As the rain clouds descended on San Diego late Sunday afternoon, it was almost like a message that something fresh would come of this roller coaster ride that has been the San Diego Chargers.
With their 24-21 victory over the hated Oakland Raiders, the Bolts finished at 7-9, their third straight campaign coming up short in playing into the post-season. As a result, it seems almost inevitable that change is coming to America’s Finest City on the gridiron.
While briefly speaking with his players afterwards, Chargers’ head coach Norv Turner likely knew the writing was on the wall. Perhaps, too, the same could be said for general manager AJ Smith, who is also likely to be given his exit out the door, be it this week, the next, or whenever.
After missing the playoffs the last two seasons, the Chargers entered the 2012 campaign as a legitimate challenger to the Denver Broncos for AFC West supremacy. That idea, however, was lost in mid-November when the Broncos completed a season sweep of the Bolts, effectively claiming the division title for the second straight year.
Over the last month or so, the Chargers were clinging to minimal hopes of getting into the playoffs as a wild card, but even those thoughts were dashed two weeks ago in an uninspiring 31-7 loss at home to Carolina. That loss in particular seemed to cement Turner’s departure, as the Chargers came out that day playing perhaps their most uninspired game of the season.
During the subsequent weeks, the Chargers would go on the road and defeat the equally under achieving New York Jets, then finish the year with a season sweep of the Raiders in front of more than 66,000 fans, many of whom were dressed in Silver and Black.
As Sunday’s game showed, there is potential for this team going into the 2013 season.
Among some of Sunday’s highlights for the Bolts:
* Recently acquired Michael Spurlock took the opening kickoff back 99 yards to put San Diego ahead early, a lead it would never relinquish;
* Tight end Antonio Gates caught his 83rd career TD pass, in the process hooking up for the 57th time of his career with QB Philip Rivers;
* The aforementioned Rivers finished a modest passing day of 13-of-17 for 151 yards, including a pair of TD’s (one also to Danario Alexander);
* Linebacker Takeo Spikes did not see much of the game, getting ejected in the first half after a fight with Oakland’s Mike Goodson (also tossed);
* Quentin Jammer had an interception, while Eric Weddle led the Bolts with seven tackles.
On this overcast winter afternoon, much of the attention was directed towards Turner, who took over as head coach back in 2007 after Marty Schottenheimer was fired, this despite going 14-2.
What little consolation it was, Turner’s players played for him on this Sunday in sending him in all likelihood out a winner, albeit a victory over the lowly Raiders.