Sadly, a late interception by Philip Rivers sealed this one as the Chargers were handed another tough loss and one that is going to sit in the back of the team’s mind for a long time.
The Chargers now sit at 5-7 and their season is all but over. With the AFC West playing so well and other teams gaining another game on the Chargers, the postseason hopes are all but gone.
Even so, there were some players that really stepped their game up against Tampa Bay. Denzel Perryman and Korey Toomer looked strong and Melvin Gordon put together another great game.
On the other hand, there were plenty of players that were disappointing today. Melvin Ingram couldn’t wrap anyone up and Craig Mager continued to show that he isn’t an NFL cornerback.
All in all, this game was a quintessential Chargers game. Some positives that leads to hope and excitement about what this team could be. Then, disappointment as it becomes obvious that the Chargers will yet again let everyone down.
It’s time I get this off my chest. I was convinced that Melvin Gordon wasn’t going to be a good NFL running back after his rookie season. Boy, was I wrong. Gordon has turned into an every down back and looks like a completely different player.
If it weren’t for the Chargers deciding to throw the ball while in the lead, Gordon could have been in for a career day. Gordon led the team in both rushing and receiving. Gordon had 138 total yards as well as a rushing touchdown (his 12th of the season).
With how successful the running game was working for the Chargers, it was confusing to see them go away from it. It was frustrating to see the Chargers avoid going to Gordon to put the game away late, but what can you expect from Mike McCoy and company?
From the first whistle, Gordon was able to run inside and outside with no fear. He broke countless tackles on his way to some hard-earned first downs. The way Gordon has ran all year is so impressive. It’s hard to argue another running back in the league that has the size and strength of Gordon. Add to the fact that he does all this while fixing the fumbling issue he had last season is absolutely tremendous.
The one major concern for the Chargers offense this season was how the loss of Danny Woodhead would affect them. Although his pass catching ability is second to none, Gordon has done a very good job at becoming a threat out of the backfield. When Rivers is in trouble, he now looks to Gordon and has been rewarded with big gains on a consistent basis. With Gordon’s ability to break tackles, when Gordon has room for a catch and run he is dangerous.
Gordon’s performance against the Buccaneers was one that fans have to be proud of. It feels like the Chargers have the running back of the future.
What else is there to say about Casey Hayward?
The free agent from Green Bay has been San Diego’s best defensive back. Scratch that, he has been one of the best defensive backs in the league. Hayward was able to grab his seventh interception of the season early on in this game. That would be good for the most in the NFL.
Along with his league-leading pick, Hayward was able to shut down one of the league’s best wideouts in Mike Evans. Evans was held to just three catches for 38 yards.
Add this game to the list of Hayward’s great performances of this season. Week in and week out Hayward has been lined up against the opposition’s best weapon. Hayward has yet to disappoint. To date, Hayward may be the best free agent General Manager Tom Telesco has signed.
What makes this so impressive, is that he is doing this with a weak supporting cast around him. Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers have only played a few games and the starting safeties have been an issue all season. This means that Hayward is working with undrafted guys like Trevor Williams and players that are still learning the ropes like Craig Mager.
Against all odds and logic, Hayward has become one of the best players on this Chargers roster.
Joey Bosa is dominant. Simple as that. Through his first eight games, Bosa is playing at a historic level and has made this Chargers defense more than respectable. Everyone is beginning to notice.
Forget Dak and Zeke, Joey Bosa is the most dominant rookie in the NFL right now. #Chargers— NFL Draft Insider (@NFLDraftInsider) December 4, 2016
So far this season, Bosa is playing at a historic level. According to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Bosa has had moe pressures and hurries than any other rookie since 2006.
After adding a sack+two pressures to his resume, Joey Bosa remains on a historic pace. More pressure than anyone in first 8 games since '06 pic.twitter.com/oFN0d6lHoQ— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) December 5, 2016
The way he played today further solidifies his status as a defensive rookie of the year candidate. Bosa absolutely dominated whoever was across from him today and was able to get the Chargers defense off the field a few times during the game.
Yes, Bosa had a few missed chances, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was a force today. The Bucs had to bring running backs to Bosa’s side to try and slow him down.
In an incredibly short amount of time, Bosa has been able to win over all of the fans that despised him for his contract holdout and the rest of his doubters in only eight weeks.
Here’s to watching Bosa tear it up in these final few weeks.
As I praised Telesco for signing Hayward, I am going to do the complete opposite and criticize him for drafting Craig Mager.
A third round pick in 2015, Mager has been gifted playing time due to injury after injury. Still, Mager has not taken advantage of any of his reps so far this year. For the past two weeks, Mager has been made to look like a fool by anyone he “covers”.
Honestly, it wouldn’t be too bad if Mager was getting beat by receivers like Evans and DeAndre Hopkins, but those aren’t the only guys that he can’t cover. Guys like Braxton Miller and Freddie Martino have also had success against Mager.
Mager’s play on Sunday did him no favors as Jameis Winston attacked him multiple times with repeated success. Mager has also not been good in run support. He has gotten bowled over and pushed backward with ease. In what is a depleted cornerback unit, it’s easy to see that Mager is the weakest link. Even with only two years under his belt, Mager is one of my early candidates to get cut this offseason.
I love Philip Rivers. I think that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but he has not played like it of late. In his last three games, Rivers has seven interceptions five of which have come in the fourth quarter.
It’s next to impossible for the Chargers to win football games if Rivers is going to make mistakes like that.
With just under three minutes left in regulation, the Chargers were trying to force overtime and Rivers threw a deep ball towards Dontrelle Inman. The ball was underthrown and picked off by Buccaneers safety Keith Tandy and it would lead to the Chargers loss.
That would mean a fitting end to their disappointing season.
Now, it’s hard to fault Rivers at times because of what he has to work with. A bad offensive line, unproven receivers and a coaching staff that he has to coach.
(At one point in the game Rivers seemed to have overrun offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s play call and gave the ball to Gordon for a first down.)
Sorry Phil, I know the odds are stacked against you, but you can’t make that throw.
Man, how is Melvin Ingram going to get paid if he cannot wrap up the quarterback? It felt like Ingram had a sure sack about ten times against Tampa Bay and not once did he come through.
It’s crazy to think that in his 5th season in the league Ingram still doesn’t know how to tackle. This has been a problem since his rookie year and he still hasn’t been able to fix it. I’m confident that if Ingram was able to sack the QB on only half the chances he has gotten this year, he would have a double-digit sack total.
Ingram’s inability to finish plays led to multiple first downs and big plays for Winston as he was given another chance to fire the ball down the field to open receivers. The Buccaneers were dead in the water a few times in this game but mistakes like the ones Ingram made put them back into contention.
The Chargers are still going to have a tough decision to make this offseason when it comes to Ingram. The tandem of him and Bosa look special at times, but if he can’t perform at a consistent level, it wouldn’t be surprising if they let him walk.
Do I really have to explain it?
Another season without the playoffs, the owner dangling the possibility of leaving town and a coach looking for an extension. That is what Chargers fans will be faced with for the remainder of this season.
I would go on, but I’m already looking forward to the NFL Draft come April!