The (8-7) San Diego Chargers' playoff hopes are still alive after beating the (4-11) Oakland Raiders 26-13 and enjoying losses by both Miami and Baltimore. With losses by the Dolphins and the Ravens next week--coupled with a Chargers win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs (who the Bolts have already beaten this season)-- then San Diego can clinch the #6 seed. At least both Baltimore and Miami play early games so the Chargers will know the state of affairs prior to the start of their game.
Despite an ugly start to the game wherein the Chargers committed three turnovers (a fumbled snap by QB Philip Rivers, a Rivers interception, and a muffed punt by rookie WR Keenan Allen) the Chargers got their ducks in a row and were aided by massive penalties from Oakland for the win and a stupendous interception by S Eric Weddle (pictured).
So, what'd we learn?
1. Penalties are a killer. Oakland--in true Raider fashion--committed 12 penalties for a whopping 73 yards, including a critical taunting penalty by CB Mike Jenkins against RB Ryan Mathews that kept a drive alive and resulted in a Keenan Allen touchdown and continued accolades from experts, many of whom argue that Allen should be named Rookie of the Year.
2. I can't say this enough: RBs Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead are as good a RB tandem as there is in the league. Mathews was a mere one yard shy of his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season and added another touchdown. He also caught three passes for 20 yards. Woodhead ran the ball eight times for 52 yards and caught three passes for an additional 16 yards.
3. Whereas we don't know whether QB Matt McGloin will retain his job once Terrelle Pryor is fully healthy, the undrafted rookie McGloin (who was also the first starting, walk-on QB at Penn State after scholarships were reinstated in 1949) has considerable presence and mobility. Today he went 20-of-36 for 206 yards and one interception but he has potential. In seven starts this season (including today), McGloin has passed for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
4. According to NFL "expert" Michael Fabiano, K Nick Novak was the sleeper start of the week. Novak was perfect today, converting 2/2 extra points and kicking four field goals for 27, 48, 28, and 33 yards. Thus far this season, Novak has successfully booted 28 of his 31 field goal attempts for a 90.3% completion rate (80% in his career) and is perfect in extra points. What a great replacement for former K Nate Kaeding who, upon his retirement in 2012 was the second most accurate kicker in NFL history with an 86.3% completion rate.
5. Finally, I think everyone, including myself, has learned that I shouldn't keep writing "The Chargers played (fill-in-the-blank): 5 Things We Learned" articles because they are getting a bit monotonous. Next season I promise to seek a greater variety of articles to write.
Next week, the Chargers host the 11-4 Chiefs who have already clinched the No. 5 seed following a loss today to the Indianapolis Colts and a Denver Broncos' victory over the Houston Texans. The aforementioned Broncos (12-3) travel to Oakland in a meaningless divisional game.