It was their fourth loss in five games, and it was far uglier than the result suggests.
The San Diego Chargers lost 17-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 1. San Diego didn’t run the ball all that well, didn’t stop the run all that well and committed three turnovers.
It was an ugly day.
Then, after beating the Giants at home the following week, the Chargers got their signature win of the season, beating Peyton Manning and the Broncos 27-20 in Denver.
The Chargers haven’t lost since.
“That’s really when San Diego’s season turned,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Ian Eagle said on The Damon Amendolara Show.
The Chargers, who won four straight games to make the playoffs, proved it wasn’t a fluke this past Sunday. They dismantled the Bengals 27-10 in Cincinnati, where the Bengals had gone 8-0 this year.
“We say it every year – ‘Oh, I wouldn’t want to play those guys in the postseason,’” Eagle said. “Well, (the Chargers) were one of those teams.”
Eagle called several Chargers games this season, including the loss to Cincinnati and the win at Denver. Some of their losses – a three-point loss at Tennessee, a four-point loss at Miami – were respectable.
Others, not so much. A 31-28 loss to Houston in Week 1 (in which the Chargers squandered a 21-point lead in the second half). A 10-point loss to the Raiders in Oakland. An overtime loss to the Redskins in Washington.
“You never quite knew what you were going to get from them,” Eagle said, “so that’s sometimes alarming as well if you’re an opponent – because you’re not sure. You’re not sure which Charger team is going to show up.”
So, which team will show up this Sunday in Denver? The one that got manhandled by the Bengals in December, or the one that beat the Broncos two weeks later?
Time will tell, but this we know: The Chargers have won five straight and six of seven. They were also the only team to win in Denver this year, so it would stand to reason they could do it again – and if they do, it’ll be because they controlled the clock.
San Diego ran wild in its win that night, rushing 44 times for 177 yards, with Ryan Matthews accounting for 29 carries, 127 yards and a touchdown. Philip Rivers, meanwhile, was efficient, completing 12 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and he finished without a turnover.
“The results speak for themselves,” Eagle said. “They lost a bunch of games close that easily could have gone the other way. (It’s a) very difficult team to get a read on, but I know they’re dangerous – and I know Philip Rivers is playing at an extremely high level right now.
“This team, in my mind, should be able to play with the Denver Broncos (this) weekend.”