Whether this was the final game of the San Diego Chargers or not, they went out with a big game effort from their offense and especially their defense.
They played the division-leading Denver Broncos in Denver and throughout the game the defense, led by Manti Te’o, Jahleel Addae and Denzel Perryman, stopped the Broncos offense from capitalizing on what looked like successful drives. They held Denver to just one touchdown in that first half, despite the yardage accrued by the Broncos.
The Charges got a big effort from Steve Williams, who was instrumental in three big first half plays: he forced two fumbles and recovered one of them, and had an interception.
The San Diego defense did all it could to keep the Chargers in the game. They had such a great day against the Broncos offense, when it was led by Brock Osweiler, Denver head coach Gary Kubiak pulled Osweiler in the third quarter and put in Peyton Manning.
That was the game-changer.
Osweiler and the Broncos racked up over 180 yards passing, just in the first quarter — and yet they only had seven points to show for it. When he left the game Osweiler had 232 yards passing, but only the one TD to show for all the offense.
After the Chargers scored a touchdown to take the lead in the third (13-7), the 39-year old Manning came out to lead the Broncos. The first series he played Denver got the lead back on a rushing touchdown by C.J. Anderson. They had to do it twice because the first one was reversed after the officials reviewed the first attempt and said Anderson’s knee hit the ground before the ball broke the plane of the goal line.
After the second attempt was successful Manning turned to the officials and asked, “was that one good?”
The teams traded the lead four times in the second half, but the Broncos, led by Manning, were able to score 20 points, while the Chargers could only put up 14.
Denver has the best defense in the league and they harassed and stymied San Diego QB Philip Rivers all day. He was intercepted once and sacked three times, but he was held to just 228 yards passing in the game. Six receivers caught passes for the Chargers, but they lost Malcom Floyd when he went out of the game with a concussion.
It was a sad end for Floyd’s 12-year career. He has been instrumental in all of San Diego’s successful seasons since Philip Rivers has been the starting quarterback. In a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Floyd caught his first touchdown pass in the NFL, which also happened to be Rivers’ first touchdown pass. The two have been a very potent passing threat ever since.
The Chargers had their injury woes in the game, losing not only Malcom Floyd, but four other players as well.
The game ended when Rivers was picked off in the end zone, ending the season for the Chargers, with a record of 4-12. The Broncos won the AFC West Division and home field advantage in the AFC playoffs, plus a bye in the first week. Their season record is 12-4.
The final score of the game was 27-20.
San Diego has a lot of questions to answer, the big one being: where will the team play next season. There is also speculation about whether head coach Mike McCoy will be back. The team has had the worst luck with injuries this season. Their offensive line has been a patchwork of who was available to play.
Still, this was a team that was picked to be a strong contender for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, so many believe the Chargers should have had a winning record at least, despite the injuries.
On a bright note for the Chargers: their rookie wide receiver Tyrell Williams came in the game and caught two passes for 90 yards, his first NFL catch an 80-yard touchdown that put the Chargers in the lead. With Floyd gone next season they appear to have another strong receiver to step up in the offense.
Their defense was very good as well and next season they could be one of the best in the league. And most people around the league believe that they will be the Los Angeles Chargers next season.
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UPDATE: The team could file the relocation paperwork as early as this week and when they do it will be a substantial move to get an NFL team in the nation’s second largest media market. The Chargers have said 25 percent of their season ticket holders are from Los Angeles and Orange Counties and they need to protect that business.
Several stadium options have been put together by the city of San Diego, one of the more popular being an expansion of the Convention Center. It would give the Chargers a Super Bowl quality stadium in Downtown San Diego and have the added benefit of luring more convention business to the city. It’s a good bet the stadium and convention center expansion could pay for itself over time with the increased business.
There is also the possibility of a new stadium in Mission Valley, close to the existing Qualcomm Stadium. With all the business in the area, including the hotels, expanding the business in the valley with a stadium complex would be a good addition for the city. Plus it has the added benefit of being close to four freeways,
There is a strong base of Chargers fans in San Diego and they have been showing their support for the team this season, knowing the urgency of the situation. After their final home game of the season, when they beat the Miami Dolphins, Philip Rivers said, “If you’re a quarterback in the NFL and you’re blessed enough, as I have, to stay in the same place for 12 years, you become the quarterback for that town.” Obviously Rivers likes being in San Diego and many of his teammates feel the same.
The NFL likes the city as well. San Diego is a great location and a good-sized media market, with about six million residents in the area. With a stadium capable of hosting the Super Bowl, it could be a great city for the league. The huge crowds of visitors that turned out for the two college bowl games held here in the past 10 days (Poinsettia Bowl and Holiday Bowl) are a good indication of how much teams and fans from the snow belt like San Diego.
For the fans, the Chargers need to put another championship-calibre team together. They had a few with Rivers as the QB, but blew their chances in the early rounds of the playoffs. They have only been to the Super Bowl once, and were blown out by the San Francisco 49ers. Chargers fans have had a lot to cheer about in the team’s 54-year history in San Diego, but they would like to raise a Super Bowl banner in their city. It’s the one banner missing from the many that ring Qualcomm Stadium.
Claudia Gestro contributed to this article.
Top photo: Peyton Manning’s first play of the game (YouTube)
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