The Chargers have led in every single one of their games in the fourth quarter this season, and on Sunday they blew it again, no really, again. The Bolts had a 13-point lead, and had the football with just under seven minutes to go after the defense looked like it had finally shut down the Saints offense for good, and then in the most Chargers way possible, they choked.
This game went as everyone thought it would it go, it was a shootout. Both teams were dealing with major injuries, and both teams moved the ball at will and the teams were 7-7 after the first quarter with a touchdown by Mark Ingram, and Hunter Henry scoring his first career touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Philip Rivers.
Then on their first drive of the second quarter, the Saints scored again, on a 4-yard touchdown reception by fullback John Kuhn. The Bolts answered right away when Dontrelle Inman made his first big play of the season with a 57-yard catch and run touchdown to tie the game.
On the next drive, Drew Brees had his pass tipped by Jason Verrett, and it was picked off by Craig Mager. The Chargers would settle for a field goal, but after getting another stop on defense, they put together another successful drive ending in a Melvin Gordon touchdown to give them a 10-point lead at the half.
After halftime the Saints would score again on their first drive, to cut the deficit to only three, but that would be the only score of the quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Chargers put the lead back up to ten, on Melvin Gordon’s second touchdown of the game on a drive that used up over six minutes of clock. Two plays later Drew Brees threw his second interception of the game to Adrian Phillips. This gave the Chargers a chance to seal the game with a touchdown, but what they got instead was another Josh Lambo field goal to go up by thirteen.
The Chargers defense held strong and forced a punt by the Saints, giving the ball back to the Bolts with less than seven minutes to go. And then everything went to hell.
On the first play of the next drive Melvin Gordon carried for three yards, and was fighting for more before fumbling for the first time this season, giving it to the Saints on the 13-yard line. The Defense would force a fourth down, but could not stop Brees as he cut the lead to six on a ridiculous touchdown catch by Michael Thomas.
Then on the first play after the score, and the Chargers needing points or to run the clock out,something inexplicable happened. Travis Benjamin caught a Philip Rivers pass across the middle, and then without being touched, he fumbled the ball. Two offensive plays, two fumbles. New Orleans would recover.
Of Course, the Saints would capitalize on the fumble and score to take a one point lead with only 1:57 left in the game, in less than five minutes a seemingly insurmountable lead had turned into a one-point deficit, but there was still time to fix it.
That would be way to uncharacteristic of the Chargers however, instead they would lead a series of unfortunate events. On first down River was dropped for a sack, when they couldn’t afford one, not to be outdone by the second sack in a row after Matt Slauson snapped the ball too early and Rivers had to fall on it to bring up 3rd-and-22. In an obvious four down situation, they could have tried to pick up half the yards to make it manageable, instead, Rivers went for the whole thing and found Dontrelle Inman with enough yardage for a first down, except that the ball went bouncing off of him to bring up an impossible fourth down. On fourth down Philip Rivers threw up a prayer to his 6’5” receiver Tyrell Williams, but the ball was intercepted, and for the second time already this season, the Chargers had blown a 13-point fourth quarter lead.
Just for perspective the rest of the league in 2016 has had 25 opportunities with a lead of thirteen or more in the fourth quarter, and every single one of those teams has won. Literally no-one in the league gives up a lead the way the Chargers do. The team just allowed 35 points while only giving up 275 yards of total offense, and forced two turnovers. It just doesn’t make sense, but it happens right in front of you.
This game was lost because of the players, but in the end, when you have a 3-12 record in one-possession games since the beginning of the 2015 season, it has to fall on the coach. Mike McCoy seems to have quickly become one of the most hated men in San Diego, and it doesn’t seem like he will be let go mid-season, but his termination seems like a foregone conclusion at this point.
The Chargers (1-3) will try to snap a nine-game losing streak against division opponents when they take on the (3-1) Raiders in Oakland on Sunday at 1:25 Pacific Time.
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