If you had told anyone two weeks ago that the San Diego Chargers would make an improbable run to the Super Bowl, they would probably give you an incredulous look and immediately dismiss such bloated faith in an inconsistent team. Of Course, anyone who has watched the NFL playoffs within the last few years knows fully well that the team with the biggest chip on their shoulder always prevails. From the Ray Lewis led Baltimore Ravens of yesteryear to the inspirationally confident New York Giants, the NFL is always ripe with relentless teams that are capable of achieving victory in any circumstances. While the Chargers still have to get through the resilient Denver Broncos again before they can garner national recognition, they have proven that they can be a deadly force to be reckoned with.
Although the Chargers have suffered devastating losses because of their inconsistent defense, they rarely succumb to defeat because of a careless mistake made by their quarterback Phillip Rivers. In fact, Rivers has not only had an exceptional season this year, he has made a name for himself as a gifted passer who is both supremely accurate and disciplined. While long time veteran Peyton Manning gets enormous praise for his accuracy and numerous regular season accolades, Rivers quietly finished out the season with a 69.5 completion percentage (a career high) and threw 32 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions, a feat Rivers hasn’t even come close to accomplishing since the 2008 regular season. Despite the fact that Rivers is inferior to manning in terms of touchdown passes and overall yardage, he has emphatically proven that his skill set is just as effective as Manning’s without the flashy numbers.
While Rivers deserves high praise for his offensive contributions, which have been imperative to his team’s success, he is also assisted by an underrated rushing attack. Although running back Ryan Mathews gets the majority of the carries for this high-octane offense, free agent acquisition Danny Woodhead has likewise been a reliable contributor because of his small stature and quickness. Having two reliable backs has allowed the Chargers to relieve Mathews if he becomes overly exhausted. With Woodhead in the mix, Mathews has become a more confident and tenacious running back as he rushed for career high 1,255 yards and six touchdowns. Although Woodhead isn’t the prolific rusher that Matthews is, he has quickly become a reliable go to receiver out of the backfield as he caught six touchdown passes for 605 yards during the regular season (both career highs).
Even with these impressive offensive accomplishments, the Chargers have a single Achilles heel that could be detrimental to them in their upcoming game against the Denver Broncos; the lack of a reliable secondary. While the Chargers defensive front as been stout and efficient to say the least (Chargers only allow 107.8 rushing yards per game, 12th in the NFL), their inconsistent secondary has become notorious for giving up gargantuan amounts of yardage in the passing game (they allow 258.7 passing yards per game, 29th in the NFL). However, despite the Chargers defensive transgressions, they are fortunate enough to go up against an opponent who’s defensive woes are equally as crippling and frustrating.
Surprisingly, the dominant Broncos are nearly a mirror image of their supposedly inferior divisional counterparts. To be fair, Manning has thrown for more yardage per game and the Chargers are slightly better at rushing the football, but by and large, these teams are prolifically gifted in the same areas that make them great in clutch moments while also suffering from the same ailments that cause them both to fail miserably. Although the Chargers have shot themselves in the foot on more occasions than the Broncos have, the post season gives hope to teams that are desperately seeking a second chance to prove their desire and capabilities as legit Super Bowl Contenders.
In the end, the Chargers still have a tough road ahead of them before the prospect of being Super Bowl champions becomes more realistic. Yet, despite the Chargers consistency issues during the regular season, this team was able to handedly dominate the Cincinnati Bengals on their home turf. While the Broncos won’t be nearly as susceptible to such a beat down, they are still vulnerable at home, especially against teams that are playing with a sense of destiny. If the Chargers defense can hang tough and if Phillip Rivers can put together another well-orchestrated offensive performance, this team might just have what it takes to win it all.