By Dave Thomas
If the San Diego Chargers do not make the playoffs this season, they may very well look back on last Sunday’s 30-24 overtime loss in Washington D.C. as the one that got away.
In a game that the Chargers led at one point 14-7, San Diego (4-4) would go on to lose a game that it certainly could have used for momentum going into this Sunday’s home showdown with the 7-1 Denver Broncos. As it played out, the Chargers rallied to tie the game in the final seconds at 24, only to watch Robert Griffin III and the Redskins put it away in overtime. Needless to say, that was likely a long cross-country flight home for the men wearing blue and gold.
With this past Sunday’s loss, the Chargers failed to extend a modest win streak to three games (had beaten Indianapolis and Jacksonville in the two games prior to the bye). The Chargers could have also brought their record against the NFC East this season to 3-0, having beaten Philadelphia and Dallas back in September.
San Diego Lacking Consistency
As a result of losing to the Redskins ( 2-5 at the time), one can’t help but question if the Chargers truly are an AFC playoff team or not.
In some games this season (notably wins over Indianapolis and Jacksonville) the Bolts looked like a team that took command early and was not going to slip. In other games, however, (notably the loss at Oakland in early October) San Diego looked more like a team that would struggle to even make it to .500.
If you take a look at some of San Diego’s statistics at the halfway point of the season, the Chargers have not received consistent play for the most part from some of their key players.
QB Philip Rivers heads into this Sunday’s contest with a quarterback passer rating of 106.5. Yes, a solid number, but one that Rivers knows could be even better.
To date, Rivers has thrown for 2,473 yards, 17 TD’s and seven interceptions. Although the last number is one Rivers would love to have lowered, he still is not showing signs (except for two crucial INT’s in the fourth quarter of the loss at Oakland) of going down the road he traveled in 2011, wherein he threw a career-high 20 interceptions. Those ugly turnovers in the loss to the Raiders though prevented San Diego from now being 5-3 instead of 4-4. For Charger fans, having Rivers duplicate his 2010 campaign, wherein he threw for a career-high 4,710 yards and 30 TD’s would be ideal.
The Chargers ground game has been one of the more glaring inconsistencies this season.
Although running back Ryan Mathews (480 yards, one TD) turned in a pair of nice performances against the Colts and Jaguars, he has still not established himself as an elite back in the NFL.
That was made very apparent by the fact that the Chargers could not score from a yard out late in the game against the Redskins on three straight attempts. Instead the Bolts settled for a Nick Novak field goal to tie it at 24-24. As the old notion goes, if you can’t score from a yard out, do you really deserve to win the game?
Chargers Defense Needs to Lock Down Opponents
Lastly, San Diego’s defense has not been horrid this year, but the Bolts will have to play their best game of the year on that side of the ball to have any chance of knocking off Denver this Sunday.
The Chargers have outscored the opposition by 18 points to date (192-174), but allowing teams like Houston (31 points), Philadelphia (30), Oakland (27) and Washington (30) to score 27 or more points should be a concern.
While Philadelphia’s Michael Vick and Washington’s Robert Griffin III can certainly get points from the quarterback position, Peyton Manning is a sizable step up from those two mentioned. Throw in the fact that the Chargers get Manning twice and a hot Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) over the next month, and the “D” will need to be more consistent in order to give San Diego a chance to win.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.