The Los Angeles Chargers went into week 15 riding a high of two consecutive wins, and hoping to keep that energy alive against the Chiefs. However, at this point, the Chiefs are still the big dogs in the AFC, as they are top of the division still, and of course their Super Bowl. So the Chargers were absolutely looking for a big win to take command of the division, and go forward with a lot of momentum.
The game felt like bookends, with the Chargers struggling out of the gate and at the end of the game. For most of the game in the middle though, the Chargers were absolutely in control of this football game. The Chargers even found a way to start running the ball effectively, after a noticeable improvement last week. The defense caused two turnovers, which is always a helpful measure.
They have to feel disappointed to lose this game, after an up and down season this would have been the crowning achievement. The Chargers really could have won this game, but struggled to keep Travis Kelce under check. The Chiefs ability to make magic happen when plays are broken down is the difference in this game. Because for the most part, the Chiefs weren’t their normal dominant self that we saw two or three years ago.
The Chargers not only needed this win, but they also had this game in hand. They have to be disappointed in the result, but they should be proud of the way they played. Let’s take a look at the week 15 winners and losers from the Chargers week 15 loss to the Chiefs.
The Chargers have not been an effective running team all year, on defense or on offense. Last week felt like they were getting their feet under them as they clearly made a commitment to the run. Even in this game, there were a number of drives where they were effectively able to control the clock and manage the game because their rushing offense was able to move the ball.
Last week’s success started when they started getting Justin Jackson in the mix. This week he had a coming-out party that will make defensive coordinators start planning for him. He rushed for 86 yards on 13 total carries. He really helped establish a solid floor for the entire team, and definitely needs to find more playing time as the season comes to a close.
Joey Bear kept being the steady, superstar rock that he has been for the team all season. They’re clearly not the same when he’s not around. He’s the whole heartbeat of the defense. Simply put, they react to his energy. He had seven of the team’s twenty pressures, a sack, and another strip-sack. He absolutely terrorizes opposing quarterbacks and tackles, as he goes the entire defense goes.
I was hoping that Nwosu would become a bigger playmaker for the Chargers after he had a big game two weeks ago. This week he had the second most pressures on the team behind Bosa and accounted for a big, big interception at the end of the game that kept the Chargers alive. He wasn’t particularly great in coverage, but he clearly has the ability to give the Chargers another playmaker on defense, which the Chargers are sorely lacking. Nwosu is improving every week, and the Chargers are going to hope he really rounds into form as the season ends.
A lot of the season Brandon Staley’s play-calling has been praised because he’s been taking the aggressive approach, especially on fourth down. Brandon Staley even defended his reasoning, saying that they need touchdowns, not field goals. While that is a fair assessment, this week feels like it backfired on them. The Chargers went for it five times, and only converted two of them.
The first one was a backbreaker early in the first quarter on the first drive, where they failed to come away with any points. Then again at the end of the first half at the goal line. The nine points that they left behind were basically the difference in the game. I agree that being aggressive is the right way to always move, you plan to win. But you also have to pick and choose your spots, mistakes that create turnovers for your own team are a quick way to lose a game.
I honestly felt kind of bad picking out Drue for the losers of the week, as the defense, in general, is what clearly cost the Chargers the game. Especially when usual suspects Mike Davis and Tevaughn Campbell were of course culpable for a touchdown each. The linebackers across the board were atrocious. Travis Kelce absolutely dominated from end to end and at all levels of the field. All the linebackers were at fault for letting Kelce be the entire offensive production, but Tranquill just seemed to be at the center of it all. If they were all bad, he was the worst.
So many broken-down plays where he was supposed to either be or was chasing down the defenders that he missed. He had a PFF rating of 29.4 and gave up 74 yards in the air. The defense in general is going to need to be better, and it starts with Tranquill improving, against the pass. To be fair, had Derwin James finished the game, Tranquill would not have been required to do as much in the passing game.