The Chargers Earn 2nd-Place With Win In Oakland


The Chargers' 2011 season was like a pendulum that had fans swinging back and forth between hope and despair. We saw a 4-1 start, followed by an 0-6 run, followed by a 4-1 finish that included a solid offensive performance against a Raiders team that excels at beating itself better than any other opponent ever could. In a division that was up for grabs mostly because no one seemed to be good enough to take control of it, the Chargers failed for a second straight season to live up to expectations and play beyond week 17.

The offense, consistently a strength of the Chargers since 2004, was almost enough to overcome a mostly below-average defense performance in 2011. And while it was almost enough, you can’t let the offense completely off the hook as any defense would have difficulty overcoming the glut of offensive turnovers we saw this season.

The inconsistencies of the Chargers’ performance in 2011 were made all the more frustrating by the events of the final Sunday of regular season play. With the Chargers win over the Raiders and the Broncos pathetic loss to the Chiefs, the AFC West finds itself with three 8-8 teams at the top of the standings. League tie-breakers gave the division crown and post-season opportunity to the Broncos, but none of these teams played up to the level of a champion.

Still, it’s hard not to look back to a game changing fumble against the Chiefs, or a pick-six (or two) against the Packers, or a lack of defensive consistency against the Jets, Bears, or Lions and wonder what could have been.

Unfortunately for Chargers fans, there will be plenty of time to wonder this offseason, which starts today.

BOLTHYPES

Norv Turner: Yes, I went there. The Chargers had every reason to tune out their rumored-to-be-soon-to-be-fired coach and mentally checkout for the final week of the season…but they didn’t. They fought for their win over the Raiders Sunday, with most players crediting their coach as motivation to play through the season finale. I'm not saying this alone is reason to keep him, but I do guarantee that his firing is not guaranteed at this point.

Antonio Gates: I have to hand it to the Pro Bowl tight-end. Early this season I was predicting the need to replace Gates next season. But he’s worked hard to get back to some semblance of the talent he used to be, and I don’t see any reason to doubt him heading into 2012.

Jared Gaither: In the Chargers’ last game against the Raiders in week 10, the Raiders Kamerion Wimbley owned the Chargers for four-quarters racking up four sacks. This week Gaither shut him down. The offense as a whole has made a major adjustment in the play calling and protection schemes since that week 10 loss, but give credit to Gaither for solidifying an offensive line that had been in shambles.

Robert Goodman: Goodman returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, the first for the Bolts since 2008. It was nice to see the Chargers’ special teams return a kick and actually make a positive impact on the game beyond another Mike Tolbert tackle.

BOLTGRIPES

Greg Manusky: I have given Manusky a pass each week, instead focusing on the Chargers’ lack of game changing defensive talent. But for the season, the Chargers’ defense has looked to be behind the rest of the league. Previously, Ron Rivera was able to do a lot more with similar talent.

Antwon Barnes: Dude, you can’t shove a referee’s arm, especially after getting flagged for a stupid personal foul penalty, and especially when your defense entered the game exhibiting the depth of a Kardashian sister.

Draft Position: For that fan I'll mention that, yes, the Chargers earned a worse draft slot (pick 18, which could have been pick 13 with a loss) with their win over the Raiders. I'm OK with that.

What are your final BOLTHYPES and BOLTGRIPES for the 2011 season?

Follow me on Twitter: @JSWilliams75

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January 2, 2012

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