SAN DIEGO-Maybe the San Diego Chargers should play the Denver Broncos more often. Judging by their 21-13 win at home last week against their AFC West wolfpack rivals, the Chargers looked like more of the role of the pitbull going for the death grip on the throats of the Super Bowl 50 champions.
You can call it luck. You can call it desperation. You can call it a must-win game. It was all of that and a bag of chips to the Chargers. They had to have this game. They knew it. Anybody with a sliver of football knowledge knew it as well.
Losing five of the team’s first six games in the season was not an option for Mike McCoy’s team. The said and unsaid feeling was that there was a lot riding on the Chargers-Broncos football game. That ride was laid squarely on the shoulders of the players inside of the Chargers’ locker room.
That locker room was pretty stoked before and after the game.
“Fired up,” McCoy said in describing his team’s mood. “I’ll say though it was the exact same way as it was before we went out for opening kickoff. The energy, the excitement, the way guys were going in there. We had a lot of confidence going into this game because of the way the team has worked and what we needed to do.
“That’s the type of players we have. They only know how to do it one way. They work their tails off every single day. You look at the game and every game we’ve played. You see practices and the way they work, meetings and all that stuff. They bust their tails off and when you do it, good things happen. I can’t be happier for our football team.”
The Chargers probably couldn’t be happier for McCoy. From the players to the coaches to management to the fans, everybody knew what time it was. It was put up or shut up time against the Broncos. Finding ways to excuse one more come-from-ahead loss had run its course. Enduring another loss before going into the bye week would have been ugly. It was about to be real ugly.
Fortunately, that reality didn’t have a chance to play itself out. The Chargers made sure that was not going to happen.
“We knew we had to come out here and play ball,” linebacker Jatavis Brown said. “This was a chance for us to turn our season around. We know things have not been going our way. This was a great game to come out and get a win.”
The spoils go to the victors. Consequences befall those who suffer defeat. For sanity’s sake, the Chargers simply could not afford another loss. Going four weeks without a win can make do certain things you hadn’t done before.
An entire month gone by without a victory (Sept. 18, 2016) can start playing with your mind, especially with the way the Chargers lost their last three games. Double-digit leads caved into gut-wrenching defeats. People in the media start making stupid analytical attributes attached to you like you’re “Snakebit” or “cursed.”
In those weeks of falling short of victory, the fog kept getting thicker and thicker by the week. Finally, the Chargers found a bit of a clearing through the dark clouds that have hovered over Chargers Park. And that’s because the Chargers did the little things that win you a ballgame or two.
Like play defense. Given the fact the Chargers were going up against a team with a defensive unit that recorded a historic run during its Super Bowl run last season, Thursday Night Football became a coming out party for their own defensive players.
They started by putting second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian back in his place. For the most part, Siemian played like a wide-eyed kid. He didn’t seem to have a clue on what to do against the Chargers’ defense. Moving his team up the field was like playing tic-tac-toe.
Siemian played the guessing game wrong and was rewarded with a whole lot of missed spots and indecisive moments. You know it’s bad when you throw the ball 50 times, which Siemian did against the Chargers, and your quarterback rating is only 77.9.
Thanks to the Chargers’ defense getting up all in his grill, Siemian stunk up the joint. Defensive tackle Corey Luget said putting pressure was something the Chargers wanted to do.
“It was great,” Luget said. “We just knew we had to get a good four-man rush; Melvin (and Joey) Bosa out there. Caraun Reid was big in the endzone backed up to get the safety with the holding call. It was awesome. It was great that we just went out there and played.”
The Chargers’ offense didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their performance, either. But they did just enough to help the team build an 18-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Philip Rivers and his aerial toys put up just enough offense for the Chargers to finally stop the bleeding on their AFC West woes.
Up until they handed Denver its second loss of the season, the Chargers had lost 10 straight division games. They almost ran that streak to 11 with all of the floundering they did in the last quarter. As they have done all season, the Chargers made things more than a bit interesting when Denver climbed within eight points and drove down the field for a potential game-tying touchdown.
A batted pass on the last play of the game squashed that.
“It’s just crazy,” said Rivers, who passed Dan Fouts as San Diego’s all-time passing yardage leader against the Broncos. “Right there, we get the onside kick; it’s 21-13; we take two knees and it’s over. It felt like a little more of an escape the way the game ended. But, again, we can’t say much. We lost 10 straight division games in a row, but we won all three phrases of that game. And we made it more exciting than it needed to be at the end.”