Written by Matthew Nereim
The Sky Feels Like It’s Falling...But It’s Not!
Obviously, that Titans game left a mark! Melvin Gordon fumbling on the 1-yard line with 30-seconds left down 3 was indeed inexplicable, unacceptable, and just downright demoralizing!
Context is everything in life however. So let’s simmer our raw-emotions and allow ourselves to exercise some good old fashioned objective-logic. Melvin you F’n bum!!!! Forgive me…strike that from the record - always prudent to practice what you preach!
Some of you will find what I am about to say heretical. But the truth is the truth whether you subscribe to it or not. But this is the reality, whether convenient or not…
The Bolts were not that good in 2018!
Now, before I lose you, allow me to explain, it’s about context remember? Obviously I’m not saying that they weren’t good. You can’t fake 12-victories - not even the Patriots in the AFC LEast can do that! What we were GREAT at was executing in key spots. 2018 was a year like no other as we came up clutch time after time when we needed it most, minus the Denver debacle. And sure, we were a dangerous team with some serious talent who proved that we could play with anyone...except for the, well… those damn Patriots!
But let’s be real. How many teams did we hand a beat-down to last year?
Let’s count them?
Browns week 6: 38-14: that was a thing of beauty! I’ve watched that 8 times on my DVR!
Cardinals Week 12 45-10: Rosen had no chance!
You could argue Week 5 vs the Raiders? But that was an ugly 3-3 game until the last 6 minutes remained of the 1st half, while finishing at 26-10. But let’s count that while omitting the nice win in Buffalo.
(The Bills game was a thumping in the 1st half but the 2nd half not so much. A half of great football does not cut it!)
How good were the few teams that we thumped?
We gave 3 beat-downs to 3 bad teams (at least bad at the time), 2 of whom were coming off of at least 1 overtime game the week prior (Browns had 2-straight OT games) while the other had a rookie QB (Rosen) swimming, more like flopping out of water.
Ok, one more beat-down. I just realized I have to include the Ravens Wild Card game on principle!
So, ok, we dominated 1 good team for (3-quarters) in all of 2018 by my count!
Now, conversely, let’s look at the games that were close which could have gone either way? I won’t count the Seattle game (which got dicey late) where we played great in a THE toughest place to play after they marched down the field on their 1st drive to put the Bolts down early.
Week 3 vs 49ers: Win 29-27
A tipped ball INT by “Rochell Rochell” on the final drive of a backup QB (CJ Beathard) saved the day after we made a FG with 7-minutes left to take the lead after being down early thanks to George Kittle.
Week 4 vs Titans (in London): Win 20-19
The defense with a huge stop on a 2-point conversion with 30-seconds left prevents the heartbreak for Bolts fans.
Week 11 Vs Denver: LOSS 22-23
This one still hurts!!! A 2nd and 3 from putting away a game that we thoroughly dominated! Denver took advantage driving late to the most soul-crushing (regular season) loss of recent memory.
Week 13 @ Steelers: Win 33-30
A miracle comeback only made possible by a dropped INT in the end zone that bounced right to KA13 for a TD. D. King with a house-call. An unprecedented (1st time Steelers lost at home with 16+ point lead in the 2nd half) comeback after being embarrassed in the 1st half. This was easily one of the greatest and most improbable wins in team history!
Week 14 vs Bengals: Win 26-21
A stop on a 2-point attempt prevented a QB not named Dalton from tying it late. A 45-yard FG pushes the lead to 5 and secures an ugly victory against a bad Bengal team with a backup QB.
Week 15 @ Arrowhead: Win 29-28
Trailing by 14 with 6 minutes to play, the Bolts convert two 4th downs (one to Travis B, a miracle by itself) and Rivers leads a last minute drive to earn another unforgettable win that ranks under the Steeler game, but still easily ranks among the top 10 wins in Charger History..
Week 16 @ Denver: Win 23-9 I won’t count this game since it had no bearing on playoff seeding but this could have been a 14-11 game with 10-minutes left b4 Hayward returned a 2-PC attempt for a rare Pick-2.
So in games that we could have easily lost, we went 5-1.
What is most astounding is that the 1 game that we were least likely to lose, we lost!!!
At no point in that Denver game (last year) did it feel like we might lose (until the end)…which is a rare thing for a Charger fan to say.
The games outlined above is why even Phillip Rivers admitted that 2018 “could have been anywhere from 8-8 to 12-4”. The odds of winning 12 under the circumstances, was slim at best! We almost lost to 4 bad teams and managed to do so to one of them. The point is, The NFL comes down to execution and a handful of key plays. There is a fine line between wins and losses in most games. Some of those plays are out of your control. Just ask the Lions who were robbed in Green Bay on Monday night Football thanks to two completely BS illegal use of hands penalties on the same guy at critical points in the last quarter.
But we all remember the 0-4 start to 2017…which was the same deal, poor execution at inopportune times and watching FG attempts by kickers not named Josh Lambo elude the uprights. But from week 5 of 2017 to week 1 of 2019 Anthony Lynn’s squad won 22 of 29 regular season games. That is not possible by luck alone! How much Lynn is responsible for that is debatable, as nobody outside of that locker room really knows? But the fact is, we did not make a habit of steam-rolling teams like TRULY great teams do.
The sky feels like it’s falling but It is not!
So let’s not overreact just yet despite the fact that this season is probably not salvageable...key word being “probably”. As irate that I am at Gordon, it’s not like he’s trying to fumble after just turning down an offer for reportedly $40-million! While no, I don’t think we were as good as our record suggested last year, we were still pretty damn good (though not great) and were fun to watch! And this year, we are not nearly as bad as our 2-5 record, especially when you factor in the key injuries. We have some issues, but missing your LT (R. Okung) and All World Safety hurts - and oh how we miss Tyrell Williams!
But there was a lot of good in that Tennessee game and it was a shame that it went unrewarded. I thought Henry was going to run all over us (missing both our starting D-Tackles) and that did not happen. But with 5 turnovers already on-goal-to go situations, that ties for the most over an entire season over the last 20 years. Ouch! I am going to go out on a limb and say that we don’t have 5-more such turnovers over the next 7-weeks.
The AFC West could prove to be quite a wacky race this year with the Mahomes injury. So I am going to hope for a bounce back in Chicago (somehow) this week and wait to worry for now. One thing that has kept me a Charger fan is that they NEVER quit...Rivers will NOT allow it! So to those who say this team lacks heart and passion I say that you simply don’t know what you’re talking about!
To end on a demonstrably positive note: there is one thing that we can be thankful for through Week 7 (other than Hunter & Bosa who are BALLING!!!)…it’s that Melvin Gordon rejected roughly $40-million over 4-years.
I would love Melvin to return to the form of last year and make me eat my words!!! But can you imagine if he was making $10-million a year as a running back looking like he has for the last 3 games? Can you imagine if fans were clamoring for an UDFA & a 7-th round pick (Ekeler & J. Jackson) to steal all his carries? I’m NOT sorry that $40 million was not enough for you Melvin! I suspect you feel noticeably different about that upon further reflection because you are not sniffing 40-million over 4-years next year!