By Dave Thomas
For the Los Angeles Chargers, 2017 proved to be so close, yet so far.
Tied with four other AFC teams with 9-7 records, the Chargers missed out on their first visit to the playoffs since 2013. Despite a pair of those 9-7 clubs getting playoff berths (Tennessee, Buffalo), Los Angeles was left on the outside looking in.
So what kept the Chargers out of the playoffs—besides not having as good a conference mark as Buffalo, which ended a 17-year playoff drought?
Chargers Got Off To Slow Start
One of the biggest hurdles the Chargers had to climb during the 2017 campaign was overcoming a sluggish start. After opening the season 0-4, the Bolts had essentially two roads in front of them.
They could all but tank the season and focus on 2018, or they could regroup under first-year head coach Anthony Lynn and make a push for the postseason. As it turns out, the Chargers took the latter road.
Starting with an early October win at the New York Giants, the Chargers righted the ship sooner than later. Before it was all said and done, the Bolts had reeled off three straight victories before a tough loss in New England to the defending Super Bowl champions.
From there, a hard-fought three-point loss in Jacksonville would be followed by four straight victories.
During that winning streak, Los Angeles outscored the opposition 131-53.
With a battle for first place on the line in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium on a mid-December Saturday night, the Chargers laid an egg, dropping a 30-10 decision. Although the Bolts were still mathematically alive for the division and wild card races, the former was all but out of reach.
Heading into the final two games of the regular season, Los Angeles defeated the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Unfortunately, it was not enough to get the team into postseason action.
Rivers, Allen Among Those With Solid Seasons
Even with the playoff disappointment, the Chargers had much to smile about this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers put up some noteworthy numbers yet again. Most notably, Rivers joined the exclusive 50,000-yard passing club. For the season, Rivers finished with 4,515 yards passing. That went along with 28 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.
Starting wide receiver Keenan Allen also put up some positive numbers. Allen caught 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns. Teammate Hunter Henry caught 45 passes for 579 yards and four scores. The second-year tight end has shown that he is slowly taking over the spot that future Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates has been holding down for more than a decade.
On the ground, starting running back Melvin Gordon ended his campaign with 1,105 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
Over on the defense, second-year defensive end Joey Bosa continued to show why he was a smart pick by the Bolts. Bosa capped the year with 70 total tackles and 12.5 sacks. Fellow end Melvin Ingram turned in 10.5 sacks on the season. Leading the charge for Los Angeles was safety Jahleel Addae with 96 total stops (66 solo tackles).
For the Chargers, Allen, Rivers, Bosa (starter), and Casey Hayward were named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad.
Although the team did not accomplish its goal of reaching the playoffs, it appears things are headed in the right direction for rookie head coach Anthony Lynn and his troops.
Along with division rivals, the Chargers are slated to host Cincinnati, Baltimore, Tennessee, Arizona and San Francisco in 2018. Along with AFC West foes, the Bolts will visit Buffalo, Cleveland, the L.A. Rams, Seattle and Pittsburgh.
So, are you ready for some Chargers football in 2018?