The San Diego Chargers were one of three NFL teams that did not have a losing record in a season from 2004-2011, but unlike the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego did not win a title.
The team finished their 2012 season with a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, following five playoff appearances in six seasons between 2004 and 2009.
The Chargers had a horrible defense in 2011, and only four teams allowed more yards per play while 10 allowed more points per game. In 2012, only eight teams allowed fewer yards per play and San Diego allowed 22 points per game, which ranked 16th compared to 22nd in 2011.
While stopping teams from converting on third downs was still a major problem in 2012, most of San Diego’s issues were due to an offense that ranked 20th in points per game and 30th in yards per play.
From 2004-2011, San Diego’s average finish was third in points per game and seventh in yards per play on offense. The loss of wide receiver Vincent Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was an issue as Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander ranked first and second on San Diego’s roster in receiving yards.
Floyd and Alexander combined for 1,472 receiving yards compared to Jackson, who had a career high 1,384 yards. While Alexander did not play the entire season with San Diego, he also had two games in which he had no receptions, so there is no guarantee that he would have been a factor in more games.
San Diego ranked 27th in rushing yards, 31st in rushing yards per attempt and last in rushing touchdowns. The Lighting Bolts need a bounce-back season from Ryan Mathews, who averaged about 60 percent of San Diego’s rushing attempts per game, but ranked 23rd in rushing yards and 32nd in yards per attempt. Mathews had career lows with 3.8 yards per attempt and one rushing touchdown in 12 games.
Philip Rivers ranked ninth in the NFL with 26 touchdown passes and 11th in QB rating, but he was turnover-prone again due in part to an offensive line that ranked fourth in sacks allowed.
If San Diego can return to being an explosive offense, they will have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs because the defense should be a positive for them again.