As Chargers fans are emotionally recovering from the team’s dramatic overtime victory over the Falcons in Week 7, let’s put Sunday’s big win in perspective. There are three different areas about Sunday’s game that shows us as fans that our team is not going to suck as bad as they did the first few games of the season.
- The comeback win itself – One thing that the Chargers could not do when they started this season was finish games. Even though the Bolts are in the top-5 of the entire NFL as far as points scored before halftime, they still are near the bottom, if not dead last, in the point-differential in the fourth quarter. Sunday’s game was different as the Chargers were down 27-10 in just the second quarter. It seemed a very daunting task to complete that sort of comeback with this team, They used to be the only team in the national football league that could have a three- or four-touchdown lead, and their fans would still be on edge like it was a one or two touchdown lead. Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers showed great resilience, creating a daring comeback that would eventually end in an overtime victory.
- Defense – The defense was the unspoken heroes of this game, particularly Joey Bosa and Denzel Perryman. One thing that is overlooked about this game was that the Atlanta Falcons did not just defeat both the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos. They also are the number one scoring offense in the national football league, even earning the praise of San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano. Who stated , “I looked in the dictionary at the word explosive, and when I pulled it up, a picture of the Falcons showed up.” This is very large praise for one team to give to another. So what ended up happening? In the first half, Atlanta scored 27 points, one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown, and three field goals. They also scored on a fumble recovery. However the narrative changed in the second half, as the Falcons, this super high-powered offense, only managed to score 3 points in the ENTIRE second half PLUS overtime. This is a very large feat, especially against a team like Atlanta who has not scored less than 21 in any game this season, almost racking up 50 points versus the NFC champion Carolina Panthers.
- Special Teams, Although there was the mix-up on the kickoff in which Griff Whalen misread the ball and came out of the end zone instead of just letting the ball roll in and giving better field position to the offense. The special teams in this game actually did really well. After all, it was special teams that won us the game in overtime. It looks like having Kellen Clemens hold the ball on the field goal attempts made a world of difference in our special teams play. Also it doesn’t hurt that the punter Drew Kaser was actually able to kick the ball further than a little girl serving in her little league soccer match. The only times the Falcons started their possession on the Chargers side of the field were because of turnovers and not because of a bad punt or a bad kick, which is a huge bright side.
It seems like there are a lot of things that worked out this past Sunday, not to mention the awesome day that Melvin Gordon had two rushing touchdowns, and a receiving touchdown while averaging 8 yards after the catch. He also made a heads up running play that kept the Chargers hopes alive. It’s beginning to look like the San Diego Chargers are starting to gel, however only time will tell. From what I saw on Monday, I can see the Chargers making the wildcard, if they keep that resilience, and nothing goes too haywire, this team should be in good shape.
To begin, I will start with a lyric from Metallica, this comes from their song, Wherever I May Roam, “I adapt to the unknown/Under wandering stars I’ve grown/By myself but not alone/I ask no one/ And my ties are severed clean/The less I have the more I gain/Off the beaten path I reign.” The reason I use this particular lyric is not only because it is a great song, but also because it perfectly encompasses the feeling of being a San Diego Chargers fan in enemy territory, Arizona.
Although the Cardinals and Chargers are not division rivals, there is still the unspoken Arizona versus California rivalry that gets created because of all of the people who have moved between the two states.
The unknown, refers to the feeling of whenever I wear my Chargers jersey to the University of Phoenix Stadium. I am highly uncertain of the reactions that will be thrown my way. Some may approach and try to have a healthy conversation where we discuss sports and whatever is going on with each others teams, such as, Philip Rivers or Larry Fitzgerald.
Others do the uneducated and frankly stupid thing many sports fans on social media are guilty. They utter the short, dastardly and annoying phrase, “Your team sucks!” Now that is all well and good…… If they can back it up. Most times, they are too drunk to remember why they stated that in the first place so it is kinda funny to ask why and watch them stumble on their words.
The wandering stars refers to the fact that I have lived in Arizona my entire life. So how did I become a Chargers fan you ask? It’s kind of a dumb story but I have never looked back since. When I was younger, my family would often vacation to the San Diego area and there was one time I can remember, we were at the convenience store on the southwest corner of Shelter Island Drive and Scott street. Me being my curious young self I picked up a koozie with a Chargers lightning bolt on it. When I got back I turned on the Madden game I had at the time, and I have grown more and more in my fanhood each year since. That was around…… 14-15 years ago.
By myself but not alone, refers to the surprisingly large presence of Chargers fans that inhabit the metro-Phoenix area that I call home.
The less I have the more I gain, off the beaten path I reign, refers to the ability that I was able to find within myself being the only Chargers fan at my school. When I realized it was actually a huge advantage to have a team not in the state of Arizona. Also, to me any team that does not have a Super Bowl ring from after the AFL-NFL merger is off the beaten path.
A lot of sports fans will gravitate to teams like the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their loyalty is purely based upon the fact that they have a pull safe that they can use if they are ever in a sports argument. That pull safe is “Well, we have rings.” It is a luxury a fan of those teams can use without ever watching a football game.
This is what makes the San Diego Chargers fan base so strong. It’s called faith. Similar to the Chicago Cubs, all we are able to do is look forward to the future rather than living our lives in the past. That is what we will do this season. We will charge forward, not just on the field, but off the field. In the stands we will charge forward. Why? It is because that is what our team needs, and also because of the community it builds.
Bolt Up Charger Brigade.
The date was November 4, 2007. The Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers played 60 minutes of football in the Twin City. On that particular Sunday, in those 60 minutes, both teams had broken an NFL record. Still fresh in the minds of the players and the fans, the Chargers and Vikings meet again eight years later.
The first half of that game was all in favor of the Chargers. They had limited the sensational rookie running back Adrian Peterson to only 43 yards when the half ended. Peterson had made a name for himself early on in that season. He rushed for 224 yards with three touchdowns against the Chicago Bears, a few weeks earlier.
Tied 7-7, the Vikings decided to kick a long field goal, in hopes of taking the lead before heading into the locker room. Place kicker Ryan Longwell was set up to kick a 57-yard field goal. The longest of his career was 55 yards. Second-year Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie had put himself in the back of the end zone, anticipating a missed field goal. Longwell missed the field goal. Cromartie returned the missed field goal for 109 yards for a touchdown. Cro had just broken the longest touchdown run of 108 yards. The record was set and recorded as 109 yards although he was just under 110 yards. This was supposed to be the highlight and talk of the NFL that week.
The Bolts had gone into the locker room on a high. The Vikings went into the locker room somewhat defeated. The Chargers felt that what they were doing was working. The Vikings knew that they had to change some things up going into the second half.
The second half of the game might have been the worst for the Chargers under Phillip Rivers. It is a toss-up between this game and the game in 2012 against the Denver Broncos, blowing a 24-0 lead.
That is a debate for another time.
Minnesota made some adjustments going into the second half. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson left the game with an injury. Back-up quarterback Brooks Bollinger would end up playing the entire second half. He did well, throwing a touchdown pass, but it was the rookie, Adrian Peterson, who dominated the half. Peterson had fumbled the ball in the 4th quarter but that did not change the momentum of the Vikings. It went from bad to worse for the Chargers with a three-and-out, followed by a Rivers interception on the Chargers’ next drive. Peterson ended up with 253 yards in the second half. This was against the Chargers 7th ranked defense.
Peterson ended up breaking the Jamal Lewis’ record of 295 yards rushing in a single game (Lewis was a member of the Baltimore Ravens at the tie). Peterson ended the game with 296 yard rushing, 19 yards receiving and three touchdowns. The beautiful record-breaking run by Cromartie would be overshadowed by Peterson’s record.
It was an ugly game for the Chargers. Running back Ladainian Tomlinson, whom Peterson looked up to, ended up with only 40 yards rushing and one touchdown. Phillip Rivers was 19 for 42 with 197 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Sometimes it takes a defeat in that fashion to wake a team up. The Chargers ended up winning seven of their last eight games to win the AFC West. They went all the way to the AFC Championship game, losing to the New England Patriots. Another game Chargers players and fans would love to forget.
What does this mean for the game on Sunday against the Vikings? Probably not too much. It was eight years ago and these are not the same two teams.
Adrian Peterson is expected to have another good year, sitting out most of the 2014 season due to a suspension from his child abuse case. The Vikings will probably run a lot on the Chargers on Sunday like the did against the Detroit Lions the week before. He ran for 134 yards on 29 attempts in Week 2. It is possible that the Chargers will use the 2007 game to fuel the fire to get the win this time. Peterson is now 30 years old, which is almost ancient when it comes to running backs. It should be a better game for Chargers.
The question remains…will another NFL record be broken this year?
Danny Woodhead is ready for the 2015 season. The running back suffered a high-ankle sprain with a fractured fibula last year. The injury occurred on the 1st possession of week 3 against the Buffalo Bills. The injury required surgery and he was put on injured reserve. He is healthy and it showed on the field in the team’s week 1 win over the Lions.
A decade ago, it was rarity to see running backs under 5-foot-10. At 5-foot-8, 200 pounds, Woodhead isn’t even the shortest running back on the team. Branden Oliver, entering his second year, is 5-foot-7 and 208 pounds. Rookie Melvin Gordon is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds. This trio of running backs is a three-headed monster, giving the Chargers many options in the running game.
Woodhead went to Chadron State College, a NCAA Division II team, in his home State of Nebraska. He was the first person to receive a full-ride athletic scholarship from Chadron State College. He broke the all-division single rushing record with 2,740 yards in 2006. He also had 3,159 all-purpose yards that year, which is the second most by a college running back behind the great Barry Sanders. After four years, he had racked up 7,962 rushing yards and 109 touchdowns. He is also the second athlete to have over 100 touchdowns in collegiate history.
Despite Woodhead’s success in college, he was not asked to join the NFL Scouting Combine. The New York Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He spent his first two years with the Jets but had to sit out his rookie year on injured reserve. He was released by the Jets in 2010, and the New England Patriots picked him up. Woody had three successful years with the Patriots, rushing for 1,099 yards with ten rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns.
The Chargers signed Woodhead in 2013. He had 429 rushing yards, 605 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns. He quickly became a fan favorite. Many fans felt that he had brought back that missing piece of the offense that Darren Sproles had filled during his tenure with the Chargers. He was a smaller, fast running back, like Sproles, that could also be used in both running and receiving duties.
Woodhead spent the offseason recovering from his injury and updating his look. He ditched his surfer-boy look with a short haircut and a beard. His fun-filled spirit and enthusiasm are still there, especially with his new best friend, Branden Oliver. Entering his 8th season, he will not disappoint as he takes on the roll of mentor to both Oliver and Gordon.
After week 1, it looks like the Chargers’ running game will excel with it’s three-headed monster. The taller Gordon will be the first running back. The team seems to be using him to gain first downs within the first 60 yards. The Bolts will utilize Woodhead within the red zone and on third downs. Oliver will also take on some of same duties as Woodhead. Against the Lions, Woodhead had 62 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. These three running backs will force defenses to have a hard time coming up with a plan of attack.
If Woodhead can stay healthy this year, Phillip Rivers will again have a go-to safety valve in the passing game. He will be able to rely on Woodhead and the running game to take pressure off of him to get the job done in the air. Woodhead’s work on the field was a big reason why the Chargers were able to rally back against the Lions.
We sure missed you, No. 39!
After a three-game losing streak, capped by a 37-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Chargers have regrouped and reeled off three straight wins. San Diego has looked impressive in their previous two outings, showing tremendous heart in a 27-24 home win against a tough St. Louis team and a 34-33 road win against a potential AFC playoff team in the Baltimore Ravens. Last week’s win against Baltimore may be a season defining win, much like the last second win in Kansas City last year, and Phillip Rivers once again showed us that he is an elite quarterback in the NFL.
The comeback win helped improve the Chargers playoff chances tremendously. Going into Week 13 the Chargers had a 16.5% chance of making the playoffs, and the win against the Ravens (along with losses from other AFC playoff contenders) brought their playoff chances up to 41.3% (according to fivethirtyeight.com). The win against Baltimore added separation between the Chargers and the rest of the AFC Wildcard hopefuls. San Diego, sitting at 8-4, is currently the 5th seed in the AFC playoff picture, and they control their own destiny for the final 4 weeks of the regular season.
It’s no secret that the Bolts face one of the most daunting schedules in the NFL. San Diego will play host to the New England Patriots (9-3) Sunday night and the Denver Broncos (9-3) the following week. Then the Bolts will travel North to face the San Francisco 49ers (7-5) in Week 16, and they will finish the season against division-rival Kansas City (7-5) at Arrowhead. If the season were to end today, two out of the four remaining opponents would be in the playoffs (New England and Denver), and the other two (San Francisco and Kansas City) are both very much alive the NFC and AFC wildcard races, respectively. There’s a good chance that the Bolts will be underdogs in all of their remaining games, so it’s tough to pick out a game that San Diego will definitely win. However, I am under the belief that if the Chargers can find a way to get to 10 wins they’ll improve their chances of a playoff berth tremendously.
According to sportsclubstats.com, if the Chargers find a way to finish the season with 10 wins their probability of making the playoffs would be a solid 66.8%, with a 21% chance at the 5th seed (@Indianapolis) and a 45% chance at the 6th seed (@Cincinnati). However, if the Chargers can somehow find a way to reach 11 wins their playoff chances increase to a perfect 100%. If the Chargers can win 11 games, with one of those wins coming against Denver in Week 15, we may be talking about an AFC West Championship rather than a Wildcard berth.
San Diego could drastically improve their playoff chances with a win against the Patriots tomorrow. According to fivethirtyeight.com, if the Chargers win Sunday their playoff chances will increase to 61.4%, a margin of 20.1%. The Chargers will enter their prime time tilt against New England as four point underdogs, A win against a Patriots team. coming off loss against the 9-3 Green Bay Packers, may be tough come by, but Phillip Rivers’ 29-3 record in December will play in the Bolts favor. If San Diego is going to win this game they will need outstanding play from Phillip Rivers once again, which is something we’ve come to expect of Phillip in the month of December.