The Chargers Look Ahead To Next Season
January 18, 2018
The 2017 Los Angeles Charger season is going to be remembered for a lot of positive developments, including winning nine of their last 12 games.
But it will be the missed opportunities that will haunt this team. It was those missed opportunities that will keep the Chargers at home for the playoffs.
The Chargers started the season going 0-4, losing the opener by 24-21 to the Denver Broncos on a blocked field goal attempt, losing at home to the Miami Dolphins 19-17 on a missed field goal and losing at home to the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24. The three losses were by less than three points.
Through the 0-4 start, the Chargers gave up an average of 163 yards per game on the ground and rushed for an average of 67 yards per game. They had a turnover margin of minus-3 and they had missed three field goals. They were last in time of possession. Despite these numbers, they could have been 3-1 coming out of the first four games.
The Chargers' passing attack and the Chargers' pass defense were among the best in the NFL in 2017. The Chargers led the NFL in passing yardage per game at 276.9 yards per game and gave up the least amount of sacks with a total of 18 allowed. The passing defense ranked third in the NFL allowing 197.2 yards per game and ranked fifth in the NFL with 43 sacks.
Those strengths kept the Chargers competitive and were the reason that the Chargers' losses through the 0-4 start were close. When the defense started to do a better job of stopping the run and the offense improved running the ball, the Chargers looked like a different team.
Over the last 12 games the Chargers held opponents to 120 rushing yards per game and averaged 110 yards per game on the ground. The turnover margin was +15 over the last 12 games. The Chargers ended up ranked 12th in time of possession in the NFL, after being ranked last in this category after the first four games.
The Chargers won their last five home games by an average margin of 19 points per game. They led at halftime of each game and never trailed in the 2nd half of any of the last five home games. Their 28-6 win on Thanksgiving Day over the Dallas Cowboys on the road was also very impressive.
But despite the strong finish the Chargers are watching the playoffs from home. As Charger quarterback Philip Rivers said after the final regular season game: "That's where it hurts the most, because we're a pretty hot team that's going home. You win nine out of the last 12 after you start 0-4. Shoot, that's a pretty good stretch, but we'll be watching."
The Chargers needed one more win to secure a playoff spot. The loss at home against the Dolphins and the 20-17 loss in overtime to the Jacksonville Jaguars really stand out. The loss at home to the Dolphins came down to converting field goals. Dolphin kicker Cody Parkey converted all four of his field goals, including a 54-yard field goal with 1:57 left in the game.
That kick gave the Dolphins the lead at 19-17. Charger kicker Younghoe Koo made one of his three field goal attempts, missing from 43 yards out in the first half and 44 yards at the end of the game with nine seconds left. If Koo makes either one of those kicks, the Chargers win.
In the Jaguar loss the Chargers led 17-14 early in the fourth quarter and had numerous opportunities to put the game away. Tre Boston dropped a pick six interception that would have given the Chargers a two-score lead.
In the last two minutes of the game Boston intercepted Jaguar Quarterback Blake Bortles twice. On the second interception, Boston ran out of bounds at the 10-yard line and started celebrating instead of running up field and gaining the additional 15-20 yards that was available.
Running back Austin Ekeler lost a fumble in the last two minutes of the game. Defensive End Joey Bosa had a key roughing the passer penalty that kept a Jaguar drive going and led to the field goal that tied the game with three seconds left in regulation and sent the game into overtime.
So the Chargers ended up 9-7 and must look forward to the 2018 season. There will be changes to the team as there always is in the NFL. Head Coach Anthony Lynn stated: "You'd love to keep continuity with players and coaches to be honest with you – it's hard to do in this league. With our coaching staff, we'd love to keep all three coordinators, that's what we plan to do." They have managed to do that, as all three coordinators are returning for the 2018 season.
There are areas of the team that need to be addressed, starting with the acquisition of a reliable field goal kicker. The Chargers were last in field goal percentage in the NFL. They used four different kickers during the season.
As General Manager Tom Telesco stated: "Obviously our kicking game was not NFL quality this year. I kind of put our head coach, Anthony, in a tough position as far as managing the football game. I did not do a good enough job there. But we'll get that addressed."
Besides the field goal kicker the Chargers need to address other positions such as linebacker, running back, defensive tackle and offensive tackle. The Chargers need to get tougher up the middle on defense and upgrades at linebacker and defensive tackle would help. They need to improve their depth at running back and they could use a strong inside runner.
At age 36 Rivers looks like he has at least two good seasons left in his body. He also has two years on his contract. The Chargers have a nice young roster around Rivers and with a few additions they should make the playoffs next season, if they can stay healthy. It is important for the Chargers to win now, because they are in a fight to win fans in Los Angeles and the hourglass on Rivers is running out.