After multiple seasons of lackluster play away from home, the Los Angeles Chargers have emerged as one of the league’s finest road teams in 2018.
Home sweet home might just be on the road for the Chargers this year.
After winning just seven away games over the previous three seasons, the Bolts have racked up five victories in six road matches this year. The Anthony Lynn-coached squad has displayed confidence and poise when playing away from Rokit Field at StubHub Center, and their most recent outing highlighted that greatly.
The Chargers traveled to western Pennsylvania for a primetime affair with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 2 in what was L.A.’s biggest game to date in 2018. The host side jumped out to a dominant 23-7 lead through two quarters. But the Chargers surged back in the second half by outscoring Pittsburgh 26-7 and walked out of Heinz Field with a 33-30 win.
What made this triumph so impressive was L.A.’s ability to rally from a 16-point deficit, something they would struggle to accomplish in year’s past. Their aforementioned poise and confidence away from L.A., especially on offense, carried them through the second-half comeback. If the Chargers did not possess those traits, then the talent-rich Steelers would have romped their way past the Bolts.
A primetime road win for the Chargers may shock a lot of football fans and pundits. But it should not come as a total surprise given they are one of the NFL’s best away teams in 2018. Their 5-1 road record is the best in the AFC and is tied for the highest in the league with the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, who are two legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
But what is powering the Chargers’ electric play on the road?
Pointing to their efficient, yet explosive attack on offense and improved defense is justifiable. Quarterback Philip Rivers is playing the best football of his career and is surrounded by a strong group of playmakers. The defense is spearheaded by a dominant pass-rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and dynamic rookie safety Derwin James.
And while they are one of the NFL’s most well-balanced squads, this is not the ultimate reason why they thrive on the road. What is sparking the Chargers’ success is their underwhelming home-field advantage.
The trend of visiting team fans packing into the StubHub Center and outnumbering Chargers supporters has not stopped since the L.A. relocation. The Bolts’ two homes losses came against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 and the Denver Broncos in Week 11. There was a sea of red and orange in each game, essentially giving both AFC West teams an extra home game.
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Playing in a home environment such as this can be challenging for any team. Hearing the blistering roars from the crowd for a visiting club can be demoralizing and hinder the host’s quality of play. But this continuous pattern for the Chargers is beneficial. The majority of the Bolts’ home games feel like away games, so going on the road is an easier transition for the nine-win group.
In an odd way, Chargers away games are additional home games because both environments are comparable for them specifically. But the Bolts do not have to endure the mental struggles that come with getting cheered against at home when they are the visiting club.
L.A.’s chances of clinching a playoff berth as a Wild Card team are extremely high. The Chiefs will most likely conclude the season atop the AFC West standings, which means the Chargers’ postseason road would be traveled away from Southern California.
And with how potent the Bolts have been as visitors this year, the Chargers could emerge as a lethal contender once the playoffs kick off.