The Los Angeles Chargers dispatched the visiting Washington Redskins with relative ease on Sunday, extending their win streak to four games. The Chargers now stand at 7-6 and are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the division.
Week 14 Los Angeles Chargers Takeaways
Raging Rivers and the Surging Chargers Offense
No quarterback in the NFL is currently playing better than Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. He picked apart the Redskins defense on Sunday, completing 18 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Furthermore, he has not thrown an interception in four games. Rivers is getting hot at the right time, and he has the Chargers offense primed for a playoff push.
One of the major weaknesses of the Chargers this season has been their penchant for starting slow on offense. However, the Chargers came out of the gate firing, scoring on their first five possessions and ending the second half with a score of 23-6. Looking ahead, they will need to continue to play well for a full 60-minutes in order to close out the season and make the playoffs.
A huge reason for Rivers’ success recently is the performance of wide receiver Keenan Allen. The Chargers offense boasts a plethora of dangerous weapons, such as tight end Hunter Henry and wide receiver Tyrell Williams. Both Williams and Henry scored touchdowns against the Redskins. However, Allen is clearly the best offensive player the Chargers have, outside of Rivers. Allen faced a tough foe in Redskins corner Josh Norman, one of the best cover men in the NFL. The result: Allen recorded his fourth 100-yard game in a row. NFL defenses have not yet produced an answer for Allen. As long as Rivers keeps targeting Allen, this offense will keep rolling.
Chargers Defense Masterful Yet Again
The Chargers faced a tough test in battling Kirk Cousins, an excellent young quarterback who ranks in the top 10 in every significant passing statistic. His numbers, this season, put him in the same company as Rivers and the rest of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, he was kept in check by a sturdy and stingy Chargers passing defense. Cousins passed for only 151 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His total of 151 passing yards is his lowest in any game this season, and his passer rating of 68 is also his worst of the year. Cousins was not helped by his receivers, as they rarely got separation from the Chargers defensive backs.
The Chargers defense has been rolling of late, as no opponent has scored more than thirteen points in three games. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley, the mastermind behind the Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom”, has this defense on the precipice of ascending to greatness. As players adjusted to their new roles early in the season, the transition for the Chargers was clearly difficult, considering they played a 3-4 defense in 2016, and Bradley runs a 4-3. However, everything seems to be clicking now, and opposing teams are finding it very difficult to score on this defense.
Rising in the West
The Chargers are on the verge of completing the comeback against the rival Chiefs, after beginning the season 0-4. The Chiefs, now also (7-6) were able to stop their slide, as they defeated the Oakland Raiders with a final score of 26-15. The game was actually not nearly as close as the score indicates. The Raiders scored all of their points in the fourth quarter, and played abysmal football in the first three quarters.
With the Raiders losing, it appears to be a two-team race for the division between the Chiefs and the Chargers. While it is still possible for Oakland, now (6-7), to win, they face two tough opponents in the Dallas Cowboys (7-6), and the Philadelphia Eagles (10-2), before finishing their season with the Chargers. In addition to needing to win out, they would also need both the Chargers and the Chiefs to collapse.
The Raiders have probably been the biggest disappointment of the season. Many experts picked them to win the Superbowl. Now, it’s likely that they won’t even appear in a playoff game. Their once dangerous offense is now about as dangerous as a butterfly. What defense they had in 2016 has yet to appear this season.
Despite the Chiefs apparent return to form, the Chargers are still quite capable of besting their AFC rival. The Chiefs defeated the Chargers in week three, however, that was easily the Chargers worst performance of the season. Given how the Chargers have been playing lately, it’s hard to imagine them losing to anyone, especially not the Chiefs, who have lost six of their last eight games. These two teams will face off next week in Kansas City, and it will likely be fore the division.