The San Diego Chargers finally closed out a game, and it happened to be against one of the better teams in football in the Denver Broncos.
It makes it even better that Denver’s loss snapped what was a 15-game winning streak against divisional opponents on the road. 15 straight games is incredible–and the Chargers, who hadn’t won a divisional game since 2014, were the ones to end it.
The sad thing was, this game wasn’t even close in the beginning. The Chargers, per usual, came out strong and dominated an elite defense. The Chargers’ defense shut down the Broncos’ offense with ease. It wasn’t flashy at all, but the Chargers led the Broncos 19-3 going into the fourth quarter.
But we all knew the inevitable was coming–not even Denzel Washington could prevent this from happening. The Broncos came back and had a chance to tie the game and bring it to overtime. Thankfully, the Hail Mary attempt by quarterback Trevor Siemian fell short as safety Dexter McCoil was there to bat the ball down.
Textbook play, but it wasn’t a textbook win. You see, we complained about head coach Mike McCoy’s inability to lead this team to victory, especially since he’s the type of coach who plays not to lose. While the Chargers got the win on Thursday, McCoy’s conservative approach still haunts this team.
San Diego’s squad has legitimately been one of the best teams in the NFL until the fourth quarter starts, incredibly leading for 62.9 percent of their games. Only four teams have had the lead more often. The Chargers have outscored opponents in the first halves of games by 57 points, a number you might expect to see from an undefeated team. – Around The NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal
The Chargers could have easily lost this game. Heck, I think they would have lost this game if the Broncos had a better quarterback–and that’s the problem.
How many closed their eyes in disgust when running back C.J. Anderson scored a 20-yard touchdown with just under five minutes to play in the fourth? Luckily, a holding penalty on left tackle Russell Okung negated the touchdown. One play later, Jatavis Brown flies in for a 10-yard sack. The next play? Brown forces a fumble with a great hit on Jordan Taylor, and Craig Mager recovers the ball. Seriously, how good is Brown?
If the Anderson touchdown would have counted, the Broncos would have cut the lead to four, and I truly believe the Bolts wouldn’t have hung on. The Chargers punted three times in their last three possessions, which included two three-and-outs. The play calling was predictable, and the offense sputtered.
Realistically, when the Bolts lose, the headline should read, “The San Diego Chargers lost another one to Mike McCoy.” Hate on defensive coordinator John Pagano all you want, but his defense has been stepping up. A few play calls such as putting your best pass-rusher (Melvin Ingram) in coverage along with playing soft (prevent defense) at certain times will irk you, but the defense is on the rise. They have playmakers; they’re creating turnovers; they’re becoming a faster and stronger defense.
With that said, the defense is getting gassed at the end of the game because of the offense’s inability to drive the ball down field. The second the offense becomes conservative, they fall apart. And when they fall apart, it puts the defense in a bad position. It happened in every single loss–and it almost happened in Thursday’s win.
You can’t expect the defense to keep performing at a high level when the offense constantly goes three-and-out in the second half of games. Like I mentioned once before, some of the blame goes on the players as well. You can’t make stupid mistakes like fumbling on a kickoff (Kenny Wiggins) or having the ball hit you in the shin on a punt return and turning it over to the opposing team in your territory (Travis Benjamin).
But it all comes back to McCoy and even offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
I don’t care what anybody says: This is a good football team that actually has a chance in a somewhat weak AFC. The rookies are putting on a show, and Philip Rivers is still doing his thing (and passing Dan Fouts for the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards!) But they will likely be held back by the head coach. Wouldn’t you think that he’d learn from his mistakes by now? That he’d step on the gas and be aggressive? That he’d make adjustments when needed?
Don’t get me wrong, a win is a win. But McCoy will cost us more games than win them.
Maybe this win changes everything. Maybe the Chargers can take it to the next level. I hope this isn’t a lost season, because if McCoy doesn’t change his philosophy, the Chargers will look back and regret wasting a talented roster.