By Dave Thomas
For the San Diego Chargers, their 37-14 pasting of the New York Giants Sunday afternoon could have not come at a better time.
Faced with dwindling hopes of grabbing an AFC wild card spot as the end of the regular season ticks closer, the Chargers went out on this day and man-handled a New York team that was fighting for its own playoff life over in the NFC. Winners of five of their last six entering this contest, the Giants saw their playoff hopes dashed on a chilly late fall day in Southern California. After winning the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, New York will sit home again come January.
Stymieing any potential ground game that New York (5-8) tried to mount, the Chargers forced Eli Manning into a number of throws that were either dropped by receivers or missed their target. Meantime, Philip Rivers and Co. produced one of their best offensive showings of the season, scoring their second highest point total (41-38 win over Kansas City) of the season.
New York Miscues Prove Costly
Among the things going in San Diego’s favor on this day was the fact that New York was sloppy with the ball.
In all, the Giants (Manning) had a pair of interceptions and coughed up a fumble. San Diego (6-7), meantime, kept New York’s questionable ground game in check for most of the day, holding the Giants to a mere 92 yards net rushing.
Making this win even more satisfying for the Chargers and their fans was the fact that San Diego got an early lead and did not relinquish it as it has in some other games this season. Leading 24-0 before the Giants ever got on the board, the Chargers played one of if not their most complete game of the season.
Was It Too Little, Too Late?
While the Chargers remained alive in the AFC wild card race with the win, time is running out.
Both Baltimore and Miami scored big wins on the day, keeping them each at 7-6. The Chargers sit a game back of both with three to play, including a stiff test this Thursday evening in Denver against the AFC West leading Broncos.
Although the Chargers have not been eliminated from the race, they’d pretty much have to run the table and get some help in the final three games to have any shot of qualifying.
Given Denver hung 51 points on Tennessee this Sunday in a win, not many would like the Chargers hopes when they travel to the Mile High City Dec. 12. That said, there is still some life in San Diego after this impressive win.
Playing one of their most complete games of the season, the Chargers got production on a number of fronts. Running back Ryan Mathews turned in a solid day with 103 yards rushing on 29 carries (one TD). Rivers also had a solid day, going 21-of-28 for 249 yards, three TDs.
On the receiving end, Cal rookie Keenan Allen continued his stellar season, finishing with three receptions for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the day, Allen set the season reception record for a Chargers rookie (he now has 61 on the season). The versatile Danny Woodhead churned out 42 yards rushing on seven days, proving once again that he was a nice off-season pick up for the Bolts.
Most importantly, San Diego’s offensive line for the most part kept Rivers upright on the day despite a pair of sacks.
Much like their offensive counterparts, the defense was equally impressive in the victory. Donald Butler continued his strong season with an interception and three solo tackles, while Shareece Wright also tallied a Manning interception. Marcus Gilchrist recorded six solo stops, while Richard Marshall and Eric Weddle tallied five and four, respectively.
Key to the victory as mentioned earlier was holding the G-Men to under 100 yards net rushing on the day. Although Manning has won his share of games over the years (including a pair of Super Bowls) with his arm, no one will confuse him with older brother Peyton when it comes to passing skills. A near constant rush on the New York quarterback had the younger Manning (20-of-32, 259 yards, one TD, two INT’s) on the run for much of the day. To his defense, Manning could only look on in disbelief on a number of throws where his receivers flat dropped them.
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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.