By Dave Thomas
It had to happen sooner or later.
After dropping their first four games in varying fashion, the Los Angeles Chargers got in the win column Sunday afternoon on the East Coast with a hard-fought 27-22 win over the New York Giants. In doing so, the Bolts dropped the Giants to a stunning 0-5.
Trailing 22-20 late in the fourth quarter, Philip Rivers connected with running back Melvin Gordon on a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Los Angeles (1-4) the lead. From there, the Chargers defense took over, with New York quarterback Eli Manning being picked off with under a minute to play to end any comeback hopes.
Chargers Get Breaks They Needed
So, what got the Chargers their first win of the season, allowing them to break a nine-game losing streak dating back to last year?
For starters, Manning lost several of his receivers to injuries on the day. As a result, New York had to rely more on its non-existent rushing game to move the ball.
Second, Los Angeles got a good effort from Gordon, who finished with 105 yards rushing on 20 carries. Like New York, the Chargers have been without much of a running game during the season.
Last, the Chargers defense came up with the big play when they needed it, as Tre Boston picked off a wobbly Manning pass to allow Los Angeles to run out the clock.
So, while it is likely silly to be thinking playoffs with this team, on Sunday the Chargers at least showed that they're not about to go in the tank on the remainder of the season.
Having a back (Gordon) go over 100 yards on the day was big for several reasons. Most importantly, it took some pressure off of Rivers and his receivers to move the ball consistently. Now, if Los Angeles can keep Gordon healthy and get Branden Oliver back sooner than later, they could have a nice one-two punch in the backfield the rest of the season. Rivers finished his day going 21-of-44 for 258 yards and three TDs. While he did have one ugly interception, Rivers did what was necessary to get his team over the line. Seven different players caught balls from Rivers, with star receiver Keenan Allen leading the way with four catches for 67 yards. Gordon, who usually takes the ball in from his backfield position, caught two touchdowns on the day.
Even with New York's woes on the wide receiver front, Los Angeles was still facing one of the better quarterbacks in the last decade-plus in Manning. For the afternoon, the Chargers held Manning to 225 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. Most notably, the Bolts sacked Manning five times on the day. Leading the charge for Los Angeles, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa each tallied a pair of sacks, with Darius Philon adding one. It was Ingram's sack of Manning and recovery of the ball in the fourth quarter that led to Los Angeles eventually scoring the game-winning touchdown.
Special Teams: B
Once the Chargers cut rookie kicker Younghoe Koo earlier in the week, bringing back veteran Nick Novak in the process, thoughts around the team likely turned to relief. Although Novak had his share of misses during his first go-around with the Bolts (2011-14), there has to be a sense of confidence now with him back on the team. For this day, Novak went two-of-two on field goals and hit all three extra point attempts.
For first-year head coach Anthony Lynn, the monkey is off the back. After dropping his first four games of the season, Lynn can now focus on getting the Chargers moved up in the AFC West standings, putting the winless team discussion behind him. Lynn's play-calling on Sunday seemed good for the most part. For a change, he did not have to worry about a desperation two-minute drill at the end, looking for a game-winning field goal to escape like the first two losses (Denver, Miami).
Up Next: Los Angeles heads back to the West Coast and prepares for a Sunday game (Oct. 15) with the hated Oakland Raiders. These two old rivals certainly have no love lost for one another. Oakland, which played this past Sunday's game versus Baltimore without starting quarterback Derek Carr (back injury) will look to increase its lead in the all-time series with Los Angeles (Raiders lead 63-50-2).
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