The Los Angeles Chargers destroyed the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram wreaked havoc on Trevor Siemian leading to Denver’s first shutout since 1992.
The week before that, the Chargers escaped Oakland with a win thanks to a Nick Novak field goal. The Los Angeles defense was able to stymie a high-powered Raiders offense. While Philip Rivers and company protected the football and manufactured solid drives.
The first win of the season came against a putrid New York Giants team. The Chargers didn’t look great in their win of Big Blue, but it got the monkey off of their backs.
All three of these victories proved that the Bolts are learning how to finish. In all three of these games, the Chargers had a chance to lose. The culture is changing around Los Angeles and that credit goes to Anthony Lynn. Thankfully, our Kyle Posey was all over that in his story on Monday.
Not only has the coaching improved, but the Chargers talent is finally showing up. Overstated or not, the Los Angeles pass rush is legit. Combining for 16 sacks, Bosa and Ingram have more sacks than 20 other teams. They have taken the pressure off of the back end of the secondary giving them more opportunities to force turnovers.
On the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line has improved. Work still needs to be done in the running game and losing Matt Slauson for the season hurts. Still, this may be the best protection Rivers has gotten in years. Left tackle Russell Okung has been tremendous as a pass blocker and has given Rivers the time he needs to deliver the ball downfield.
With improved protection Rivers still isn’t having a great season. He had a rough start but has remained steady during this winning streak. In the last three games Rivers has only thrown one interception, while finding the end zone six times. If Los Angeles’ defense continues to dominate, there is no need for Rivers to play hero ball. He needs to manage the game and not turn the ball over.
The concern with the offense is the running game. Los Angeles ranks 27th in the league in rushing yards and 31st in yards per game. In the past, Lynn led offenses have consistently been near the top of the league on the ground. Melvin Gordon has been unimpressive, but rookie Austin Ekeler has raised some eyebrows in the past few weeks. Perhaps a change-of-pace back like Ekeler could open up the running game for the Bolts.
There is a lot of optimism for the Chargers and rightfully so, the defense is playing lights out and the offense is bound to break out. The biggest test of the year is now on the horizon.
With a three-game winning streak, Los Angeles heads into New England to face the defending Super Bowl champions. This will be a true test for not only a young defense but a first-year head coach as well.
Anthony Lynn has plenty experience against Bill Belichick coached teams. He spent seven seasons in the AFC East and should have an understanding on how to move the ball. Even after an impressive win against Atlanta Sunday night, the Patriots still have the 32nd ranked defense in the league. Making this one of the best matchups on Sunday.
If Los Angeles beats New England this week, the Chargers will look like a legitimate playoff contender. Unfortunately, the Bolts have a good chance of losing. Even so, it doesn’t mean that a postseason run is over.
The Chargers have a winnable schedule from here on out. The Chargers will leave Massachusetts heading into a bye week where they will get extra time preparing for a Jacksonville team that features a ferocious defense, but not much else.
Then the Bolts face two tough teams in Buffalo and will head to Dallas on Thanksgiving. Call it a hunch, but the game against the Cowboys might be the biggest one of the season.
After the Thanksgiving bout, the Browns, Redskins, and Chiefs are up next. A tough three-game stretch featuring two postseason contenders and the Browns. Who got their lone win against the Bolts in 2016.
The final two games will be on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve against the Jets and Raiders respectively.
Predicting a schedule is impossible, but every single game on the schedule is winnable. Plus, the division games sprinkled into the final games of the season could be the difference in making the postseason.
The Chargers have plenty on their side. A favorable schedule, a defense that is gaining confidence every week, and an offense that still features a top-tier quarterback. The half-way point of the season is here, and the Chargers have a chance to sit at .500.