LA Chargers News

Chargers Play A Wild Card: the Good, Bad and Hopeful

By Dennis J. Hassell
DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 and wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on December 30, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 and wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on December 30, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Question: Will the Los Angeles Chargers fly mile-high after Denver, or crash on landing at Baltimore?

No one wants to dwell on the Chargers’ final game of the regular season against the Denver Broncos.  Least of all the Chargers themselves. Philip Rivers and some others did not exactly cover themselves with glory. So let’s look just briefly for playoff indicators from the Bolts’ game 16.

Mile-high takeaways for the playoff take-off

THE BAD:

“Takeaways” is the word. Here are the Chargers’ drives in the first half: INT, Punt, INT, Punt, end of half.  And two unforced fumbles in the second half. Let’s hope they were momentarily distracted, not getting progressively dumb and dumberer.

It’s time to stop criticizing Jahleel Addae, as we have done all season. It’s time to criticize general manager Tom Telesco, for not finding someone to replace No. 37.  How about signing a free-agent traffic cone? For example, I have never seen a traffic cone, on an interception return, fling the football into the air on purpose, bouncing it off a teammate’s facemask, turning a positive interception into three points for the opponent.

Now the Bolts are in the playoffs, and Jim Carrey has got their back? Does the Black Panther, Derwin James, have a brother in college? Pop Warner? What is James’ mom doing this month?

THE GOOD:

As badly as the Chargers’ offense went off the rails, the Bolts’ defense was on track: two fumbles and a rare safety by Casey Hayward off a two-point conversion attempt. Although Broncos quarterback Case Keenum was throwing from behind when he racked up almost 300 yards, the Bolts’ defense did keep the vaunted (‘though injured) running attack to 82 yards, (good prep for the Ravens game)  and Joey Bosa had three tackles for loss.

THE GOODER:

Looking at the Broncos’ good defense, and running game with a strong offensive line, it was a  good tune-up towards facing the Ravens. Keenum is not Lamar Jackson (no one is), but he is somewhat mobile, and it was a fight to get to him.

The numbers show that AustinEkeler is fit for regular duty, and so is the war horse, Melvin Gordon — if his ankle recovers in six days.  The offensive line kept Rivers clean.  I think that was a specific goal the team had, and worked on, and achieved.

THE GOODEST:

#86 Los Angeles Charger Tight End Hunter Henry (Getty Images)
#86 Los Angeles Charger Tight End Hunter Henry (Getty Images)

Hunter Henry could be the wild card for a Wild Card game.  It would be the Bolts’ turn to present their opponent with something new on offense.  The Ravens’ tape on Henry will be at least a year old.

Ken Whisenhunt can scheme up some tight end plays thanks to Henry’s steel-driving hands. If Henry works largely within the first 15 yards, it could spring Keenan Allen across the middle.  Henry is also WAY more help blocking than Antonio Gates.  I’m thinking Gates might not even dress.

THE HOPEFUL:

Quarterback Pope Philip the First is obviously not inerrant, but veteran offensive coordinator Whisenhunt can get Rivers back on track. 

Head coach Anthony Lynn is also a playoff-seasoned leader, and could be seen during the Baltimore burn-down calming a red-faced Rivers on the sideline.

Spoiler alert: Anyone who ever says “I’m not going to say I told you so”  just did. The first Denver game, the unnecessary brain-fart loss? I’m not going to say I told you so. I wrote you so:

“This loss to the Denver Hobby Horses will likely cost the Chargers the divisional championship, and put them on an incredibly difficult playoff path with zero home games.”

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BOLD PREDICTIONS:

Self-inflicted penalties have figured large in almost every game the Chargers played this year, most glaringly in losses to the Broncos and Baltimore.

However… The Bolts will win, if, they get fewer penalties and cause more turnovers than the Ravens, as difficult an opponent as they will meet in the AFC playoffs.

Can the Chargers find focus?  Will the Henry return to tighten the end? Will Rivers remember he can throw the ball away? Will the other safety, Rayshawn Jenkins, start over Jahleel Addae? As I posed last week,

“Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?”

In a few days, all shall be revealed.

Every warrior to his horse and shield. Lock and load. Let fly. Grip it and rip it. 

And Bolt Up. 

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