Let’s take a look at what happened in 2017 for the Los Angeles Chargers.
The missed FG in Miami. The Austin Ekeler fumble. The Tre Boston interception celebration.
Sometimes games come down to single plays. Sometimes seasons come down to single plays. If the Chargers could get just one of those three plays back (or maybe even Dan Feeney getting blown up on a game-tying FG) the Chargers would be in the playoffs.
Or maybe you recover a muffed punt on the five in enemy territory in Kansas City and the whole course of a game changes. So close… Marlon McCree… So close.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can objectively look at the rest of the season.
It started with a dismal 0-4 start. The Chargers were playing terrible. At that point I predicted a three-win season. Why not? The offensive line couldn’t block, linebackers couldn’t cover receivers, Anthony Lynn and Gus Bradley looked like busts; it was a disaster. The Chargers were dead. Season over.
Then after an ugly game in N.Y., there was a faint heartbeat.
The Chargers played decent against the Raiders and won. Then they shutout Denver.
Next they played a good game in New England and were only a couple of plays away from winning it. Thoughts of the playoffs entered our heads. The second half of the schedule looked easy.
Then there was Jacksonville…
The Chargers won this game like three times. Its hard to blame Ekeler, who had a monster game. Its easier for me to blame Boston for celebrating when the game was still on the line. But to be honest there, was a whole lot of blame to go around in that game (add in Joey Bosa for roughing the passer and multiple dumb penalties).
But this is when the season changed. don’t know what happened in the locker room after this game, but something happened, because from here on out the Chargers were a different team.
First, the amount of penalties went down.
Secondly, the offense changed. This is probably due to the fact that Lynn handed the reigns to Ken Whisenhunt. After this game, it was no longer put everything on Melvin Gordon’s back, as it became give the ball to Philip Rivers and let him go. The Bolts started to throw on first down… and the offense caught everyone’s attention. Phil would go on to win two offensive player of the week awards after this.
Third, Denzel Perryman returned and the Bradley-coached defense began to gel. The defense became a force. It was nearly impossible to pass on these guys.
Fourth, the Bosa and Ingram duo cooled off. Huh? Yeah, right? This was weird. This duo was terrorizing defenses but after this, their sack total went way down. They had 17 sacks between them at the midway mark and only managed six more the rest of the way. But it didn’t seem to matter as the defense continued to roll.
Then the Chiefs spiraled downward and the Chargers soon found themselves in control of their playoff destiny with an opportunity to win the AFC West. Then they laid a turd in Kansas City. Dumb penalties and missed opportunities plagued them that day. I am still amazed at how they did not recover that muffed punt. Five Chargers and one ball and they don’t come up with it. It could of changed the whole course of that game. Sometimes it is the plays you don’t make that prove costly.
After the loss in Kansas City, the Chargers found themselves needing lots of help to get into the playoffs and even though they were able to win out, they ended up not getting enough help and an early end to their season.
That’s the recap of a roller-coaster season. From the pit of despair to the top of the world to going home early. But what did we learn about the Chargers this season?
Coaches: Anthony Lynn, despite a rough start, seems to be a good head coach. One of the most telling signs is that he learned during the season. If you watch Lynn’s postseason presser, he admits that during the season he learned to get out of the way of his coordinators. Was this post-Jacksonville? I think it was for Whisenhunt, because after that game the offense was different and much improved. I don’t think we had seen the potential of Whisenhunt in San Diego until then, because even when he was here with McCoy, mediocre Mike didn’t let him run with it. On the other side of the ball, Gus Bradley proved to be a defensive guru. The Chargers now need to do everything they can to bring him back next year. SHOW HIM THE MONEY!
Above the paygrade: Ekeler, Trevor Williams, Desmond King and Adrian Phillips all surprised us this year. Who knew? Hats off to those who drafted these guys and to the coaches who helped them excel on the field.
Surprises: The defense was the third-best scoring defense in the league, giving up only 17 points per game.
Continued excellence: Keenan Allen is just special. The dude killed it. At times he looks uncoverable.
Gordon ran the ball with authority this year. 1,100-yard season with eight rushing TDs. Also, he appeared much improved in the receiving game with 476 yards and four TDs. The less this guy dances in the backfield, the better he is.
We expected Bosa and Ingram to be good, but this good? Wow. They proved to be one of the best tandems in the NFL. It exceeded my expectations.
Denzel Perryman may be one of the best linebackers in the NFL. His athletic ability paired with his ability to quickly diagnose plays is amazing. He is a disruptive force.
The Gunslinger: Many people had declared this guy dead at the beginning of the season. While he did struggle because of a developing offensive line that looked like swiss cheese at times and because of a scheme that featured Gordon, once those issued were improved and resolved Philip Rivers returned to his Hall of Fame form. He, along with the defense, led the Chargers to a second-half resurgence. He picked up several awards, notched a 4,500-plus yard season (the second best of his career), had the lowest interception percentage of his career and tied Fran Tarkenton for fifth on the all-time TD list.
The Future: While the season ended on a disappointing note, it is clear that this team is headed in the right direction for the first time in a long time.