Chargers Did Well But No Playoffs
January 4, 2018
In 1965 the Chicago Bears opened their season 0-3. They won nine of their next ten games to get back into the conference race, but fell short in their bid to win the conference. The Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Colts were conference co-champions that year. Despite beating the eventual champion Packers by 21 points and shutting out the Colts on the road, the Bears could not overcome their 0-3 start.
The Bears fate of 1965 is the similar to the fate of the Los Angeles chargers of 2017. The chargers started 0-4 and spent the rest of the season attempting to catch up. They went 9-3 in their final 12 games, but fell short in their playoff hopes. On Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson the chargers crushed the Oakland Raiders 30-10 to finish the regular season at 9-7.
The chargers ended up in a four-way tie for the two wild card playoff berths, but lost out to the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans based on record within the AFC conference.
The Bears of 1965 had two rookies on that team that made a big impact on the Bears season. Linebacker Dick Butkus and running back Gale Sayers led the resurgence in 1965. They are both in the Hall of Fame. The chargers also have a nice group of young talent, but rode their future Hall of Fame Quarterback, Philip Rivers, in their resurgence.
Rivers completed 28 of 37 passes for 387 yards and three touchdown passes against the Raiders. He completed two long touchdown passes for the game, one a 56-yard touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams and the other a 62-yard bomb to Travis Benjamin. The third touchdown pass was a perfectly placed six-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen in the corner of the end zone.
The game was scoreless in the first quarter, but the chargers broke through in the second quarter when Allen caught a Melvin Gordon fumble in mid-air and took it 27 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 Charger lead. Allen also caught nine passes for 133 yards. Allen has had a terrific season. He caught 102 passes this season. He had an interception against the Jets last week and he was named to the pro bowl.
Allen was coming off an ACL injury from last season. Rivers was very happy for Allen's performance this season: "Credit to him. I'm happy for him, excited. "He really attacked the rehab head on. One of his biggest goals was to be out there for all 16, and you knew if he was out there for all 16, he'd have a heck of a chance to have the type of year that he had."
The Raiders came back to tie the game on an 87-yard touchdown pass from Raider Quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Amari Cooper. On a 3rd and 22 from their own 13-yard line, somehow Carr found Cooper wide open behind the Charger defense for an easy touchdown. The pro-Raider crowd roared their approval.
The Raiders latter took a brief 10-7 lead when Charger kicker Nick Rose had his 50-yard field goal attempt blocked and returned to the Charger 30-yard line. The chargers defense held, but Raider kicker Giorgio Tavecchio converted a 40-yard field goal to give the Raiders the lead.
Rivers and the chargers stormed back to score two touchdowns to take a 20-10 lead at halftime. They added ten points in the third quarter to finish out the scoring. From there, the defense and the running of Gordon took over to run the clock out on the game and the season.
For the season the chargers led the NFL in passing yardage per game and ranked 4th in total offensive yardage in the NFL. They gave up the least amount of sacks in the NFL, only 18 in 16 games. A lot of the credit for that statistic goes to both the offensive line and Rivers, who does a great job of getting the ball out quickly.
Despite the game and season that Rivers has had, it was hard to take a lot of joy from this win. Rivers stated: "You hate to not appreciate a win in this league because it's hard... but quickly, you're disappointed because you kick yourself that you put yourself in this situation that you need help."
Charger head coach Anthony Lynn added: "Well, I don't know why I'm standing up here like we lost the game; we won the game. I thought the guys finished. They played hard. These last 12 weeks we won nine out of 12. I think that showed what type of team we are after starting out 0-4. Disappointing we didn't make it to the postseason, but we couldn't control any of that."
The Bears' success in 1965 did not follow the next season. In the 1966 season, the Bears had a losing record of 5-7-2. For the chargers in 2018, there should not be an assumption that the success of the last 12 games will translate to success next season. With NFL free agency, potential coaching changes, injuries and the salary cap, every season is different.
The chargers do not have to look far for evidence of this. The Raiders were 12-4 and in the playoffs last season. They were supposed to be back in the playoffs in 2017. Instead, the Raiders went 6-10. Immediately after the loss to the chargers, Raider head coach Jack Del Rio was fired.
Del Rio was stunned and at a loss for words at his press conference. With tears in his eyes, he said: "I spoke with [owner] Mark Davis after the game and Mark let me know that he's not going to be bringing me back." The Raiders were his childhood team and the stunning turn of events illustrates how quickly things can change in the NFL.
Like the Bears of 1965, the chargers looked like a playoff team, but are not going to the playoffs. Coach Lynn said after the game: "This is a Championship Team." He may prove to be correct, but as the Raiders can show, one good season does not always lead to another.