The door to the posteseason was halfway shut for the San Diego Chargers when they took on AFC West Division rival Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in a must-win game. The Chiefs, missing starting quarterback Alex Smith, officially slammed the door shut on the Chargers’ playoff aspirations with a 19-7 win.
Where did it go wrong for the Chargers, who started the season with a bang, winning the first five of their six played games? The guess would be somewhere in the middle.
After smashing the Seattle Seahawks and bouncing the Buffalo Bills with convincing wins during that early part of the season, the Chargers hit a roadblock against the Chiefs during their first go-round, dropped a close game to the Denver Broncos and found themselves on the short-end of a 37-0 defeat to the Miami Dolphins. Those three games would say a lot about the Chargers and their chances of making it to the postseason.
The Chargers could muster just 69 yards on the ground against the Chiefs. The run game took a nose-dive again against the Broncos as San Diego could only generate 61 yards by a committee of three running backs. Against the Dolphins, the rushing attack did quarterback Philip Rivers no favors with 47 yards in productivity.
Football is a team game. You win and lose as a team. However, the significance of a sound running attack cannot be underestimated when it comes to protection of the quarterback and help keep aggressive defense off-balanced.
The Chargers rank No. 30 out of 32 teams in rushing for the season. The running game finally moved the needle past the century mark against the Chiefs in the season finale for the Chargers, gaining steam with 112 yards.
But it wasn’t enough to keep Rivers upright as the Chiefs collected seven sacks on the afternoon. The Chargers fourth-ranked pass defense and San Diego’s No. 10 pass attack wasn’t enough against the Chiefs to squeak out a win.
As it is, the Chargers will stay home and watch the playoffs from their sofas. And they’ll have a lot of thinking to do.
First, the Chargers have find that running game they’ve missed all season to mix in successfully with the pass game, whether it is with Ryan Mathews, Branden Toliver or some other stud in the NFL Draft. They’ll also be thinking about all of the injuries that piled up on them as well, with maladies taking out punter Mike Scifres, running back Danny Woodhead and wide receiver Keenan Allen for the season.
On a third tip, in order to be serious playoff contenders, the Chargers are to have to upgrade their roster in order to beat the likes of New England, the Chiefs, Broncos and Dolphins.
But the encouraging news is that the Chargers showed a lot of mettle throughout the season despite enduring a lot of setbacks. The Chargers would not have even been in the conversation without thrilling, come-from-behind wins against Baltimore and San Francisco late in the season.
Those two wins, along with victories against the Seahawks and Bills, show that the Chargers can compete with and beat any team in the league. They just need to find a way to get more consistent play to achieve that goal.