There is no game that mirrored the San Diego Chargers’ 2011 season than Saturday’s loss to the Detroit Lions.
It was a microcosm of how the Chargers have played all year. It was the most prudent example of why changes needed to be made. It is the perfect highlight reel as to why San Diego will be sitting at home after the New Year instead of playing in the postseason.
The Chargers 38-10 loss to the Lions on Christmas Eve might be the lasting memory for the 2011 Chargers—outmatched, out-coached, uninspired and—dare I say—overrated.
Linebacker Takeo Spikes signed with San Diego in the offseason with hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in his quite illustrious 14-year career.
Unfortunately for Spikes, he will again be watching the NFL playoffs from his couch, while Detroit clinched its first trip to the postseason since 1999;
“It’s very disappointing to know that we played so poorly with so much on the line,” Spikes told the North County Times. “They played better than us. They wanted it more than us. It showed out there on the field.”
The game was like the 2011 season for San Diego. The first half—which the Chargers finished down by 24—could be the team’s six-game losing streak, digging themselves a grave before they could even get started.
The first half of the third quarter could be seen as San Diego’s three-game winning streak to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The Chargers scored a touchdown, converted on a nifty onside kick and then scored a field goal to bring the score to 24-10 with 4:53 left in the third quarter.
But, the final act for Saturday’s loss could also be viewed as San Diego’s final act for the season.
The Lions scored on the ensuing possession on a nine-play, 80-yard drive to push the score back to 31-10.
A couple of Philip Rivers interceptions—including an interception returned for a touchdown by Detroit defensive lineman Cliff Avril—closed the coffin on the Chargers chances of beating the Lions and shut the door on San Diego’s playoff hopes.
“When you lose six in a row in this league, you’re probably not going to the postseason, but we fought our way back in it,” Rivers—who finished with 299 passing yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions—told the Associated Press. “You’re hanging your hat on running the table, and going to beat playoff teams on the road, it’s tough.”
The Lions, so often the NFL’s laughingstock, definitely looked more like the team that was fighting for its playoff berths. San Diego, on the other hand, looked like it had already mailed in the rest of the season, even though its playoff hopes were still alive when the Denver Broncos lost to the Buffalo Bills earlier that day.
Detroit dominated in front of its emotionally charged home fans at Ford Field.
The Lions held a 24-0 halftime lead behind quarterback Matthew Stafford’s dazzling numbers.
The Georgia product carved the Chargers defense—which primarily played a soft cover 2 zone to prevent big plays—went 21-for-26 for 260 yards with three touchdown passes in the first half.
Stafford finished the game with 373 passing yards.
“We really weren’t able to get pressure on the quarterback,” San Diego head coach Norv Turner told Chargers.com, “and when we did he did a great job moving around, buying time and finding open guys down the field.”
And that’s the most disappointing for this Chargers team—with so much on the line, they laid a dud.
Detroit looked like the team that deserved to be in the playoffs.
San Diego looked like the team that deserved to have the six-game losing streak.
“It wasn’t anything about matchups,” Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer told the Union-Tribune. “We just didn’t match their intensity.”
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