As we try not to dwell on the fact that it’s likely the Chargers could have been squaring off against the Patriots on Saturday, were it not for a fumble here or an interception there, let’s focus on the positive.
Here are the top-five stories from the Chargers’ 2011 season.
1. The 4-1 Start- I’m the first person to admit that the Chargers looked horrible through the first third of the season (or more accurately, the first two-thirds) (sorry, that was negative), but the fact that the Chargers played badly and still had a 4-1 record to start the season was encouraging. For a team who failed to do better than 2-3 to start any season under Norv Turner, their fast start was a welcome change.
2. Ryan Mathews- Mathews had 1091 yards rushing, averaging almost five-yards per carry, and added 455 yards receiving, ranking fourth on the team in receptions. Early in the season, Mathews was among the league leaders in total yards from scrimmage and still finished the season ranked seventh overall despite missing two games due to injury. If he can stay healthy and fix that fumbling problem, he should be a star for years to come.
3. Antwan Barnes- The Chargers entered the 2011 season with a rather weak group of outside linebackers. Shaun Phillips returned to lead the pass rush, but the players lined up behind him were less than impressive. Then Larry English got hurt. Then Phillips himself got hurt. Suddenly, a previously weak position became a real liability. Enter Barnes, the former Raven who joined the team last season. Barnes started all 16 games last season and reeled in a career-high, team leading 11 sacks. With Barnes, a healthy Phillips, and a little more depth, outside linebacker could quickly become a position of strength.
4. Antonio Gates- Gates has been fighting injuries for years, yet he never gives up. Finally, in 2011, we began to see the veteran tight-end look like the healthier version we were used to seeing in seasons-past. He sat a few games in the middle of the season to rest his foot for a playoff run that did not come to fruition. Still, he played well enough to earn the continued respect of his peers and get selected to another Pro Bowl. He also played well enough to break the franchise record for career receptions with his 587th catch, breaking the mark previously set by Charlie Joiner.
5. Turner/Smith Return For 2012 Season- Just kidding! Wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
5. Beating The Raiders In Week 17- I’ll admit it, the only thing I cheer for as much as a Chargers’ win is a Raiders’ loss. With our playoff hopes dashed in week 16, all we had left was to cheer on a win over the Raiders in the final week of the season; a win that ruined the playoff dreams of Hue Jackson and company. If I can’t root for the Chargers in the playoffs, I’d much rather watch Tim Tebow send everyone into a frenzy than see anyone wearing silver and black.
What were your favorite moments from the Chargers 2011 season?
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