It all started when Philip Rivers had the ball stripped from his grip on the Chargers’ second possession of the game.
Melvin Gordon, being the hard-working player he is, fought to recover the fumble. The stud running back put himself in an awkward position and was carted off the field with a hip injury and did not return. Oh, and by the way, he was three yards away from 1,000 for the season.
What happened the rest of the way? Well, the Chargers did what they love to do: Give their fans some false hope. Rookie tight end Hunter Henry caught a touchdown pass with under two minutes remaining in the first half to go into halftime down 23-7. Down 26-16 in the fourth quarter, Trovon Reed intercepted Cam Newton and appeared to take it back for a 100-yard touchdown, but after the review he was ruled down at about the 3-yard line. Shortly after, Rivers was sacked in the back of the end zone for a safety.
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Don’t be fooled by what the announcers were saying during the broadcast. The Chargers never really made this game interesting. They appeared to, but the fight was never there — not even from Rivers. All three of his interceptions were careless and forced throws, something we’ve seen him do a lot this season.
Sure, it’s difficult to find open receivers when you’re throwing to a hobbled Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin (who knows what’s wrong with him?) and an aging Antonio Gates; but come on, we’ve seen better from our trusted quarterback.
Sunday’s game in Charlotte was the first time all season we saw the Chargers get beaten up and outplayed in all three phases. It also marked the first time all year that they lost by more than one score. The defense played alright, but not well enough. Offense and special teams were awful. Drew Kaser’s terrible punting set up the Panthers with fantastic field position on multiple occasions, and the offense had five turnovers.
One positive? With the late interception, the defense has had a takeaway in every game this season. They’re tied for most in the league with 27.
At 5-8, the Chargers appear to be headed for another top-10 pick in the draft. It will be incredibly difficult to get more than one more win this season as the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are both set to come to town. Gordon’s return this season is in question, and Joey Bosa (neck injury) was also hurt in the game and did not return. Sunday appeared to be a preview for what we should expect to see over the next few weeks.
The wheels have officially fallen off for the Chargers. Let’s get ready for the draft.