OK, you all should know by now that I'm not that optimistic about this season. Still, it is fun to fantasize about my favorite having a fantastic season. What could that look like?
The Bolts don't show too much in pre-season and go 0-4. About the only projected offensive starter to see any serious playing time is Melvin Gordon. McCoy states more than once "He needs to get confidence that he can get hit and tackled and remain healthy in this phase of preparation for the season. We need to see that confidence in him. Its what's best for the team."
Opening on the road against the Chiefs, the Bolts revamped run defense shows up by holding Jamal Charles to 90 yards on 26 attempts. A low-scoring, hard-hitting defensive game is won by the Chargers 16-13 on a last second field goal. The home opener against Jacksonville is just the opposite; a wild shootout that the Chargers win 38-34. The Jags exploit the middle of the field with Thomas, Robinson, and Hurns overmatching the Bolts' safeties. On the other side of the ball, though, the offensive line manhandles the Jaguars defense, and Melvin Gordon gets his first career TD in the 1st quarter. He adds another score late in the game in a 25 rushes for 130-yard effort.
The defensive pattern holds through the next two high scoring games (both wins) at Indianapolis and home against the Saints. Luck, like Bortles, keeps some drives moving with his legs and also goes after the Bolts safeties. Lowery and Addae just can't make enough plays to get the defense off the field. To make matters worse, Addae is hurt running head first into the goal post on an unsuccessful attempt to break up a TD pass in the Oakland game, which is the first loss of the season.
Replacing the Safeties
The following Thursday (the home game against Denver), the Chargers start McCoil and Brown at safety, pick off Mark Sanchez 3 times (he also adds a fumble after stumbling into Louis Vasquez while rolling out) and blow out Denver 42-10. The Denver pass rush is MIA as Ware shows his age, Shane Ray is suspended after week 3 for failing a drug test, and Von Miller is visibly avoiding contact in anticipation of becoming a free agent at the end of the year. McCoy states after the game that the change was made because "we all needed to see what the younger guys could do at safety" and added that finding out what they could do in a game was "what was best for the team."
Whiz Goes Viral
This is game 1 of a five-game winning streak, highlighted by another blowout win in Denver as Paxton Lynch's debut is ruined with a 4-sack, 2 INT performance. There is an ugly incident in the game against Tennessee; offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is seen mooning the Tennessee sideline and extending his middle finger towards the Visitor Owners box in the 3rd quarter with the team up 41-6 on the Titans.
The Bolts go on to win 62-9 and McCoy states after the game that he had told Rivers and Whisenhunt halfway through the 3rd quarter to run the ball and kill the clock, but that "our offensive coordinator kept calling passes, sending out our usual 1-1 formations and being aggressive on offense." Whisenhunt repeated eight times during his post-game press conference that "it's not my job to keep the San Diego Chargers from scoring, it's the opponent's job. If they can't do it, tough ta-ta's." This briefly overshadows the news of the Stadium initiative getting passed by a 69-31% margin.
After the mooning and middle finger video goes viral, Whiz is suspended for the Miami game. McCoy calls the plays for that game, stating that he decided to do that because that is what's best for the team. The Chargers put up 213 yards of total offense (not passing once on 1st or 2nd down) but win 14-6 on two pick-6's thrown by Ryan Tannehill. The Chargers enter the bye week with a 9-1 record.
The Watt Family Feud
Coming off the bye, the Bolts travel to Houston and NBC flexes the game to Sunday night, billing it as "a possible AFC Championship Game preview" (the Texans are 7-3). They also play up the "Watt Family Feud" story line. In the pre-game warm-up, that storyline holds up as J.J. Watt runs over to the Bolts area and gives Derek Watt a purple nurple AND a noogie. The two teams need to be separated by coaches and officials.
Late in the 4th quarter with the team down 20-17, Derek is kept in the backfield for pass protection on a crucial 3rd down. He gets flagged for unnecessary roughness when he nut-punches J.J., who had split a Barksdale and Fluker double team and was jumping to try and knock down a Rivers pass. The Bolts lose the game 20-17. Derek Watt takes the blame for the loss, acknowledging that he let his emotions get the better of him, but added: "I took his crap for years when I was a kid, but I ain't a kid anymore."
The team wins at home against Tampa Bay but then loses a tough game on the road against Carolina. The team finishes the season with three straight wins at home against the Raiders, on the road in Cleveland, and at home against Kansas City. A bizarre incident takes place during the Cleveland game.
Austin Davis, the 5th QB used by the Browns in the season is injured in the 3rd quarter. The Browns inserted backup Johnny Manziel, who had only been with the team for one week after completing a court-ordered rehab program and league suspension for domestic violence. On a scramble two plays later, he is hit flush in his mid-section by Joey Bosa, hits the turf and vomits enough alcohol, OxyContin, and ecstasy to kill the grass in a two-yard square area of the field.
The Chargers win the AFC West with a 13-3 record and have a first round bye. In the divisional round game, a banged up Steeler team visits San Diego and is beaten 24-13. The next week, in a game PR later says he needed to win "to get that gol-darned monkey off my back," the Chargers earn their second franchise trip to the Big Game with a 31-27 win over the New England Patriots.
The league investigates potential over-inflation of footballs after one of the game balls pops when it contacts Tom Brady's hand on a shotgun snap. Twitter chatter during the game comments widely and virally about what appears to be horns under Bill Bellichick's hoodie late in the game, but the video in inconclusive.