By Dave Thomas
Going on the road back East in late December can be quite a trying experience for teams not used to playing in the cold weather. The Los Angeles Chargers got a break on what could have been a real nasty weather day in New Jersey on Christmas Eve.
Quarterback Philip Rivers tossed a touchdown pass to longtime teammate Antonio Gates and running back Melvin Gordon scored from one yard out to lead the Chargers to a hard-fought 14-7 win over the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.
The victory kept the Chargers’ playoff hopes alive as they head into the final week of the season and a New Year’s Eve home date with the hated Oakland Raiders.
Sitting at 8-7, Los Angeles still must defeat the Raiders next Sunday and get help along the way to snatch their first playoff spot since 2013.
On a day where neither offense was burning up the stat sheet, the Chargers did just enough to grab the victory. Rivers ended up going 22-of-40 for 290 yards and the one TD pass. Best of all, Rivers did not throw an interception. A week earlier, the quarterback tossed three INT’s in a disheartening and important loss at Kansas City.
On the ground, Gordon finished his afternoon with 81 yards on 19 carries, though he would later leave with an injury. Through the air, veteran tight end Gates led the way with six catches for 81 yards. Meanwhile, teammate Keenan Allen caught five balls for 63 yards. Although it was not the prettiest offensive output of the season by far, it was enough to propel this team to victory.
While the Jets are not exactly the most proficient offensive team in the NFL, they did have their chances on Sunday to put more points on the board. In a strange twist, Keenan Allen had an interception for the Bolts, playing defense on the last play of the first half. Hayes Pullard III led the Chargers with eight total tackles, with Korey Toomer and Isaac Rochell each adding a sack. New York had a shot at a game-tying TD on its final drive, but a fourth down pass from quarterback Bryce Petty went incomplete in the end zone with just over three minutes remaining.
Special Teams: C
Los Angeles missed on a golden opportunity to score points when Travis Benjamin’s 91-yard punt return was called back on a holding penalty. The Bolts also had a possible three points go by the wayside when new kicker Nick Rose missed on a 47-yard field goal attempt. Punter Drew Kaser had a busy day, punting the ball nine times for a 46.2-yard average.
One has to credit the job that rookie head coach Anthony Lynn has done with this bunch. Starting the season at 0-4, most left the Chargers for dead. Lynn rallied the team to get to this point, where they are still mathematically alive going into the final weekend. Even if they fail to get off the playoff snide, credit should go to the Bolts for not tanking after the awful start to the season.
Los Angeles awaits a visit from Oakland next Sunday with a playoff spot potentially still on the line, depending on what happens earlier in the day. Oakland, which leads the all-time series with Los Angeles 63-51-2, was slated to visit Philadelphia on Christmas night.