Chargers Choke in Kansas City: Three Things Learned
Kansas City 19, San Diego 7
All the Chargers needed was to win the game for the number six seed in the AFC; not unlike last season where they needed a win and some help. This year, Baltimore was on the receiving end of that good fortune as the Chargers looked supremely lackluster. In addition to rapidly-accumulating injuries, QB Philip Rivers did not look like the Rivers we all know: the one who, coming into this game was 8-0 in the last game of the season in his career and who was 17-2 (now 17-3) in December road games.
And to make matters worse was (just like last year) Kansas City's backup QB Chase Daniel who earned the start today because of Alex Smith's ruptured spleen (ouch) and who completed a respectable 16 of 27 passes for 157 yards. Whereas Rivers bested Daniel in the statistics department (20-of-34 for 291 yards) he uncharacteristically did not toss a touchdown (RB Branden Oliver managed the Chargers' lone score) and, even more reminiscent of the Rivers a few years ago, lobbed two interceptions and lost a fumble (granted, the last interception was on a fourth-quarter-fourth-down-we-desperately-need-to-score pass in the end zone).
Oh yeah, and K Nick Novak missed a 52-yard field goal; not like those points would have seriously impacted the final score but could have been a little momentum booster (and could have given me more than one point on my fantasy team this week). The Chiefs' amazing rookie K Cairo Santos hit four-of-five of his field goal attempts.
On the positive side for San Diego (if one can be gleaned from this upsetting loss) Rivers managed his sixth 4,000+ yards season and TE Antonio Gates became the fourth tight end in history with 10,000 yards; joining the likes of Tony Gonzales, Jason Witten, and Shannon Sharpe.
Both teams finished the season a slightly-above-mediocre 9-7 and will be experiencing the postseason like me--from their sofas.
So, what did we learn from this game, if anything?
1. OLB Justin Houston is a sack maniac. Like J.J. Watt sack maniac (the latter who, today, became the only player in NFL history with two 20-sack seasons, 2012 and 2014). Today, Houston recorded four sacks to give him 22 on the season which is a new franchise record (formerly held by Derrick Thomas at 20) and tying him for second all-time with Jared Allen (2001, MIN) and Mark Gastineau (1984, NYJ). Michael Strahan holds the record with 22.5 (2001, NYG). And being the somewhat senstive female that I am, I did tear up every time Houston would raise his jersey to show S Eric Berry's #29 on his undershirt.
2. The Chargers didn't want it badly enough. I mean, come on, they came back from a 28-7 deficit last week in San Francisco. But today, except for a mere handful of tremendous plays and a valiant effort by Oliver (14 carries, 71 yards, one touchdown), they fell short. Way short.
Granted, the Chargers did suffer even more injuries than their already-depleted team could bear including CB Shareece Wright (head), WR Eddie Royal (head), OT D.J. Fluker (leg), SS Marcus Gilchrist (arm), and SS Jahleel Addae (head). Thankfully, both Fluker and Addae returned to the game. San Diego had already suffered injuries to RB Ryan Mathews, P Mike Scifres, WR Keenan Allen, and four centers. Yes, you read that correctly, FOUR CENTERS (if I was a center I most certainly would go all Eli Manning and say that I didn't want to play for the Chargers). Also, Rivers was playing with a bulging disc in his back and a rib injury which were ostensible in his subpar play.
3. The Chiefs managed to go the entire season withou a single touchdown by a wide receiver, becoming the only NFL team in history to boast that disquieting non-accomplishment. Leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns this season is TE Travis Gronk, er Kelcie. However, there was a brief moment of potential reprieve when WR Dwayne Bowe caught an 11-yard pass that appeared to be a touchdown but that turned out to be a fumble at the goal line that was recovered by--who else--Kelce.
Just like last season, the Chiefs finish second in the AFC West and the Chargers, third; however, unlike last season, neither team is going to the playoffs, both wildcards will hail from the AFC North.