They get off to slow starts every year, come on late as the season comes to a close, sneak into the playoffs due largely to a mediocre division, then bow out early in the postseason.
It’s like clockwork.
This year, though, the pre-written script has been undone.
The Chargers and head coach Norv Turner have become far more interesting, even moreso than normal.
This season’s story is a new plot twist every week. One week it’s a late-game meltdown; the next it’s something completely different, but no less incredible.
Let’s look back at just a few of the gems put forth by this reckless outfit known as the Super Chargers:
Week 5 — Saints 31, Chargers 24
The Bolts traveled to New Orleans with a 3-1 record, sitting at first place in the AFC West. They held a ten-point advantage late in the third quarter, before Drew Brees ripped off 17 straight points en route to a 31-24 victory.
Quarterback Philip Rivers (who has been inadvertently asked to do “everything” for this team) turned the ball over twice in the game’s final quarter, throwing a pick to set up the Saints’ final score. He later fumbled while under pressure, as his team was driving to tie the game.
Week 6 — Broncos 35, Chargers 24
Just one week later, the unthinkable—and equally historic—happened when San Diego hosted their divisional rivals from Denver in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. The home team bounced back from that late-game loss to the Saints by jumping out early and often. They strolled into the locker room at halftime with a seemingly insurmountable 24-0 advantage. But a combination of legendary Peyton Manning leadership and six (!) second half-turnovers by Philip Rivers enabled the Broncos to not only erase the 24-point deficit but ultimately pull away with a 35-24 victory, as well.
The game was as sad as it was unbelievable and incredible. It was as amazing as it was pathetic. Not only did this game hurt in the short-term, but, it was the turning point in the division.
Week 10 — Buccaneers 34, Chargers 24
Two weeks after dropping a “thrilling” 7-6 game to the lowly Cleveland Browns, the Chargers looked great in the first half at Tampa Bay. Again, they held a halftime advantage. And again, it was two fourth-quarter Rivers interceptions (the first of which was returned for a touchdown) that were their undoing in a 34-24 defeat. Once again, pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.
Then this past Sunday happened.
Week 12 — Ravens 16, Chargers 13
Hosting a strong, two-loss Baltimore Ravens side, the Chargers were their normal effective first-half selves, controlling the line of scrimmage and most importantly keeping the Ravens’ sometimes-explosive offense out of the scorer’s book. Fast-forward to the fourth and the Chargers owned a 10-point advantage midway through the final quarter. But, a Joe Flacco touchdown pass made it a three-point game with just over four minutes to play, which was followed by a Charger 3-and-out. But things still looked good for the Bolts, as the Ravens were staring down a 4th-and-29 on their own 37 and little more than one-minute left on the clock.
Game in hand, right?
If you had any doubt, you have not been paying attention.
Ravens running back Ray Rice ripped off an unheard of 30-yard scamper on a dump-off up the middle, kicker Justin Tucker kicked his first (the second in overtime for the win) of two 38-yard field goals and once again the San Diego sideline sat stunned. Not so much yelling, screaming and finger pointing, rather a deep stare of disbelief.
At 4-7 with five games remaining, the season is all but lost for San Diego. Not even the late-season magic of the past few years could help resurrect this sunken ship.
This is a team that could probably be sitting at 8-3 with what should be a one-game lead over the “would-be” 7-4 Broncos.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda…