It’s difficult to ignore just how long the odds were of the San Diego Chargers even making the playoffs this year, and the chances of them extending that run any longer than a token Wild Card appearance was completely dismissed by most. Thankfully games are not played in the court of public opinion, and the Bolts showed they aren’t just some soft West Coast team any longer on Sunday.
Head coach Mike McCoy has completely transformed the identity of this Chargers franchise from a group of chokers to a galvanized locker room that believes in one another in his inaugural season with the team. That fact has been present throughout the ups and downs this year, and it continued to be obvious against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Despite a tough finish to the first-half where the Bolts saw the home team carry a 10-7 lead into the halftime break, the Chargers came out with a statement to open the second-half with a stick-to-itiveness when it comes to the run game. That paid off early on a play-action connection to set the team up for the go-ahead score, and the ground attack kept grinding the Bengals down as things progressed.
That eventually wore on the Cincinnati offense as well with quarterback Andy Dalton pressing and turning the ball over as they failed to catch up to the Bolts. Four turnovers by the Bengals resulted in a lopsided final with San Diego outscoring the Bengals 20 to nothing in the second-half.
The Chargers’ second-half performance was a clinic of how to close out tight games in the month of January. Philip Rivers was sound in his decision-making and surgically precise on the limited number of throw he did make. It was curious to see Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown take the majority of the carries in the final half of action with Ryan Mathews not even seeing the field, but the San Diego coaching staff said his absence was not health related.
This could create an element of friction between the coaches and their lead back, but it shouldn’t linger with this team rolling into the Divisional Round. What has pushed this team to a place in the final eight teams left vying for a Super Bowl is camaraderie, not divisiveness. These aren’t the Chargers of old, and they did enough to thoroughly convince the viewing public of that fact on Sunday.