Charger Lose Last Game of Season
January 2, 2020
The 2019 Los Angeles Chargers statistically had one of the better defenses in the NFL. They also statistically had one of the better passing offenses in the NFL. But too many mistakes throughout the season and not enough plays made on the defensive side spelled doom for the Chargers. After a 31-21 loss on the road to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Chargers ended the season 5-11, in last place in the AFC West.
It was obvious that throughout the season that the Chargers could not consistently run the football. They ended up 28th in rushing offense. They had a four-game stretch in which they rushed for less than forty yards in each game. That had not happened in the NFL since 1946. Losing three starters on the offensive line to injury had an obvious effect on the running game. The holdout by running back Melvin Gordon did not help, either.
The mistakes made during the season really hurt the team. The Chargers ended up tied for last in turnover ratio with the New York Giants, with a -17-turnover ratio. Of the top eleven teams in this category, ten made the playoffs. Of the bottom ten team in this category, none of them made the playoffs. The Chargers committed too many turnovers and did not make enough plays on defense.
The consolation prize for the Chargers will be a high draft choice in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Chargers will have the No.6 pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. That may be too high to pick an offensive lineman, where the Chargers could obviously use help. An impact defensive player could help, someone who is a playmaker. Or the Chargers could draft a quarterback of the future to eventually replace Philip Rivers.
Rivers had another typical game this against the Chiefs on Sunday, at least typical for the 2019 season. He completed 31 of 46 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also intercepted twice. For the season, Rivers threw for 4,615 yards, 4th best in the NFL, completing 66% of his passes and throwing 23 touchdown passes. But he also threw 20 interceptions, third highest in the NFL. It was the mistakes that defined the 2019 season for both the Chargers and Rivers.
In Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, the Chargers took an early second quarter lead of 7-3 on a Rivers scoring pass to Keenan Allen of 12 yards. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes got the lead back just before halftime, with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson, taking a 10-7 lead into the halftime break.
Mahomes threw an interception early in the 2nd half to Chargers cornerback Michael Davis, setting up a short field for the Chargers at the Chiefs 21-yard line. Three plays later, Gordon ran into the end zone for a five-yard score, giving the Chargers an early second half lead of 14-10. At this point, it looked like the Chargers could pull off an upset in their last game of the season, which would have cost the Chiefs a bye in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
That thought lasted about a minute. On the ensuing kickoff, Mecole Hardman returned the kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, restoring the Chiefs lead at 17-14. The Chiefs never looked back, scoring later in the quarter on an 84-yard touchdown run by Damien Williams, who broke multiple tackles and simply seemed to want it more than the Charger defenders. As head coach Anthony Lynn stated: "We had some guys slow down. The pursuit slowed because they thought someone else made the play."
In the 4th quarter, Williams again powered his way into the end zone, breaking multiple Charger tackle attempts for a seven-yard touchdown run. The Chiefs were the better team and they just wanted it more than the Chargers. The Chiefs ended the season 12-4 and with the New England Patriots upset loss at home to the Miami Dolphins, earned a first-round bye in the playoffs as the No.2 seed in the AFC.
The Chiefs will be headed to the playoffs and the Chargers to the beach, or the golf course. The Chargers have several decisions to make in the offseason, starting at quarterback. The 38-year-old Rivers has indicated that he wants to return, acknowledging that, "He didn't do enough this year to help us win." That was true, but there were other issues on the 2019 Chargers.
Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey suffered a neck injury and may decide to retire. They need to re-sign tight end Hunter Henry, a 2020 unrestricted free agent and acquire additional depth at the position. Henry, who missed four games to injury, caught 55 passes in 12 games. The other tight ends on the roster caught a total of 13 passes.
So, the Chargers will be faced with many difficult decisions in the offseason. They were a playoff team and could be next season with the right moves. A factor in favor of keeping Rivers another season is the new stadium in Inglewood. The Chargers need to have a face of the franchise and a player capable of winning next season. That may dictate keeping Rivers for at least one more season.