The Chargers are 2-0 in December, they played the Chiefs last Thursday
December 16, 2021
December football has not always been kind to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers entered the month of December with a 6-5 record, knowing that this December had to be different if they were going to win a division title or make the playoffs. So far, so good for the Chargers this December.
The Chargers followed up on their 19-point rout of the Cincinnati Bengals on December 5th with a 16-point rout of the New York Giants this past Sunday to improve their record for the month of December to 2-0 and their overall to 8-5 for the season. The 37-21 victory over the Giants on Sunday at SoFi Stadium was not as close the score might indicate, with the Chargers leading 37-7 early in the fourth quarter before playing a lot of their bench players and allowing the Giants to score two fourth quarter touchdowns.
The victory set up a showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday Night, December 16th, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The Chiefs were 9-4 for the season and lead the Chargers by one game in the AFC West. The Chargers beat the Chiefs in Kansas City earlier in the season and with a victory over the Chiefs Thursday Night, would pull even with the Chiefs record-wise and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker for the division title.
A Chiefs victory would give them a two-game lead with three games to go, essentially wrapping up a sixth consecutive AFC West division title for the Chiefs. The Chargers control their own destiny. If they win their final four games, which includes the Thursday Night game, they win the AFC West and they would earn at least one home playoff game at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers have not won the AFC West title since 2009.
The game against the Giants was tied after one quarter at 7-7, with the Giants score coming on a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glennon to running back Elijhaa Penny to tie the game at 7-7. The touchdown was set up by a 60-yard completion from Glennon to tight end Kyle Rudolph. As it turned out, the Giants were held to 60 yards in offense in the second and third quarters as the Chargers took complete control of the game, outscoring the Giants 30-0 to take a 37-7 lead.
Charger head coach Brandon Staley was asked about the thirty-point lead and stated that, "I think that you accomplish that by playing complete football in all three phases. I feel like that's what we did. I felt like in that stretch there, we just played team football in all phases. You kind of follow that touchdown, you go three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, end-of-half, then you go turnover on downs, forced fumble, you're going to give your offense a great chance to be successful."
Staley added that, "I felt like we really moved the football well today. We were ball secure today. We had that big red-area touchdown to Josh (Palmer) in a got-to-have-it [situation] that I really liked. I thought that Dustin [Hopkins] was outstanding. I felt like he really made his kicks today, really kicked the ball well. There was good timing. There was good operation. I think that that's a confidence builder, too, because he's really done a nice job for us. I'm excited about that."
Being ball secure will be important Thursday night against the Chiefs. In the Chargers 30-24 win over the Chiefs in Week 3, the Chargers won the turnover battle, 4-0. That was the difference in the game. The Chiefs have a six-game winning streak and have won the turnover battle during this streak 16-6, with the Chiefs defense creating 16 turnovers during this streak, including five this past week against the Raiders.
The Chiefs have a superstar quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who creates a lot of problems for defenses. Mahomes was the NFL MVP in 2019 and was also the Super Bowl MVP that season in leading the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title. The Chargers are grooming their own future NFL MVP in quarterback Justin Herbert.
On Sunday against the Giants, Herbert threw for 275 yards, completing 23 of 31 passes and adding three touchdown passes, including a missile off his back foot that traveled 65 yards in the air and dropped in the arms of wide receiver Jalen Guyton for a touchdown in the end zone. Staley was asked what an MVP quarterback looks like, and his answer was, "It looks like the guy that plays for us."
The description of Herbert among the media and teammates were words like, "Elite," Freak," "Gangster," and "Not Human." Staley added that, "When you see something special, normally, it looks easy. That's what he does; he makes the really, really challenging stuff look easy. That's a pretty good indicator that you are witnessing something rare."
The Chargers played without star wide receiver Keenan Allen and star safety Derwin James. Allen missed the game because of a positive Covid-19 test and James had a slight hamstring pull. The Chargers decided to sit him for the Giants game with the Chiefs game four days later. Allen was expected back for the Chiefs game.
The Chargers did not miss Allen, with Guyton, Palmer, and tight end Jared Cook each catching touchdown passes. Nine different receivers caught passes from Herbert. Defensively, the Chargers got one sack each from Joey Bosa and Justin Jones, with linebacker Kyzir White adding ten tackles and rookie linebacker Nick Niemann gathering in the first interception of his NFL career.