Denver • The San Diego Chargers launched their drive to make the playoffs just in time. In their last game, they started too late.
San Diego finished strong in the team’s first season under coach Mike McCoy, a former University of Utah quarterback. But a fourth-quarter rally in Sunday’s 24-17 loss to Denver in an AFC divisional playoff game could not quite match the Chargers’ December performance.
The biggest problem was an offense that produced only 79 yards and zero points through three quarters. Thanks mostly to quarterback Philip Rivers and receiver Keenan Allen, the Chargers delivered 180 yards and 17 points in the fourth quarter, scoring on all three possessions.
"We got it going pretty good, and they knew it," Rivers said. "If we got it one more time, I believe deep down that we would’ve tied that thing up. Those are all a bunch of what-ifs."
Denver converted a third-and-17 play to keep the ball and eventually run out the clock. But the Chargers needed to do much more offensively than they did in the first three quarters.
The line could not protect Rivers or open holes for Ryan Matthews, the centerpiece of the Chargers’ game plan. Rivers also missed some throws and his receivers dropped a couple of balls, all contributing to the ineffectiveness.
Naturally, coming as close as they did in the end just made the Chargers feel worse. Yet their effort was a credit to McCoy, the former Broncos offensive coordinator who took the San Diego job last January.
"Fight to the bitter end," McCoy said. "That’s what we’ve said all year long."
Chargers safety Eric Weddle, another ex-Ute, will play in the Pro Bowl later this month to conclude his seventh NFL season. Weddle is proud of his team’s progress under McCoy, but he hopes nobody’s satisfied with advancing through one round of the playoffs.
"Our dreams are shattered, so it’s hard to look at the good things we did," Weddle said. "We’re extremely disappointed and hurting. You work every day, every hour, every minute for a chance at the ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl, and to have that goal not attained, it’s hard to deal with and it will take a very long time to get over it."
Weddle made three tackles Sunday. He nearly kept Denver’s Demaryius Thomas out of the end zone in the first quarter, but a replay upheld Thomas’ 2-yard touchdown reception.
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