I am still hurting from the Denver loss like all Charger fans. At no point did I think the Chargers could surprise the Broncos like they did last year who were ripe for a perfect upset. Our boys had everything to play for and Denver had nothing to play for. They whined all week about a short week. The Chargers didn’t have time to care. In the offseason, Tom Telesco did a wonderful job adding key pieces to the defense that on paper would make the Bolt defense better prepared to take on The Denver Mannings.
The reality is one by one almost all of those additions were ruled out for the game. All week long I heard and read Chargers fans say cornerbacks Marshall and Wright could not start and beat Manning. The reality is they did just that December 12th last year on Thursday night football. That defense had a limited returning Melvin Ingram but was essentially the same as the one the Chargers put on the field. The Bolts won that game by seven, and lost this one by fourteen.
Coming off a 35-21 loss, I could blame the Refs for blown calls, the NFL for giving us three division games in 11 days, or Archie and Olivia Manning for not getting Peyton into a different profession. You can complain that the football gods have cursed this team’s medical staff with too much to handle.
You can make an argument for all those valid things to complain about. Honestly, I think the injuries on the defense point to the importance of a man who suits up with the offense. Philip Rivers is playing fantastic, Gates is playing like he is Benjamin Button aging backwards. The offense is clicking . The reality is this week’s 21 points still would have been enough to beat Denver’s effort from last year.
Of course, the Denver Mannings have gotten better since last year, so have the Chargers. But timing is everything and not having a healthy Ryan Mathews made the difference.
I have been shaking my head a lot the last couple weeks listening to local sports radio and reading the message boards proclaiming that Branden Oliver is ready. We don’t need Ryan Mathews, we have number 43, right?
I do think Oliver is a hidden gem. The Chargers scored big time in finding him. He may be the reason Ryan Mathews doesn’t return or takes less money to stay. However, you are out of your mind if you don’t think Ryan Mathews is not the number one missing factor between last year’s result and this week.
The run game this week was pathetic, until the last garbage time run just before the clock went zeros, your rushing leader was Philip Rivers with 17 yards. Take away that 23 yarder at the end of the game, and Oliver barely managed to get double digits. Even if you count that run Oliver was still out gained by Danny Woodhead in last year’s Thursday night game.
That night, Ryan Mathews was the reason the Bolts won and now it is more clear than ever. Mathews had 29 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, the Chargers controlled the ball for 39 minutes of the game. Peyton Manning, being a rhythm QB, only managed the Broncos as they had a 10-3 late in the first period before the Chargers went on several long scoring drives. Manning’s offense gained 13 yards on the 13 plays, over four drives during which they went three-and-out three times and picked up a total of one first down. (With Marshall and Wright on the corners by the way).
Without the power Ryan Mathews brings to the running game the Broncos would not have been held to their season low scoring output. Instead of driving us nuts with his Omahas we got the sideline shots of grumpy Peyton twiddling his thumbs.
Denver’s defense is improved no doubt. Certainly Oliver faced more of a challenge, but I believe at least a half a dozen of those plays where Oliver was stuffed at the line would have 5 or 6 yards for a wrecking ball like Mathews.
Go back and watch a game with Mathews. Charger fans, don’t be prisoner of the moment. Ryan Mathews was the MVP of December last year, and had the Chargers had him this last week, their chances to beat the Mannings would have a lot more likely.
David Agranoff can’t stand Peyton Manning, but loves the Chargers. He is the author of three horror novels you can buy on Amazon if you into that kinda thing. His novels include The Vegan Revolution…With Zombies, Hunting the Moon Tribe and Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich. Follow him on Twitter @DAgranoffauthor or look him up on Facebook.