Here’s the cliff notes version of the storylines heading into Sunday night’s game:
- Drew Brees use to play for the Chargers
- Now he doesn’t. Instead, the Chargers let him go and went with Philip Rivers.
- Brees has won a Super Bowl in New Orleans.
- Rivers has not.
- Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I won’t bother rehashing what is a very tired debate. I’ll say this. I’m very content with Philip Rivers and have never thought the Chargers made the wrong call in this department. I still root for Drew Brees as a player because he is a great player and I like him. Football is a team sport. Thus winning the Super Bowl is a team accomplishment. Not an individual achievement.
Now, onto Sunday night’s game.
Everything was going so well for so long. The Chargers offense was moving seemingly at will. The defense was containing what is still an explosive offense. At 24-14, things looked great. They looked even better when Demorrio Williams picked off Drew Brees and returned it for a touchdown and an apparent 31-14 lead.
Flag on the play.
For the second time this season, Melvin Ingram, the Chargers rookie LB taken with the 18th overall pick, was flagged for hitting a QB with his helmet. We can argue the validity of the rule and whether it is taking the “football” out of football. What is not in dispute is that Ingram lowered his head, appeared to lead with his crown, and by the letter of the rule was appropriately flagged. Points off the board.
And handful of plays later, Brees had led the Saints down to score their first of 17 unanswered points. And that was that.
The Chargers had their chance late to tie the game. In a sequence that made many, myself included, long for the days of replacement refs, the Chargers were flagged on 3 consecutive plays, including a dubious offensive PI on Gates that removed a 30+ yard gain. Tough to mount a comeback when you keep moving back 10-15 yards at a time on phantom calls. But so it is.
The Chargers have now failed to tie or take the lead in 9 straight game ending drives. A statistical anomaly perhaps but telling nevertheless.
On a day when Drew Brees passed Johnny Unitas for most consecutive games with a TD pass and Sean Payton was granted an exemption from his suspension to come to the Superdome, it appeared that the football Gods, referees and an ill-timed hit to the head conspired to keep the Chargers out of the win column.
Next week, Denver. On Monday Night. If you thought the Drew Brees gushing was bad, strap in.
Oh, and one more thing.
Free Ryan Mathews.