that,” Hill said. “I let them down. There’s no way you can sit there and second-guess the play calling. If you’re going to second-guess anything, second-guess the guy who didn’t execute the play, and that’s me.”
TIGHT RACE: The Chargers (7-4) won their second straight game after a three-game losing streak. They pulled into a second-place tie in the AFC West with Kansas City, which lost at Oakland on Thursday night. Denver rallied to beat Miami and leads the division at 8-3.
RAMS’ BLUNDERS: The Rams had two touchdown passes nullified by penalties, although they ended up scoring on one of those drives, and had a field goal attempt blocked.
“I feel very bad for our football team considering the way they played,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We had an opportunity to win at the end of the game, and you can’t take that away. That was a tough one. There’s no blame to be placed on anyone.”
The Rams (4-7) were trying for consecutive wins for the first time this season, having upset Denver a week earlier.
“The plan was not to go down there and settle for a field goal. We were trying to win the game,” Fisher said. “It’s not Shaun’s fault. He got us there. He made some big throws earlier that kept us in the game.”
TWO TDs IN 21 SECONDS: Ryan Mathews had a 32-yard touchdown run and linebacker Andrew Gachkar scored on a 13-yard fumble recovery 21 seconds later for the Chargers.
The Chargers’ third-quarter outburst started when Mathews took a delayed handoff and picked his way up the middle to cap their first possession of the second half for a 13-10 lead. It was his first touchdown since opening night. Mathews sprained his right knee in Week 2 and missed the next seven games.
On the second play of the ensuing Rams drive, Chargers end Corey Liuget hit Hill as he was trying to pass, knocking the ball loose. Gachkar alertly swooped in, picked up the ball and scored for a 20-10 lead.
Gachkar seemed to be the only player who realized it was a fumble.
“It was pretty lucky,” Gachkar said. “I basically blacked out once I picked the ball up because I hadn’t scored since high school. I had no energy after it because my entire team basically hit me celebrating. It was pretty cool.”
PICK-6: The Chargers had a third-and-goal from the Rams 8 early in the second quarter when Janoris Jenkins outmuscled Keenan Allen for a pass from Philip Rivers and returned it 99 yards to give the Rams a 10-3 lead.
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