Week 10’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped the Chargers record to 4-5. Here is what we learned from Sunday’s 34-24 defeat.
1. Finish Finish Finish – We can’t say it enough; the Chargers need to figure out how to play 60 minutes of football. In all but one loss, the Chargers were right there in the waning moments of the game, but have not been able to get the big stop or timely score. The season would most likely be very different at this point if they could have stolen a victory from one of their losses to the Saints, Broncos, Browns or Buccaneers. The Chargers need to figure out how to get the job done in crunch time over their final seven games.
2. Rivers is Pressing – It’s been obvious for a number of weeks, and never more so than on his fateful fourth quarter throw that resulted in the game-changing pick six. Rivers is at his best when he has time in the pocket and just rips it. We’ve seen just how good he can be over the last two games as he’s put up incredible statistical numbers, completing 47 of 57 attempts for an 82.7 completion percentage along with five touchdowns. Rivers has also posted back to back QB ratings of 115.0 and 109.1. Unfortunately, as has been the case for most of the season, he’s made poor decisions in crucial situations with the game on the line. Of his three interceptions over the last two games, one came in the end zone while the other two were fourth quarter picks, including one returned for a touchdown. We all know Rivers is capable of performing at the most elite level; he just needs to get back to making better decisions.
3. Defense Good, Not Good Enough – The defense managed to give up only 20 points from an explosive Buccaneers offense. It’s not that the defense played poorly yesterday. It’s that they haven’t been able to make those game-changing plays in close games. Aside from their sole sack yesterday, they were unable to force any negative plays, create any turnovers, or even force the Bucs into committing any offensive penalties. It’s a tough challenge to win games when the defense doesn’t create turnovers or put their offense in good field position.
5. Down But Not Out – It was a somber postgame locker room in Tampa Bay as one would expect it to be. Bottom line, no matter how it’s done, the Chargers need to win, and as they look to a tough opponent next week at Denver, they will have to figure out how to get the job done. A win puts them at 4-1 in the AFC West, just one game behind the Broncos for first place. A loss drops them three games behind Denver (four for all intents and purposes as the Broncos hold the tie breaker) with six games remaining. Being in that deep of a hole will shift their focus to the wide-open wild card race.