The team continued to lose games in a variety of ways, sometimes out manned and blown out, other times losing games it could have won. The next six losses are examined in the middle part of this three part series. If you have not read Part 1, you probably should do that now.
Week 6: Packers 27 - Bolts 20
This was another road game against a quality opponent that was winnable, had a couple of plays turned out differently. The Bolts defense got ran on effectively by James Starks, who racked up 112 yards on only ten carries. The Bolts offense did not really show up until 20 minutes into the game but did manage to tie the game at 17 all on two back to back TD drives to close out the 2nd quarter and early in the 3rd quarter.
Green Bay pulled away with a late 3rd quarter TD, answered by a Bolts FG early in the 4th, which the Packers answered with a FG of their own. The Chargers had by that point simply stopped trying to run, as the center and left side of the line was manned by back-ups and DJ Fluker was still not 100% with an ankle injury. Rivers picked up the slack on his way to what would turn out to be a historic day; becoming the first QB in NFL history to pass for more than 500 yards without throwing an INT in a LOSS.
The Chargers had one last chance with 33 seconds left to send the game into OT with a TD when they had a 1st and goal at the 3 with two time-outs. After an unsuccessful run right, a pass off Gates' fingertips in the end zone, and another stuffed run right, the Bolts turned the ball over on downs when a flat route for Woodhead was read and defended by the Packers.
Root cause of the loss: The Bolts lost the field position and penalty battles and lost them badly. GB used 370 total yards of offense to score 27 points. The Chargers needed 178 more yards to get their 20. Also, chalk this up to an ineffective rushing offense and being unable to stop the run. The Bolts ran the ball 21 times for 60 yards; Green Bay ran it 17 times for 133 and a TD.
Week 7: Oakland 37 - Bolts 29
The final score might fool some future team historian into thinking that this was not too bad of a loss. Actually, it was a blowout that was pretty much over by the time Boltman could work up a sweat in his costume. Oakland never trailed in the game, scored on their first seven possessions, and was up 37-6 at the 10:40 mark in the 3rd quarter. Two early PR INT's set the tone and the defense being unable to get a stop outside of FG range put this one out of reach in the middle of the 2nd quarter.
Root cause for the loss: Just poor play all the way around by the entire team. This was the worst game the team played in 2015.
Week 8: Ravens 29 - Bolts 26
This was another frustrating loss that could have easily been a win against a Ravens team having struggles of its own. Long drives stalled on 3rd down incompletions twice in the game. McCoy elected to kick a FG on a 4th and two on the Ravens 24 with 5 minutes left to go in the first quarter and I can recall the consensus on the game thread being "that will come back to bite the Bolts in the a--."
Reviewing the games logs, the critical sequence in the game started with 9:28 left to go. After the Chargers got a defensive stop, the Ravens executed a 62-yard punt that pinned the Chargers on their own 3. three plays resulted in -2 yards. The ensuing Scifres punt traveled 54 yards but was returned for 17, setting up the Ravens with a point blank shot from the Bolts 38. They cashed it in for a TD. The Chargers managed to tie the game with a 49 yard FG at the 2:37 mark. The game was lost on a 38 yard Ravens FG as time expired.
In addition to losing the game, the team also lost Keenan Allen for the season. He was hurt on a spectacular TD catch in the 2nd quarter.
Root cause for the loss: The special teams could not execute kick coverage in a crucial situation. Statistically, this game was a dead heat. Put this one down to questionable coaching, inability to run the football when needed, and poor special team play. In short, this game used as a sample for the entire season would have been a fairly accurate representation.
Week 10: Bears 22 - Bolts 19
This was another Monday Night home game in which the Chargers led for most of the game against a team dealing with injuries of its own (Forte was out in this game) that became a loss. It was also the first game played without Keenan Allen, and it certainly showed. The Chargers inability to run also showed.
The critical drive of the game began early in the 4th quarter with the Bolts on top 16 -14. Two mental mistakes, boneheaded penalties on Stevie Johnson (delay of game on a ball spike after getting a first down on the Chicago four) and then an ineligible man downfield call on DJ Fluker doomed the Bolts to a FG on a fourth and goal from the four. The Bears scored and made a successful 2-point attempt (running it right up the gut). The Chargers got the ball back with 3:24 on the clock, two-time outs, and down by 3. Rivers could not be protected, and the ball was turned over on downs.
Root cause of the loss: Mental mistakes and inability to protect the QB on the last drive of the game.
Week 12: Chiefs 33 - Bolts 3
Coming off of the Bye, the Chargers were 2-7. Another late season miracle was needed for the team to make a playoff push or at least avoid going below .500. This game was similar to Vikings game earlier in the year. A physical front 7 abused the Charger offensive line, which had to be reshuffled a couple of times during the game, and PR threw a Pick 6 in the middle of the 2nd half to put the game out of reach.
The Chiefs ran the ball 31 times for 153 yards. This was PR's worst game of the season, with 149 net passing yards, 0 TD's, and 1 INT.
Root cause of the loss: Offensive line injuries, which limited the offense. The defense's inability to stop the run, from a team without its lead running back was also a factor. (Side note: The defense got gashed on two long runs and had three bad penalties. Don't let the score fool you, though, the defense was not the primary problem in THIS game - 14 of the points came from a pick-six, and KC's last TD was on a 24-yard "drive" after the Chargers turned the ball over on downs very late in the game.)
Week 13: Broncos 17 - Bolts 3
In a game that was nearly unwatchable, defenses prevailed. Denver had one decent drive in the game, got a pick-six from Danny Trevathan, and preserved their 17-3 halftime lead for the rest of the game. The Chargers fumbled twice, had the aforementioned pick-six, and committed nine penalties to hand the game to the Broncos.
Root cause of the loss: Turnovers and penalties.
The final installment of this post-mortem will cover the last three losses and offer up some opinions about the prospects for 2016.