Chargers collect monumental road win over playoff-quality team

This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 13, the San Diego Chargers' frantic final-minute road win over the Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers' thrilling win, as well as the greatest comeback win in Jacksonville Jaguars history and the Green Bay Packers' fending off of the potent New England Patriots are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 13.

One could easily make a case that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is having an MVP season. The amazing seasons of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- not to mention the havoc-wreaking ridiculousness that is J.J. Watt's campaign for the Houston Texans -- tend to overshadow what Rivers has done this season. Rivers hammered that point home with a come-from-behind road win against a playoff-quality team, a victory that thrust the Chargers into the heart of the AFC playoff race.

Here are the key moments before the moment:

That was easy

The play:Ravens quarterback "Joltin'" Joe Flacco hits receiver Torrey Smith for a 16-yard touchdown play. It was spectacular on the receiving end, where Smith made a juggling one-handed catch to put Baltimore up 7-0 early.

The aftermath: The Ravens capitalized on receiving the opening kickoff, driving down the field with ease on an eight-play, 61-yard drive. Flacco was 4-for-5 on the drive. The Chargers' attempt to answer that score was shortlived. Rivers was intercepted by linebacker Daryl Smith on the drive's second play. Four plays later, the Ravens got a field goal from kicker Justin Tucker and held a 10-0 advantage.

Bolts charge back

The play: Rivers and receiver Keenan Allen hook up for a 12-yard touchdown play to trim the Ravens' lead to 10-7.

The aftermath: The Chargers responded to the Ravens' early advantage, embarking on a 13-play, 80-yard drive to attain the team's first score of the game shortly before the end of the first quarter. The Chargers and Ravens would exchange field goals in the second quarter -- the Ravens with two and Chargers with one -- as Baltimore went into intermission with a 16-10 lead.

Smith strikes again

The play: Flacco connects with Smith in the end zone for the second time in the game, and the Ravens built a 23-13 lead.

The aftermath: This would be the first of two times that the Chargers would be down 10 on the Ravens. Smith, meanwhile, had his second multiple touchdown game of the season. The Ravens had been 12-0 when Smith caught a touchdown pass at home. It'd be 12-1 when this one was over.

Chargers mount rally

The play: Rivers and Allen intersect for a second time for a score, this time on a 23-yard touchdown play.

The aftermath: After the Chargers -- on a 14-yard scoring run by Ryan Mathews -- and the Ravens -- on a 1-yard touchdown run by Flacco -- the Chargers were back down by 10 with a little more than six minutes left to play. Allen finished the day with 11 receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. This marked back-to-back 100-yard games for Allen, who also notched his eighth career 100-yard game.

The moment

The play: On first and goal from the Ravens' 1-yard line, Rivers and receiver Eddie Royal complete a go-ahead scoring play with less than 40 seconds to play. The Chargers scored a touchdown on their final three possessions of the game to earn the win.

The aftermath: The Chargers' only lead of the game was all they needed to pull off the unlikely victory. The Ravens' last-chance-saloon drive was thwarted in the final seconds, and San Diego collected a massive win in its hopes of a second consecutive playoff berth.

The Chargers became the first West Coast-based team to win a game at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium (Chargers are 1-2, Seattle Seahawks 0-1, Arizona Cardinals 0-2, San Francisco 49ers 0-2, Oakland Raiders 0-4). For the Ravens, it was also their first loss at home in November since 2009.

San Diego's path to the postseason is daunting. The Baltimore game was a virtual must-win situation when you take a gander at the Chargers' remaining schedule. It's the toughest schedule for any team in the playoff picture. After the Chargers host the New England Patriots in Week 14 and Denver Broncos in Week 15 at Qualcomm Stadium, the team goes on the road for the final two games of the season against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15 at Levi's Stadium and concluding the regular season against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

If the Chargers can somehow navigate that daunted December stretch, they might just point to this road win in Baltimore as a turning point on the road to the playoffs.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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