NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
Somehow, the ghosts of Pete Stoyanvich lives.
Veteran San Diego Chargers fans know the tale, which is so relevant after a former Mr. Irrelevant missed a go-ahead field goal in Sunday's win overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the final regular season game.
The Chargers prevailed, 27-24, when the Chiefs' Ryan Succop misfired from 41 yards in the closing seconds of regulation. Not only did that give the Chargers new life, but it also kept their playoff dreams alive.
Those dreams came true when Nick Novak was true from 36 yards. Strange, but that still gives the Chargers a chance to reach the Super Bowl -- just like in 1995.
That was when Stoyanvich was, like Succop, was wide right. Instead of the Chargers being eliminated in that divisional playoff game, they survived to upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game to advance to their lone Super Bowl.
That's down the road for this year's Chargers. But if they don't rally from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit -- with some help from Succop -- Monday comes with them cleaning out lockers instead of preparing for Sunday's postseason date with the Bengals.
"It's the goal of every coach in the league to get into the tournament," Chargers rookie head coach Mike McCoy said. "That's the big thing for us to get in the tournament and see what happens."
That the Chargers were the benefactor of Succop's misfire and the Chiefs resting 20 of their 22 starters means squat. What's important is the snapped their three-year run of missing the playoffs by winning their fourth straight game and fifth of six.
A season that was seemingly lost after falling two games under .500 on Dec. 1 -- with a loss to the Bengals -- has new life.
"It's been a tough year," center Nick Hardwick said. "We had to catch some breaks and have things fall our way. It is so fun to be part of it."
The Chargers enter the postseason with two things riding in their favor: they are relatively healthy and are possession a hot streak. They also know they can prevail on the road, with wins at Denver and Kansas City on their resume.
Then again, the Bengals are 8-0 at home and hungry for their first playoff win since 1990.
But the Chargers aren't worry about that. They're riding on after an unlikely outcome to the regular season, one in which the Chargers had to go 2-0 in the final two weeks with the Ravens and Dolphins went 0-4.
Oh my, it happened.
"There is love everywhere," rookie tackle D.J. Fluker said. "Enjoy it for 24 hours, then we have to get back to work."
It comes with a sense of back to the future -- scoot over Stoyanvich and make room for Succop.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
--Wide receiver Keenan Allen, a third-round pick, finished the season as the team's leading receiving with 1046 yards. He is the first Chargers rookie to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since John Jefferson had 1,001 in 1978. Allen should be in the conversation for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
--Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram continues to give the defense a boost after returning from his offseason knee injury. Ingram, who tore his ACL about six months ago, had four tackles -- one for a loss -- and a quarterback hit in Sunday's win. "It was a blessing to get hurt in one season and come back in the same season from the injury I had," he said. "This is just another stepping-stone for what we're trying to build around here."
--Numerous reports have various teams interested in speaking to Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt about their head-coaching vacancies. But he won't be able to interview until after the playoffs, with the Chargers not having a bye in the opening week of the tournament.
--Tight end Antonio Gates has heard plenty of halftime speeches in his 11-year career. But he said coach Mike McCoy didn't panic with the Chargers down by seven points after two quarters. "He told us to just take a deep breath and relax," Gates said. "We are still in the game. If we can believe we can win then we are going to win."
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--DT Cam Thomas has seen few snaps since Sean Lissemore has been inserted into Thomas' starting spot. But Thomas remains a big part of the defensive line rotation and he had a big game on Sunday with four tackles -- two were for losses.
--ILB Manti Te'o continues to make strides and that includes his game on Sunday. The rookie starter had 10 tackles, one for a loss.
--RB Ronnie Brown returned a kick for 28 yards on Sunday, a rare decent return to an area of the game the Chargers have been eager to improve.
--WR Eddie Royal briefly left the game with a head injury, but he did return. He said he would be fine for Sunday.
REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Philip Rivers did get nicked with an interception, but the fault goes to Keenan Allen as he slipped on a timing route. Otherwise Rivers was keen, as he threw for three touchdowns and 229 yards. He stayed calm in a pocket that was often dirty, as he was sacked three times as his receivers had trouble getting separation from the Chiefs' defensive backs. Six receivers caught passes; three collected scoring passes. Allen continues to shine, although he did slip but didn't let that keep him down as he was the team's leading receiver with 89 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Ryan Mathews continues to have a career year as he racked up 144 yards on 24 carries -- with a long of 44. The run-blocking was solid for Mathews, but don't discount how he is able to game yardage after contact. He is not going down easily and more importantly, is holding on to the ball and staying fit. Among a reason Mathews has been on a roll is the starting offensive line got healthy and is playing well as a unit.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- Too many big plays here, too many blown coverages. That was the reading for the first three quarters, but secondary stiffened in the final quarter with the game on the line. But there no interceptions and only two passes defensed by the defense despite facing a backup quarterback in Chase Daniel. Eric Weddle had a game-high 12 tackles, although his biggest contribution will be noted in the special teams grading.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Again, the first half was so much different than the second half. The Chiefs, running with their second-teamers, rushed for 143 yards. But then again, the Chiefs rushed for just 20 in the second half. The Chiefs started seeing a more stout run defense as the Chargers' defensive line and inside linebackers rose to the challenge. But it was disturbing to see Knile Davis rush for two scores and 81 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Eric Weddle showed his guts by calling a fake punt in overtime, with the Chargers needing 2 yards from their 28-yard line. Weddle just did get enough yardage to keep the drive alive and it resulted in the go-ahead touchdown. The coverage units were so-so, with Dexter McCluster brought back a punt 32 yards. And there was a kick return by Quintin Demps of 41 yards. But the combination of Weddle's play and Nick Novak's game-tying and go-ahead field goals eclipse the hiccups.
COACHING: A -- Mike McCoy's team had every reason to win after losses by the teams they were chasing for the AFC's final playoff spot had lost. But the Chargers came out not handling the pressure well, as the were on their heels with missed tackles and blown coverages. But McCoy, instead of tearing down walls at halftime, told his team to chill. He didn't panic and neither did the Chargers as they tightened up their game to survive. Defensively the Chargers were better in the second half, although it was so much of a schematic shift as just returning to the fundamentals which coordinator John Pagano always preaches. McCoy kept the team believing it could rally, and it did.