Chargers Choke Again, Lose to Saints 35-34

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Credit: AP Photo

The San Diego Chargers once again gave away a game in the fourth quarter in what has become a common, demoralizing theme.

The game was evenly matched through the first quarter and a half, but the Chargers secured a 24-14 lead just before the half and looked to be running away with the game. That did not happen as the team came out flat in the third quarter. They did look lively in the fourth as they held a 34-21 lead with just under seven minutes in the game. Some actually thought the game was over.

The Chargers received a punt from the Saints (up 13) with seven minutes left in the game. All they had to do was hold onto the ball and take time off the clock. Any resulting score would essentially end the game as the Saints would need three possessions to potentially equal the Chargers score. The game looked over and the Chargers seemed on the way to a 2-2 record. Well, in true Chargers fashion the team absolutely imploded as Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball trying to get more yardage after contact.

That was a huge loss for the team, but they could still  have prevailed. The Saints still needed to drive down the field and score (twice). The Chargers defense held strong and forced a 4th and two from their own five yard line. With four minutes and fifty seconds left on the clock, this was an opportunity to win the game. The defense failed, allowing a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas on the sideline. The score was now 34-28, but surely the offense could finish the job this time, right?

Like a bad dream, the Chargers only took one play (after receiving the kickoff) to give the game away. Out of the shotgun, Philip Rivers hit Travis Benjamin over the middle for a short five-yard gain and he just dropped the ball (after making the catch) without being touched. The Chargers gave the ball away on two straight possessions in the fourth quarter with the lead. They simply did not deserve to win this game after committing such atrocities. Fans were left dumbfounded.

The Chargers still had the lead and every ability in the world to stop the Saints (they needed a TD for the win), but of course they didn’t. And when the Saints scored and left almost two minutes for Rivers and company to drive down the field for a winning field goal, they failed. Time and time again either the offense or defense has a chance to put a team away and they fail to do so. Who is to blame for this? Most Chargers fans already have put the blame on the shoulders of Mike McCoy. He is truly starting to feel the fire of a hot seat. That cannot be denied. Losses like this cannot keep occurring.

In the end Drew Brees returned to San Diego and was successful. He did not have the best day though, going 23-36 for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two picks in the game. He looked rattled from time to time and Rivers clearly had the better game, but in the end it is about getting the “W”, and the Chargers once again failed to do that. Stats mean nothing when it comes down to wins and losses.

Taking away the fourth quarter, the Chargers really did look good in this game from time to time. There definitely are some positives to the game. They are not as evident as the glaring negatives that haunt us (that is for sure), but Chargers’ fans should recognize the accomplishments that some made today for the team.

Game Balls

Philip Rivers– Despite a pick to end the game, the veteran QB was pretty efficient on the day going 28-43 for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He audibled into some really great plays late in the second half and was leading his team on the field as usual. He hit an open Dontrelle Inman on the Chargers last attempted drive of the day. A throw and catch that could have been huge, but Inman dropped the ball even though the pass hit him right in the hands. It was that kind of day for the Bolts.

Matt Slauson– The center did well on Sunday as most of the pressure Rivers endured was from his side and not in his face. The play that stands out the most is when he came to the aid of Philip Rivers after a minor scuffle with a defensive lineman. Last year the chatty Rivers was often pushed around by lineman after the whistle blew. Not one lineman came to his defense last year, but on Sunday, Slauson never hesitated. Take a look at this GIF. He is quickly becoming a fan favorite with actions like this.

Jatavis Brown– The rookie linebacker was all over the place on Sunday. He still has a ton to learn, but you have to be impressed with his athleticism and the fact he has quickly made adjustments within the game. With Manti Te’o out for the year, he will man the middle with Denzel Perryman, and the Chargers will lean heavily on Brown as he must continue to develop in his rookie season. Great growth has been witnessed already from this young man and we should see him improve on a weekly basis.

Casey Hayward– The defensive back has been a godsend for the Bolts this season. Put him in the slot and he is money. Put him on the outside because Brandon Flowers is banged up (concussion) and he shuts the receiver down. The Packers have to be kicking themselves for letting him depart the team. He has been a pleasant surprise and looks to be getting better each week. If the middle of the defense can pick it up then the team will be alright. Don’t point your finger Hayward’s way if you want to complain about the team defense, he has more than held his own in his first year with the Bolts.

Next Up

This could be rough as the Chargers now head to the Black Hole to take on the resurgent Raiders. The squad from Oakland is fresh off a surprise victory over the Ravens in Baltimore. The Raiders are young, athletic and have a mammoth offensive line. This could get out of hand real quick as the Chargers mentality has to be shaky at best right now. There will never be a better test of character than this coming Sunday’s game in Oakland against their hated division rival. If this Chargers team cannot get up for this game emotionally then it is truly time for a major house cleaning. Show some emotion. Play with heart. And finish the game.

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