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The San Diego Chargers backed into the NFL playoffs

Look, I think we're all happy the Chargers are in the playoffs. But let's take a closer look at how they really got there, and if Mike McCoy deserves all the credit the media is heaping upon him.

Stephen Dunn

I think we all understand just how lucky the 2013 San Diego Chargers are to be in the playoffs. The team is so lucky that it is receiving national attention, something which never happens. This article by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell does a good job showing just how improbable the Charger's run has been, and credits Mike McCoy. And that, my friends, is shaping the facts to fit your narrative.

McCoy has absolutely nothing to do with the Dolphins and Ravens losing their last two games, and is instead only responsible for the pathetic effort the Chargers have put on the field in the last two weeks. The Chargers played arguably their worst football of the 2013 season in the two games they needed to win most.


Sure, McCoy’s done a nice job giving Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt the reins (with even Philip Rivers credits both him and QB Coach Frank Reich for the team’s turnaround on that side of the ball.)

That leaves McCoy the defense, which at one point was the worst in the last 20 or so years by nearly all advanced metrics, and the in-game decisions, which have been for the most part, way too conservative and overall pretty awful.


But back to this week, with the playoffs in sight. Let's set the stage. By kickoff of the Chargers game, Miami and Baltimore both had already lost, meaning San Diego needed only to beat the Chiefs, at home, to complete one of the more improbable playoff charges (yes, pun intended) in recent memory. Beyond the teams the Chargers needed to lose already doing so, the Chiefs were locked into the 5th spot and had nothing to play for, deciding to resting all but 3 of their starting 22. This meant the Chargers had to defeat the Chiefs JV squad to sneak into the playoffs.

So what happened? Simply put, the Chargers laid an egg. They came out flat, allowing a TD on the very first drive. They were sloppy on offense and couldn't exploit matchups against the Chiefs backups. On defense, the team had no plan, allowing such castoffs as A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway and Chase Daniel to run roughshod all over them.

Let's call a spade a spade - in the very most important game of the regular season, against probably the worst opponent they faced all year (maybe Jacksonville is worse...but still) - the Chargers played terribly. All referee controversy aside, the Chargers didn't deserve to win the game based on their own play. Good teams seize the moment. The Chargers backed into the playoffs in pretty embarrassing fashion.

Don’t believe me? Here's the Chargers average output on offense and defense for 2013:

Chargers 818 206 1024 35.0 248 34 65 11 143 41 1 13 6 0 2
Opponents 878 227 1105 30.0 150 27 58 11 146 52 2 8 10 1 2


  • The Chargers average 270.5 yards passing per game.

    • Against the Chiefs JV, they threw for 219, with 16 coming in overtime.

    • So in 4 quarters against the Chiefs, the Chargers mustered 203 yards passing, more than 60 off their season average.

  • The Chargers average 122.8 yards per game.

    • They had 186 against the Chiefs, with 43 coming in overtime.

    • In 4 quarters, that gives the Chargers 143 yards rushing against the Chiefs backups.

Philip Rivers was also under pressure all day, against those very same backups, playing a fully healthy Chargers Offensive Line. Receivers struggled to get open, and Rivers completed only 1 pass more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. That’s not acceptable and won’t cut it in the playoffs.


  • The Chargers give up 258.7 yards passing per game.

    • They allowed Chase Daniel 200 yards passing, but also gave up 3 passing first downs via penalty.

  • For the season, the Chargers allow a first down on 38.9% of 3rd downs.

    • The Chiefs backups were 6/14, for a 42% conversion rate.

  • The Chargers allow 107.8 yards rushing per game

    • Kansas City ran for 143, with -3 net yards rushing in overtime.

    • In 4 quarters, the Chiefs ran for 146 yards against the Chargers defense.

The defense had no idea what the Chiefs were going to do, got limited pressure against a backup offensive line, and were just abysmal stopping the run.


Unfortunately, upon closer look, it appears that aside from the Broncos game, the Chargers actually regressed once the season came down to "win or go home."

That, my friends, is on McCoy. Not the near-miracle choke jobs by the Dolphins and Ravens. The Chargers control only themselves, and they were hardly able to take care of business against backups.

Still, I’m happy we made it.

To quote the great Vince Lombardi, "Football is like life, it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."


"The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur."

Damn right. The events don’t matter! Self-denial does!