By Dave Thomas
Although it is not a decades-long drought, the Los Angeles Chargers and their fans have to be getting a little antsy at this point. Not having made the post-season since 2013, the Chargers will once again be spectators this time around.
Despite a solid 30-10 win at home Sunday against the hated Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles (9-7) saw its season officially come to an end when Tennessee held on to defeat AFC South champion Jacksonville at home.
That win by the Titans sends them to Kansas City next weekend for a first-round playoff game with the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills ended 17 years of futility and will travel to Jacksonville to meet the Jaguars next weekend. That became possible when Baltimore blew a fourth quarter lead at home and watched Cincinnati escape in a 31-27 victory.
Getting back to the Chargers and their win over the Raiders, it was a game where Los Angeles was in control for much of the day. Despite coming in at 6-9, the Raiders were competitive early on, but as they have on a number of occasions this season, the Silver and Black faded in the second half and scored no points.
Despite missing the playoffs once again, veteran QB Philip Rivers ends his season on a high note. Rivers threw for 387 yards and three scores in the rout. Topping it off, Rivers surpassed 50,000 passing yards for his career (50,348 total). Keep in mind that less than a dozen quarterbacks in the history of the league have accomplished such a feat (Peyton Manning leads with 71,940 career yards).
Starting wide receiver Keenan Allen hauled in nine catches for 133 yards and one score through the air. Allen scored the game’s first points when he grabbed a fumble from running back Melvin Gordon and raced 27 yards to the house.. Both Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams also caught touchdown passes. On the ground, Gordon led the charge with 93 yards on 17 carries.
Although Oakland’s offense is not exactly the most explosive in the league, the Raiders do have some weapons. That said, Los Angeles did a good job defensively in shutting those weapons down for the most part. Desmond King paced the Chargers with nine total tackles, while Tre Boston added an interception of Oakland quarterback Derek Carr. Over the last two games, Los Angeles held its opponents (Jets, Raiders) to a mere 17 points. Had Los Angeles made the playoffs, it is safe to assume most opposing quarterbacks would not have wanted to face this unit.
Special Teams: C
In what was essentially a microcosm of the season, the Chargers’ kicking game had its struggles yet again. Los Angeles kicker Nick Rose was one-of-two on field goals, along with missing one of his four extra point attempts. Meantime, punter Drew Kaser had only two punts on the day for a 31.5 yard average.
While he likely will not win the award, rookie head coach Anthony Lynn should certainly get some recognition in the Coach of the Year race. Lynn salvaged what could have been a horrific season as the Chargers began 0-4. To win nine of their next 12 games, the Chargers showed that they can be a playoff team when things are clicking, notably on the defensive side of the ball.
Los Angeles has to feel good overall despite missing the playoffs once again. Coming off of a 5-11 record in their final campaign in San Diego a year ago, the Chargers appear to have turned the corner playing in their temporary home in Carson, California. With question marks in both Oakland and Denver going into the 2018 season, Los Angeles has to feel like it can compete with division winner Kansas City. Despite losing both games this season to the Chiefs, the Chargers can’t be overlooked next season as they look to end their playoff drought.