By Dave Thomas
After a heart-breaking 24-21 loss to the Denver Broncos this past Monday evening, the Los Angeles Chargers head “home” for a pair of games against AFC foes Miami and Kansas City, respectively.
When one says “home” for the Chargers, it is a bit of a stretch to say the Bolts will have a true home-field advantage this season – or the few after that.
Unless one was under a rock this past year, they know that the Chargers are calling Carson, California their temporary home for a few years. After bolting from San Diego and the countless loyal fans who followed the team for decades, the Chargers are now a team without their own permanent stadium. Sure, they will share the new stadium being built in Inglewood, Calif. with the Rams in a few years, but that is the future and not now.
So, can the Chargers expect the 30,000 or so fans who will show up for their eight regular season home games to be true die-hard Bolts fans? Or will it be much like the last several decades in San Diego? Even with a seating capacity of close to 70,000 at the Chargers’ former home in San Diego, the team did not always have a real advantage. Whether it was playing the Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers or a number of other teams, the fan mix at games could be close to or even 50-50 on some days.
Product On Field Will Go Long Way In Determining Fan Reaction
In order for the Chargers to have a better chance of putting fans in the seats at their temporary home in Carson, they will need to play better than they did in the loss at Denver.
Granted, the Bolts did fight back, clawing their way within a game-tying field goal with :05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, after making his first attempt, Younghoe Koo missed on the second (Denver called timeout just as the rookie prepared to kick the first one). Whether bad luck or a sign of things to come for this season, the Bolts left the Mile High City with a bad taste in their mouths.
On the bright side, veteran QB Philip Rivers shows no signs of slowing down, tossing three TD passes along the way Monday evening. Even with some injury issues at spots coming into the season, the Chargers know they have a reliable gunslinger under center.
What Is Needed Next 15 Games
Among some of the keys to making the product on the field work this season in the remaining 15 regular season games:
* Keeping Rivers healthy – Even as durable as the veteran quarterback out of North Carolina State has proven to be, it would only take one serious injury to Rivers to throw the Chargers’ season into potential disarray. One of the biggest issues in recent years for the Bolts has been always having to deal with a patchwork offensive line. If the O-Line can stay together and healthy this time around, it could make a difference in wins and losses.
* Allen avoiding the hospital – Another key player who must avoid medical issues this season is wide receiver Keenan Allen. After a stellar rookie campaign several years back, Allen has seen a pair of seasons end with serious injuries. With 226 receptions (2013-17) and 17 TD’s in his brief career, Allen will be counted upon heavily again this season to be the go-to guy.
* Bosa playing even better – Following a stellar 2016 campaign. Ohio State product Joey Bosa will be asked to do even more this season at his defensive end position. Bosa tallied 10.5 sacks a season ago, something that the Chargers could use even more of in 2017. If the youngster can become even more dominant, it could make the Los Angeles defense even better.
* Rookie head coach must coach like a veteran – Last, there is no substitute for experience. As was shown down the stretch of Monday’s loss in Denver, rookie head coach Anthony Lynn seemed a little unsure of clock management. Since the Chargers are more than likely going to have their share of close games this season, clock management could very well prove key. For example, if you watch the Patriots on a regular basis, you almost never see head coach Bill Belichick run into clock management issues. As such, QB Tom Brady or New England’s defense appear relatively calm out their in a tight game down the stretch. If Lynn can gain experience in properly using the clock as time goes by, that is one less thing the Bolts and their fans will need to worry about.
On Deck This Weekend
With the Miami Dolphins coming to Carson this Sunday, the Bolts look to get in the win column.
Miami had its game this past weekend against Tampa Bay postponed due to Hurricane Irma. As a result, the Dolphins do not have a regular season game under their belts. With veteran QB Jay Cutler at the helm for the Dolphins, an old rivalry between him and Rivers will be renewed. When Cutler was in Denver for a number of years, he and Rivers had quite an intense little rivalry going.
Looking at the bigger picture, Los Angeles needs a win on Sunday to avoid going 0-2 heading into a showdown at home the following Sunday with division rival Kansas City. The Chiefs rebounded after a sluggish first half to surprise New England on the road (42-27) on Sept. 7.