Perhaps, in the end, the blackout was the best thing that could have happened for the Chargers this week.
Southern California was unable to see a game that the Chargers themselves I’m sure will be happy to move past. In a 27-3 route by the Atlanta Falcons, there was little, if any, to be happy about as a Chargers fan. As the positives are minimal, let’s hit those first.
One, Ryan Mathews returned, looked healthy, and remained healthy when the game ended. We can discuss the fumble inside the 5-yard line if you like. And trust me, I get it, and I hear it all the time. Either you are a Ryan Mathews believer or you aren’t. I for one am a believer. 4.4 YPC average in a game where the Chargers were unable to stick with the run after falling behind so fast. Lest you be reminded what the Chargers running “attack” looked like for the first two games. Ryan Mathews is a good RB with the ability to be an elite RB. And his health is a positive.
Two, Antonio Gates returned and appeared healthy. Everyone was surprised by the late scratch of Gates a week ago. It was nice to see Gates return, bringing the Chargers offense ever closer to the unit they started with in training camp.
Three, the Falcons play in the NFC. This to me is the most important. Because there is little to be happy about. The Chargers got embarrassed. And they got embarrassed in every facet of the game. Philip Rivers has no time to throw, the defense couldn’t contain the Falcons potent offense. But in the end, the Falcons play in the NFC. So my concern about this loss long term is pretty short lived.
In order of importance, regular season games go like this: 1) division games; 2) conference games; 3) out-of-conference games. Very rarely do out-of-conference games come into play when it comes down to teams winning their division. So while losing to the Falcons on Sunday was embarrassing in the fashion they lost, it will likely do very little in determining who comes out of the AFC West. And right now, that’s all anyone should care about. Making the playoffs. Because you can’t win the Super Bowl if you don’t get to the playoffs. And right now the Chargers sit atop the AFC West thanks to a Denver loss to Houston.
The next three weeks are crucial. The Chargers play two division games (KC, Denver) and a road game that suddenly looks very winnable against the Saints. Heading into their bye week, it is very conceivable that the Chargers could 4-2, with a two game lead in the division. I’ll take that every day of the week.
I realize that this isn’t much of a recap in the traditional sense. But really, there was little to recap. The Chargers picked a bad day to have a bad day. And the Atlanta Falcons are good. Really good. The best team in the NFC if you ask me.
You can choose to view this game as the harbinger of terrible things to come. Or you can choose to look at is as a team having a bad day against a great team. I choose the latter.