When Winning Isn't Really Winning

While watching the Chargers progress over the past three weeks, that sinking feeling in the pit of my gut has been difficult to ignore. Clearly the fact that the Bolts are winning is preferable to the losing alternative, but winning when the season is all but lost is the epitome of a double-edged sword.

Sure there is still a remote possibility for the Chargers to make the playoffs like there is an outside chance that bigfoot really DOES exist, but the margin for error has been at non-existant for weeks now and the scoreboard watching is a perilous endeavor. Take this past weekend for example as the Bolts were thoroughly dominating the Buffalo Bills while the Oakland Raiders were being manhandled by the undefeated Green Bay Packers and Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos trailed the Chicago Bears 10-0 with under five minutes remaining.

The hardest part about watching the scoreboard is the helpless feeling one gets while seeing the seemingly inevitable undesired outcome become reality. As the Bears proceeded to botch the Denver game in regulation before fumbling it away in overtime, the Bolts playoff hopes grew increasingly dimmer. Given the fact that tiebreakers will force the Chargers to win out while the Broncos lose their remaining three games for any chance at a playoff birth, it seems the window may finally be closing on Head Coach Norv Turner’s reign in San Diego.

Not all is doom and gloom however when a team is finally looking like the squad that many anticipated seeing for 16 weeks this season. A mix of run and pass in the last two outings has given the Bolts offense a completely different look as Ryan Mathews eclipsed the 100-yard barrier for the third consecutive game on Sunday. When asked about his improvement during this three game stretch, Mathews told the North County Times: "It's been fun. I'm going to keep going. I'm going to keep getting stronger and faster. And we'll see how far we can take this."

Obviously Mathews’ success is largely dependant upon how well the offensive line opens up holes in front of him and despite their depleted cast, that group has been steadily improving over the same three-week period. Of the line’s play, Mathews said: "You see the holes for me and Mike (Tolbert) and Jake (Hester) at the end of the game. …Like I said, I can’t take all the credit. I just do the easy part and run. I’ve still got a lot to work on. I feel like I should have scored on that long one. It’s all progress, and I’m getting better each day and so are the linemen."

Thanks to those big men on the front line, Mathews is now just 57 yards shy of 1,000 on the year sitting at 943 and will likely reach that mark for the first time in his young career. What may be most impressive about Mathews’ success is his sparkling 5.1 YPC (yards per carry) average which is among the best in the league this year.

That stat will be put to the test this coming Sunday as the ominous Baltimore Ravens looms on the Bolts’ schedule and veteran linebacker Ray Lewis is expected to return to their lineup in San Diego. If the Chargers can remain balanced offensively, don’t be surprised if Mathews extends his streak over the century mark to four games in week 15.

On the other side of the ball, the team’s faith placed in safety Eric Weddle with his lucrative extension this past offseason is looking like a safe bet. Weddle added yet another pick to his total for 2011 bringing the number to seven interceptions on the season. Offseason acquisition Takeo Spikes has been another bright spot for the team as the veteran has amassed more than 100 tackles this year to lead the team and achieve that mark for the 11th time in his career.

As the majority of the fans anxiously await the dismissal of Norv Turner at season’s end, the conflicting thoughts of wanting to win yet not wanting Turner to save his job is clearly present. When losing helps the club’s draft position and also further expedites the process of booting Turner, it’s tough not to cheer for the opposition. While your heart as a fan is in conflict over the next few weeks, just take comfort in this thought; you are not alone.

Now it’s your turn! What did you think of Tebow’s ridiculous comeback and what it meant to the Chargers? Is Ryan Mathews finally living up to the lofty draft status bestowed upon him by GM A.J. Smith or does he still have some proving to do? Do you think the offensive line is beginning to gel after being so riddled with injuries? Has Eric Weddle lived up to his contract in 2011 or was he still somewhat overpaid? Are you in conflict over winning and losing over the next three weeks or do you have a ‘never say die’ attitude about the season? Please weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments section below!

December 14, 2011

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