Last Thursday was sadly such a microcosm of the Chargers’ season. Yes, the offensive line was once again in shambles as a pass rush that was largely absent all season was in Rivers’ face all night. The Raiders had a field day against Cincy yesterday, you say? If we are comparing ourselves to a winlesss team, then I wish we had the draft position the Bengals have. The line was not the reason that Rivers threw those picks in the first quarter. It reminded me of the 24-0 lead we built against Denver that would eventually be gone by the third quarter. I’m sure you remember Quentin Jammer finding a gift interception he returned for a TD. The Chargers didn’t really do anything to get that lead, which was why they eventually surrendered it. By the time the Chargers took the lead, the defense responded by immediately giving it right back.
Derwin James may very well be that important, but this is the aspect of the Chargers’ season that has gone largely undiscussed. So often the defense has had the opportunity to put its foot down and hasn’t.
Of course, the second time we took the lead with 4 minutes to play, we also gave up a touchdown. Bosa, who was clearly blocked in the back on an earlier drive, can’t do it alone. Neither can Ingram. It really looked like Bradley had these guys in the softest zone imaginable. Look at what our defense did compared to the Raiders’ on the following drive. I don’t think we stopped them once. Clearly, the plan was to keep everything in front of them until Jenkins whiffed on Jacobs for the touchdown. It just looked like a prevent. If you want to give Carr credit for “taking what the defense gave him,” as I saw Brian Baldinger do, you can. My argument is that the defense GAVE HIM AN AWFUL LOT. This is why people hate the “picket fence” play Bradley uses every time we get a team in third and long.
Once Oakland missed the extra point, I was more despondent than optimistic. There will never be a team that has seen more opponents miss kicks than this team. Even with the loss at Detroit based on Ty Long’s misses (and there were plenty of other mistakes made by the Chargers), we’ve come out straight ahead. The Chargers took the ball with about a minute to go and all of their time outs. I don’t know if you blame the line, Phil, or the play calls. I guess you’d have to blame all three. But on a night that Melvin Gordon looked unstoppable, you didn’t call one run or screen for him or Ekler. When the Chargers scored on the pass to Henry, everyone wondered how they almost got picked off for the third time. They were running so well with Gordon, that I was already missing him next season when he plays like that elsewhere. Then Rivers throws to Kendricks I think in traffic? It looked like Seattle in the Super Bowl. The Raiders, with their usually 8 million penalties, negated the play. But it should never have been thrown to begin with. I can’t only blame Rivers, though I know he can check out of a pass or throw somewhere else.
The same befuddlement occurred on the final drive. There is no question Rivers was off, hit after the whistle and not close on many long passes. But that’s all they ran. Last season, Mahomes and Kelce were waving their towels to get the fans to drown out the Chargers offense. This year, Carr barely needed to. The offense looked so panicked that all the criticism of the final drive was more than warranted. Rivers took his share of the blame, as he should. Lynn protected his new OC from too much heat, but it was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen as a Chargers fan. That’s saying an awful lot. The thing is, I wasn’t surprised given some of the decisions on that first touchdown drive. They used balance to get the lead, then a soft zone surrendered it, and then we went into full Norv “chuck and suck” mode to finish.
The Chargers could win tonight, but I’m not even sure I want them to. Yes, winning would somehow let Oakland move into first place, but it’s not the Raiders I care about. You can “stub your toe” with a few games like the Chargers did against Denver and Baltimore last year. But this team really blew it against the Lions, Broncos, Texans, Titans, and now Raiders. The game they were getting blown out in all night was against the 3rd string QB of the Steelers.
Kyle Brandt of GMFB said it best. The Chargers might win a few and then everyone will look at the help they need and maybe feel a little bad for them. But they did this to themselves. Could they win their last six, which would include four divisional games, one at Jacksonville, and one at home to the Vikings? They could, but what seems more likely is to do as I saw the Mets do all year long and crawl back into it just to shit themselves.
No, I don’t think the Raiders are that good. But I also didn’t think the Nationals would win the World Series. Right now, Baltimore looks unstoppable. However, the playoffs really allow for any team to win on any given Sunday (or Saturday). I don’t see the Chargers getting themselves into that spot. I counted them out after the Pittsburgh game and would love to be proved wrong. They can say all they want about “everything still being in front of them,” but just can’t see them keeping it together for any length of time and I don’t think injuries are entirely to blame. Telesco knew that Okung had an embolism and now has a groin pull. Trent Scott has been awful every game. Lynn says Jenkins doesn’t miss too many tackles, but then he whiffs on Jacobs. The Chargers say that this is their playoffs and that they must win to stay alive. However, the playoffs only last four games at most. This entire season was supposed to be about setting themselves up so that they wouldn’t have to go on the road and play more games to get to the Super Bowl. I can’t imagine them winning six in a row and if they did losing in the first or second round wouldn’t get us any closer to our ultimate goal. Tua may never be the same and I don’t see them parting ways with Rivers. Unfortunately, I don’t see Rivers getting any reinforcements on the line or ever getting any of those late hit calls. Remember he should have gotten one on the final touchdown drive in KC last year. In other words, I don’t see a way out of this mess. I’ll be watching of course but I am almost tempted to do so in bed after taking a sleeping pill. I think this team has already used up all its chances this season. The only way they draft a QB is to get a high pick. Honestly, Tyrod Taylor deserved to at least be a part of the offense in some gadget role given what they pay him.
It’s the week before the week before Thanksgiving and I feel like the season is for all intents and purposes done.