Chargers Still Have Playoff Hopes
Best Jets 14-7
December 21, 2017
The Los Angeles Chargers' 2017 season has been like a roller coaster ride. Up and down, never dull and never ending.
The season started with a four-game losing streak, followed by a three-game winning streak, followed by a two-game losing streak, followed by a four-game winning streak.
Then came the meltdown loss at Kansas City, which some feared might have ended the roller coaster ride and the Chargers' playoff hopes.
The victory improved the Chargers' record to 8-7 for the season. More importantly, both the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills lost, opening an opportunity for the chargers to sneak into the playoffs as a wild-card entry.
All three teams are tied at 8-7 for the final playoff spot.
A Charger win this Sunday at home against the Oakland Raiders and a Titan loss at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, combined with either a Bills loss or Baltimore Ravens win, would get the chargers in the playoffs. As Charger quarterback Philip Rivers stated: "It will make for a lot more spirited week knowing we're alive."
The win on the road versus the Jets was anything but easy. The Jets opened the game with a successful on-side kickoff, recovering the football at their own 48-yard line. That recovery did not result in a score but the Jets used the good field position to pin the chargers on their own one-yard line with an excellent punt from Jet punter Lac Edwards.
The second Charger drive started at their own 13-yard line and their third drive of the first quarter started at their own seven-yard line. The successful onside kick had not resulted in points for the Jets, but had managed to keep the chargers offense bottled up on their end of the field offensively for the entire first quarter.
The chargers finally got moving in the second quarter with a drive that started at their own 29-yard line. Rivers drove the chargers 71 yards in 12 plays, with the drive culminating in a three-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to tight end Antonio Gates. The score gave the chargers a 7-0 lead.
The Jets tied the game early in the third quarter on a 57-yard touchdown run by running back Bilal Powell. The chargers responded on their next possession with an eight play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by running back Melvin Gordon.
The key plays on this drive were a 19-yard run by Gordon and a 23-yard pass completion to tight end Sean McGrath.
The chargers led 14-7 after the Gordon touchdown run. That ended the scoring for the day but not the action. In the fourth quarter the Jets drove from their 30-yard line to the Charger 17-yard line. The drive ended when a fourth down pass from Jets Quarterback Bryce Petty fell incomplete in the endzone.
For the game the chargers outgained the Jets in total yardage, 379-295. They held a 290-98 advantage in passing yardage. The Jets rushed for 197 yards on the ground.
This game illustrated the strengths and the weaknesses of the chargers as a team. The Charger passing offense and the passing defense dominated. The chargers are ranked #3 in the NFL in offensive passing yardage and #3 in defensive passing yardage allowed.
The weaknesses continue in stopping the run and on special teams. The chargers are last in rushing defense, allowing 133 yards per game. They are last in field goal percentage. Their new kicker, Nick Rose, missed a 47-yard field goal attempt in the Jets game. Rose is the fourth field goal kicker for the chargers this season.
The chargers also had three penalties on punt returns, including a holding call that nullified a 91 yard-punt return for a touchdown from Kelvin Benjamin.
But the chargers found a way to win. As Charger head coach Anthony Lynn stated after the game: "We just talk about this grind today. How hard this game was today and how hard we made this game today and just getting ready for the next one. Because we've got to take care of our business or it doesn't really matter."
For the game, future Hall of Fame tight end Gates had a season-high of six receptions for 81 yards and one touchdown. It was the 114th touchdown reception of his career, the most in NFL history by a tight end. Gordon went over 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career. Rivers eclipsed 4,000 passing yards for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.
The Rivers and Gordon milestones reflect the good offensive line play this season. Gordon praised the blocking of his teammates: "Just kudos to my o-line. Tight ends. Receivers. Fullbacks. I want to give credit obviously to everyone."
The chargers enter the final week of the season with plenty on the line. Besides making the playoffs, with a win the chargers would end up 9-7, their first winning season since 2014. Considering the 0-4 start, that by itself would by a significant accomplishment.
This is also "Raider Week" for the chargers and their fans. This rivalry is one of the more bitter rivalries in the NFL. Because this week's game has playoff implications the Raiders would love nothing more than to knock off the chargers and eliminate them from the playoff hunt. The chargers would love to sweep the Raiders and use them as a stepping stone to the playoffs.
This Sunday's game at the StubHub Center will be sold out. The Raiders have a huge fanbase in Southern California. Expect this game to feel like a Raider home game. The Raiders are 6-9 and struggling, but with this rivalry expect plenty of passion from the players and fans. The chargers roller coaster ride will continue for at least one more week.