Here we are, half-way through the season – which means it’s time for a Chargers mid-season outlook. And what a perfect time to do such, after a tough loss on prime time television. However, if there’s one thing Sunday’s defeat taught us, it’s that this team fights – that’s for sure. If you would’ve asked me what I thought about the Chargers’ “heart” in the beginning of the season – the answer would be an expletive-filled rambling. And now, even after a loss (and a LOT more injuries) – the answer’s changed drastically…
The irony here, of course, is commending a team that blew a second half lead for heart. And while it’s a punch to the gut, no doubt, it’s about as justifiable a collapse as any – as the team that ended up out there was not even a shell of the roster Tom Telesco put together. And while I’m not a fan of excuses – it was also a 49ers team that has 2 of the most electric and elite playmakers in the NFL. The Niners also had Trent Williams to account for the Chargers only bonafide rusher in Khalil Mack, and a top-5 tight end to add to the mix. So, yeah – you can understand why the Chargers lost.
And yet again, while you never want a loss – this was about as good as they come. It also came at a time of reflection, a time of assessment for the present – and the future – the middle of the season. Here’s what Sunday taught us about the Chargers as they trudge forward to the second half, Here’s my Chargers mid-season outlook:
The Chargers Can Stop the Run
Woah, that felt weird. I never thought I’d write that sentence. Before calling me crazy, please note that this is especially biased after what I’ve seen the past few weeks. Even with Austin Johnson, Otito Ogbonnia, AND Christian Covington headed to the ever-increasing injury list – the Bolts were able to keep Christian McCaffery, Elijah Mitchell, Cordarelle Patterson, Tyler Huntley, and Deebo Samuel at bay. Well, at least for small chunks at a time. The Chargers were able to limit the 49ers all-world rushing attack for the first half, whereas they also contained a very respectable Falcons ground game for the second half.
And while I’m not so high (on optimism) that I’m going to think that the rushing defense is suddenly some sort of strength. No, that’s pushing it. But to say that there have been flashes, inklings of hope – that sounds about right. And yet, while these flashes may appear as miraculous, it’s actually been one key factor that’s facilitated these bursts of success – loading the box. If the Chargers can pick their spots, and use this strategy correctly, then maybe – just maybe – this defense can find their footing.
The Chargers O-Line Is No Longer the Problem
The Chargers O-Line ranks second in the entire NFL in sacks given up. I repeat, SECOND. Now that, in and of itself, is shocking to those of us Bolts fans who have followed the team for the past… well, even last year. It’s been a constant struggle for the Chargers ever since LaDanian Tomlinson suited up to have a group of 5 solid guys up front. And now, miraculously and out of no where, this seems to actually be the case…
And if the first statistic didn’t shock you enough – try this one on for size. For a team to be known for its gun-slinging QB and a high-powered deep threat offense, the Chargers have actually been the most effective when they’re running the ball well. And guess what? Ekeler and Kelley have been able to gain significant yardage on a consistent basis. Sure, Austin Ekeler is no Jonathan Taylor or Derrick Henry – but these outings have shown us that the O-Line can open up holes, and good things happen when they do.
The Chargers Can Compete
This should be a no-brainer, but many were begging to differ after losses to the Jaguars and Seahawks – two teams that should’ve been beaten. And then, there’s the whole philosophy of “you can’t really blame them, they’ve caught the injury bug” – well, what last week taught me personally is that Brandon Staley stopped using that as an excuse. He cut the BS. Because injuries weren’t the biggest problem, the effort and will to win was. Last Sunday – I saw a team who wasn’t looking for excuses, I saw a team that wanted to win.
And furthermore, even with all of these injuries and the questionable effort – the Chargers are still 5-4 and second in the division! The Chiefs game could’ve easily been won barring a mental (and physical) error by Gerald Everett. The 49ers game could’ve easily been won barring multiple goal line goose-eggs. If you talk to any Chargers fan (or NFL talking head) – it sounds like they’re talking about a dumpster fire team lobbying for a lottery pick – but that’s far, far from the truth.
Chargers Mid-Season Outlook: A Conclusion
The 49ers game wasn’t just a loss – it was a hard-fought game that really could’ve gone either way. And without (what seems like) your best 5 players – to go out and hang with a team who’s expected to make a run for the Super Bowl; you’re (literally) inches away from etching yourself in that same category. Bold statement? Sure, but with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and (soon enough) Joey Bosa on the mend?
That’s scary once again. I’m talking, living up to the pre-season hype scary. And with the Chiefs, Dolphins, and Titans coming up – the Chargers will have plenty more opportunities to prove their worth. And if the Chargers can even squeeze out a victory this Sunday night against the Chiefs – in prime time, again – then you’ll see a drastic shift in the way the pundits speak about the Bolts.
Luckily, it’s not totally necessary for the Chargers to “win out” – the Bolts are only 2 losses away from the Chiefs, and 1 loss away from the Ravens, Dolphins, Jets, and Bills. Am I saying the Chargers are the favorite to get a Wild Card spot? Hell no. But, I am saying that they can – at least – put up a fight for it. The Bengals are a mess this year, and the Jets will most likely come back down to reality.
And honestly, as long as the Chargers continue to play like their jobs are on the line – and like they actually give a crap – then, I can live with it. The first season is flushed away, wipe it out – the second half serves as a fresh start – one in which the Chargers are actually in decent standing. We’ll see what happens, but if things keep going at this pace – the Chargers mid-season outlook seems pretty good…
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