For years, the San Diego Chargers have been a team of almosts.
Spanning from the “Air Coryell” years in which Dan Fouts led the league’s most potent offense to the near decade-long reign of runningback LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers have always seemed to have talent worthy of Super Bowl excellence.
Converting that talent into rings has proved to be slightly more challenging.
After missing the postseason twice in a row, a rocky 2012 season will likely have coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith updating their resumes.
The goal this season for a San Diego franchise that has spent the last two years scratching its head at the final standings will be to tally wins right out of the gate. In years past, the Chargers have lost no-brainer games in September and October, which has created the need for tremendous comebacks in the season’s last two months.
Though San Diego has an impeccable record in the month of December as of late, the Bolts have simply found themselves running out of games down the stretch.
On Monday night the Chargers looked to flip the script on their traditionally slow starts by notching a win in Oakland on national television, and thanks to the efficient quarterback play of Philip Rivers and the clutch kicking of Nate Kaeding, the Chargers were able to do themselves a rare favor, defeating the Raiders 22-14.
Rivers was 24 of 33 passing for 231 yards and a touchdown. He distributed the ball effectively, with 7 different receivers catching at least two passes.
Though impressive, Rivers was upstaged by kicker Nate Kaeding, who in his first game back from an ACL tear in last season’s opener was 5 for 5 from three point range, rewarding bold fantasy owners everywhere and accounting for all but seven of San Diego’s 22 points.
Defensively, the Chargers looked their most ferocious in recent memory, totaling three sacks, nine tackles for loss and five hits on Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer.
It was a fundamentally sound performance in all three phases for San Diego, but they were not playing against the same Oakland Raiders.
Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore were both inactive and gave way to recent undrafted free agent signee Rod Streater at wide receiver.
A concussion to starting long snapper Jon Condo proved to be nightmarish.
Backup long snapper Travis Goethel, who hadn’t long-snapped since high school, bounced a snap and rolled another in punt situations, giving the Chargers better field position than they could have ever have hoped for, especially with San Diego starting runningback Ryan Mathews nursing yet another injury.
San Diego showed poise with the lights on in front of arguably the NFL’s meanest crowd, but could have had an even cleaner victory (an Antonio Gates dropped touchdown pass comes to mind) in their season opener.
Still, an uncharacteristically hungry defense and the ability to pull out an intra-division win in September shows worlds of improvement for the Bolts.
Up next for San Diego is another should-win: a home opener against an anemic Tenessee Titans squad.