Ravens bully Chargers: The good, the bad and the hopeful

 Los Angeles Chargers 10    Baltimore Ravens 22

When you fall through the ice, the first challenge for surviving is to cope with the shock. So everyone take slow breathsAnd let’s acknowledge that the Chargers’ result in Week 16 could be the beginning of the end.

Or the end of the beginning.

The Good

One upside of the Saturday night woodshed whuppin’ by the Baltimore Ravens of the Lost Angeles Chargers is that it helps each of us to remember that this was only a game, and we each have a life. I know some of y’all will pronounce that claim as heresy, and I am as guilty of almost any fan of over-identifying with a team’s successes — and its failures. And yet, the supreme retort to any Baltimore fan’s trolling must be…

“But you live in Baltimore, and we live in SoCal:  so YOU have already lost, and you always will.”

Another positive: Would you rather the Chargers fall through the ice in Week 16, or in the first round of the playoffs? Did you want the Bolts’ first experience of the Ravens’ superb defense and unorthodox offense to be in two weeks? Remember the Bolts were overwhelmed by Kansas City the first game but won the second.

The Chargers got through the game largely healthy, although Mike Williams’ disappearance from the stat sheet after the first play of the game is troubling. Can we assume Melvin Gordon is going to improve physically? And Austin Ekeler will be back for Week 17.

The Chargers kept Baltimore to ( I think) the lowest total rushing yards and yards per carry of any of the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens wins, and most of the Ravens’ run yardage (11 9yards of 159 total) was in the first half.

The Ravens only got 40 yards rushing in the second half. 

The Bad

Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Focus

On their first passing play, Rivers and Keenan Allen lost their sh*t with the refs — though Philip would probably say he lost his “shoot”.  The proof is that on the very next play, Allen was still futilely yapping at the ref, and was not set. Penalty. This is called losing focus, and it is talked about incessantly by the coaching staff and players. Coach Lynn, please tell Rivers that passion is like fire: it has a good side and a bad side. Keep your eyes on the prize, captain. And please reflect that that first quarter with your ranting was the Chargers’ worst.

The fallen

Who was the biggest missing piece for the Chargers in playing the Ravens game? Hunter Henry?  Run stuffer Denzel Perryman? Run clogger Corey Liuget? Fastest linebacker Kyzir White?  Catch and run Austin Ekeler? Fastest corner Jason Verrett? Offensive lineman Joe Barksdale?  Aside from Ekeler, that’s seven starters, or 35% of starting offense and defense lost (we’ll leave Caleb Sturgis off the list for obvious reasons).

Ball security

You know who really took away the Chargers’ chance for a comeback?  Hunter Henry  (Stephen A. Smith would agree). Because if Henry wasn’t out for the season, he would have wrapped both arms around the ball on contact, unlike Antonio Gates, who has not had glaring ball security issues — although he has had seven seasons with twice the receptions or more, with zero unrecovered fumbles. The replay shows Gates took one hand off the ball to break his fall. Come ON, Gatesy, pay the price.

On the first interception the ball was under-thrown, but barely: in the replay, watch how high Mike Williams had to jump to top the ball. The second interception was not foolhardy or badly thrown, it is merely what happens late in games when one is forced to take chances, especially when hamstrung by…

Penalties

Eight penalties. Not only did they total more yards (69) than the Chargers’ entire rushing game, they aborted many third down conversions. I often wrote early in the year that the Bolts’ tendency to penalties was a bad habit and it was getting worse.

Head Coach Anthony Lynn keeps alluding to stupid penalties — so why do players ignore him?

The unsafe safety

At this point in the season, Jahleel Addae’s chronic problems deserve their own paragraph, perhaps their own article. In this crucial game, Addae ranked SIXTEENTH on the Chargers for tackles. Wide receivers got more tackles. Do you realize Eric Weddle could still be playing safety for the Chargers?

Watch the highlights of the Ravens game and see how many times a player wearing number 37 is escorting Ravens players down the field from behind. Is he that slow or that out of position? I believe I will not see improvement in second level tackling, until the day Addae.

The Hopeful

“When we fly, we win.”  – Chargers players

  1. Can the Chargers play better? Yes they can — even the underwhelming offensive Line. And Whiz can scheme to load Rivers up with quick release plays (which he should have done in Week 16 — but that’s wah-wah under the bridge).
  2. Any Given Sunday. The Chargers are due for some breaks — ideally, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes might break their big toes running after an ice cream truck.
  3. The Chargers stats were largely good in the second half. They were in it until the fumble with about five minutes left.
  4. Avengers Assemble:  The leadership of coaches Lynn, Gus Bradley and Whiz;  veterans Rivers, Mike Pouncey and Hayward and young guns Joey Bosa and Derwin James.
  5. Playoff Scenarios. From the highly doubtful scenario (Raiders shock Chiefs) to the highly probable (Bolts vs Ravens again), the Chargers are a proven road team. 
  6. The Bolts’ mortal enemies are mortal.  The Chargers have already beaten the Steelers and Chiefs. The Texans and Colts and absolutely the Patriots are vulnerable. The Chargers’ playoff destiny is going to come down to solving the unorthodox Ravens.