NFL Wire News

Chargers trying to keep playoff window open


SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Two down, two to go. But is it too late for the San Diego Chargers?

The Chargers have long eyed this four-game stretch to end the regular season as a make-or-break proposition, but so far they are 0-2.

They fell to the visiting Denver Broncos on Sunday, 22-10. The Broncos completed their season sweep of the Chargers and clinched a fourth straight AFC West title in the process.

Denver has punched its ticket to the playoffs.

After losing their second straight, the Chargers’ nose is pressed against the window, on the outside looking in.

“We’ll bounce back,” coach Mike McCoy said. “I promise you, we will bounce back.”

McCoy might be right and it’s still not guaranteed the Chargers’ season will extend into January. The Chargers started Sunday’s game as the AFC’s No. 6 seed, owner of the second wild-card spot. But Monday brought with it the cold truth that not only do the Chargers need to win, they need some help.

They have fallen to the No. 8 seed which puts the Chargers on the couch with a remote for the playoffs.

“We got to learn from this,” McCoy said less than 24 hours after the Chargers ended their home schedule with a 5-3 record. “When you play a team like the Denver Broncos that is going to do certain things you have to capitalize on every opportunity.”

The Chargers (8-6) certainly didn’t do that as the offense remains in a funk, they missed two field goals and too many big plays were allowed by the defense, although that side of the ball can hold its head high.

“We should be winning these football games the way the defense has been playing,” McCoy said.

Safety Eric Weddle can hear people reaching for shovels to bury the Chargers. But this team still has a pulse.

“We are still in the hunt,” Weddle said. “We just need to find a way to play better in all three phases. We had a never-say-die attitude but it just wasn’t good enough to be a great team, the Denver Broncos. We just need to stay the course and be ready to do whatever it takes to get a win against San Francisco to keep our hopes alive.”

Wide receiver Eddie Royal, a seven-year pro, has ridden his share of NFL roller-coasters. But despite the Chargers being in a two-game slide, Royal thinks they’ll quickly get back on track. Why?

“We got great leadership in the locker room,” Royal said. Royal had a big day Sunday with a 58-yard punt return to go with three catches for 27 yards.

But if the Chargers hope to play on — other than their next two games — they better get right. Two tricky road trips at San Francisco — on Saturday, hello short week! — and Kansas City await.

“We have a great group of leaders,” McCoy stressed. “And we have short memories.”

Good thing, because so far December (0-2) has been anything but memorable.

Notes: Running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) didn’t play and his availability on Saturday isn’t clear. … Wide receiver Keenan Allen (ankle) left the game and was fitted with a boot. … Inside linebacker Donald Butler has a dislocated elbow, is out this week and could be heading to IR. … Nose tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) remains out although he did practice last week.


–PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — Another off day for Philip Rivers, but of course it doesn’t all fall on his plate. But he threw two interceptions and was 24 of 41 for 232 yards with a touchdown. The biggest problem was the receivers had trouble shaking the Broncos’ press coverage. Getting separation was a game-long issue, and that’s hard to place the blame for that on Rivers. What was keen was the pass-blocking as Rivers wasn’t sacked despite the presence of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. That was the best part about the passing game — kudos to the front line and those chipping in the backfield.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: F — Without Ryan Mathews (ankle) the Chargers were without a running game. It was painful to see them try to establish one as Branden Oliver and Donald Brown had a rough time getting positive yards on a consistent basis. The run-blocking wasn’t a sharp as the pass-blocking. But without Mathews, the running game was nowhere to be found — 56 total yards.

–PASS DEFENSE: C — The Chargers fared well, especially considering the opponent — Peyton Manning. What ruined this grade is three completions of at least 30 yards. Manning did have a touchdown pass but he was off a tad, which means the Chargers let a gold opportunity slip away. Melvin Ingram continues to play well — he has the game’s only sack.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C — The Broncos proved the previous three games were no fluke as they again leaned on the running game. Denver was able to rush for 111 yards, with C.J. Anderson going for a game-high 85 yards. But he had to work for his yards as he averaged 2.9 yards on 29 carries. But the Broncos used the running game as much to drain the clock as it did to gain yards and it held the ball five more minutes than the Chargers.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Two times Nick Novak lined up for field goals and twice the scoreboard didn’t move: one effort was blocked and the other ricocheted off the left upright. He did convert a 30-yarder, but against the Broncos its imperative to take advantage of every scoring opportunity and they didn’t. Great punt return from Eddie Royal, which has been a rare sight for the Chargers. Coverage teams did allow a 33-yard return which left a stain. New punter Mat McBriar averaged nearly 50 yards on four efforts, although his second one didn’t have much height which almost led to a big return.

–COACHING: F — Coach Mike McCoy is pretty clear that if you don’t win, you haven’t done squat. So following that grading curve the ol’ ball coach gets and bad mark. McCoy and offensive coordinator Frank Reich, need to do something quick as the Chargers have scored two offensive touchdowns in the last two games. The running game was nowhere to be found and the routes being run didn’t lend to getting open. Kudos again to defensive coordinator John Pagano, especially for what he has done to flip the red-zone defense. Three times the Broncos were inside the Chargers 10-yard line and all they had to show for it was nine points. But McCoy, an offensive guru, needs to earn his dough by figuring out how to jump-start an offense which is running like a broken-down jalopy.

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