With just over a minute left in their Thursday Night Football matchup with the Raiders, the Chargers got the ball back down two. They had all of their timeouts and less than 50 yards before they’d be in Michael Badgley’s field goal range for a potential game-winning kick. Overall, that’s not a terrible position for a team to be in. But then, this is the Chargers. Having the ball down a field goal is both a situation that happens seemingly every game with this team and their nightmare scenario.
The ensuing drive went exactly as you’d expect. The Chargers gained just 5 yards off an Oakland penalty as Philip Rivers missed on every single one of his throws. The team lost, 26-24; at 4-6, they’re now virtually out of the playoff hunt. But before we collectively put the Chargers out of our minds for the rest of the season, it’s worth appreciating just how wrong their potential game-winning drive went. It was a fascinating debacle, even by Chargers standards.
Rivers had eight snaps on this drive, and on every one of them he whiffed. His first pass was deflected at the line, and his second was as ugly an overthrow as you’ll ever see:
His third pass should have been intercepted:
Rivers’s fourth throw—on a do-or-die fourth down—fell incomplete, but a Raiders defensive holding call gave the Chargers new life. On the ensuing first down, Rivers took a deep shot to Jason Moore, whose legs got tangled up with his defender’s, causing him to hit the turf. You’re probably wondering who Moore is: He’s a 24-year-old undrafted rookie wideout who has two career receptions. You’re probably also wondering why the Chargers were targeting a 24-year-old undrafted rookie wideout: I have no answer for this. Los Angeles has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler, and Melvin Gordon, all of whom are good pass catchers.
On Rivers’s sixth pass, he rolled out—rarely a good sign for him—and badly missed Henry:
His seventh pass, intended for Henry (who was running a shallow crossing route), was another incompletion. The eighth pass is the kicker—faced with another fourth down that effectively put the game on the line, Rivers did this:
Given the situation and the Chargers’ historic propensity toward heartbreak, it’s difficult to think of a series this season more inept than this one. Every play failed. The Chargers were seemingly laser-focused on sabotaging any hope they had.
If you watch the clips above closely, you’ll notice that Rivers was under pressure on nearly all of them. The Chargers offensive line let pressure get to Rivers all night, and he was sacked five times (and had to force countless more throws to avoid pressure). This loss wasn’t all his fault, though his final stat line—17-of-31 for 207 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions—is ugly as hell. Rivers came into Thursday night’s game leading the league in passing yards, so there shouldn’t be any calls for Tyrod Taylor to replace him yet, but it doesn’t help that his first drive of the game ended with an interception on a throw that is just as ugly as any of the ones above:
The Chargers are the NFL’s Sisyphus, doomed to constantly try and fail to win close games. But even for fans acclimated with the Chargers’ pattern of failure, Thursday night’s final sequence was special. For fans of sloppy football, it was a work of art.