By Dave Thomas
If you took a quick look at the 2013 season to date for the San Diego Chargers, it would show one of utter frustration for the most part. On Sunday, the Chargers put some of that frustration to bed.
In danger of dropping to 4-7 on the season, the Chargers continued to rally, leaving difficult Arrowhead Stadium with a hard-fought 41-38 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. In doing so, the Bolts improved their wild card chances in moving to 5-6, while the Chiefs dropped their second straight division game after opening the season 9-0.
On this bitterly cold Sunday in the nation’s heartland, San Diego had to earn just about every yard and point it got on the day. At times, it also looked like the referees might have been wearing a little red and white, but that conversation can be saved for another day.
Going into the contest, San Diego had dropped three straight games, two of which (Washington and Miami) were contests they could and should have won. While the Bolts only fell to Denver 28-20 sandwiched in between those other two games, the Chargers were outplayed for the most part in that contest.
Chargers Deal Chiefs Second Straight Setback
In a game that saw the Chargers fall behind early 14-3, Philip Rivers and Co. never threw in the towel. Although San Diego has not quit in any of its other games this season, it would have been easy on this fall day to essentially do just that.
With their defense giving up 38 points, the Chargers looked at times more like the Jaguars or Texans playing defense, but they made some key stops when necessary to give Rivers and the offense some chances to pull out the win. With the opportunities available to him, Rivers did just that.
Criticized earlier in the season for blowing games to Houston and Tennessee, then dropping ugly contests this month on the road at Washington and Miami, the Chargers finished the deal on this day at Arrowhead.
Whether or not this win is the jolt the Bolts needed to make a run for an AFC Wild Card spot remains to be seen.
What it does tell you, however, is that new head coach Mike McCoy, veteran QB Rivers, and everyone else wearing blue and gold in some form or another has not thrown in the towel on the 2013 campaign by a long shot.
While the journey may not end up with the team’s first trip to the AFC playoffs in four seasons, it will be one that is likely going to be packed with exciting finishes over the next five games.
Offense Grade: B+
Even though San Diego struggled at times to move both the pile and the ball, the Chargers did just enough (491 yards of total offense) to leave with the victory.
It all starts and stops with the play of Rivers. Sure, the North Carolina State product has thrown some ugly INT’s during his time in the league, but no one will ever question his heart and/or effort. Rivers finished the day 27-of-39 for 392 yards and three TD’s. More importantly, he has become more and more comfortable this season with Cal rookie Keenan Allen (nine receptions, 124 yards). The latter is becoming one of the go-to guys for Rivers, something most would not have predicted at the start of the season.
Also deserving props on this day is one Danny Woodhead. While he may not have entirely replaced Darren Sproles (left for New Orleans a few seasons back), Woodhead is as gutsy a runner and/or receiver out of the backfield as they come. The former New England Patriot had a pair of TD’s (one rushing, one receiving) on the day.
Kudos also to what is essentially a makeshift offensive line. Yes, Rivers was hurried on a number of occasions and sacked once, but the O-Line did just enough to help get this team the much-needed win.
Defense Grade: C+
You might wonder why a defense would get an average and not abysmal grade on a day when it allowed 38 points. Truth to be told, the Chargers defense did just enough to get out of Kansas City with the victory. KC quarterback Alex Smith threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns, but he was also sacked three times on the day. Kudos to Donald Butler (seven solo tackles), corner Shareece Wright (six solo tackles) and Eric Weddle and Richard Marshall (five solo stops each) among others.
On one Kansas City scoring drive, San Diego’s ‘D’ was flagged for three pass interference calls (two of which were questionable at best). Yes, the secondary is still average at best – on some days it looks much worse – but they did clamp down on Smith and Co. when most needed. With that said, the ‘D’ will get some formidable challenges over the next three games in meeting up with Andy Dalton (Cincinnati), Eli Manning (New York Giants) and Peyton Manning (Denver).
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.