The Chargers watched Sunday just like their fans did, the obvious conclusion for both groups being that an opportunity truly had been wasted.
Having played Saturday night, the Chargers were able to enjoy a game between Kansas City and Seattle. Even if the result — for them — was nothing to enjoy, at all.
“You think about it for a second, ‘What could have been, what should have been,’ all that,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “But it doesn’t do you any good. The only thing we can control right now is playing our best ball against Denver.”
Had the Chargers defeated Baltimore on Saturday at StubHub Center, the Chiefs’ loss against the Seahawks would have left the Chargers alone atop the AFC and one victory from clinching the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed.
Instead, they fell to the Ravens 22-10, meaning Kansas City retained the tiebreaker as the AFC West rivals enter the final week of the regular season with matching 11-4 records.
The Chargers play at Denver on Sunday, while the Chiefs host Oakland. The Chargers need a victory and a Kansas City loss or tie to win the division. They’d also secure the No. 1 seed with a tie and a Chiefs loss.
Any other results will leave the Chargers with the top wild-card spot and, as the fifth seed, a likely rematch with the Ravens at Baltimore in the first round.
“We can go back and point out different games and different plays and all kinds of things throughout the 15-game season and go, ‘Oh well, if this would have happened, that could have happened,’ ” safety Jahleel Addae said. “But it didn’t. So we’re looking to the next opportunity. We still have a chance to finish as the No. 1 seed.”
The games involving the Chargers and Chiefs both are scheduled to kick off at 1:25 p.m. PST.
Lynn said he had no intention of altering his lineups in an attempt to hold back for the postseason.
“We’re not in any position to rest anybody,” he said. “We’re not trying to limp into these playoffs. We’re trying to go in with a win. We’ve got to play everybody.”
That will include running back Melvin Gordon, who returned Saturday after missing three games because of a ligament sprain in his right knee.
Gordon had 12 carries for 41 yards and caught three passes for 13 yards. He was unable to break free on a night when the Chargers’ longest play from scrimmage was 17 yards.
“I wanted to see him get back into a rhythm,” Lynn said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But I thought he ran hard. He ran extremely hard.”
As for Gordon’s status Sunday, Lynn said: “He’s got to play. That’s how you shake the rust off, by playing. We want to make sure he’s well rested going into the playoffs. But he’s got to play enough to get the rust off.”
Addae said he has no doubt his fellow starters would want to play against the Broncos regardless of the circumstances. Having the AFC West still undecided just adds incentive.
“We’re competitors,” he said. “We want to go in [the postseason] hot. We want to go in rolling. We want to keep the good thing rolling that we have. … So I think the best thing for us is that we get to play for a division title still. We get to play at a high level, and we’re not sitting out.”
Ekeler could return
Lynn said he thinks running back Austin Ekeler will be able to return this week after missing two games because of a neck injury.
Rookie Justin Jackson filled in for Ekeler against the Ravens and, like the rest of the offense, mostly struggled trying to find open space.
Ekeler declined an interview request Monday. He was seen wearing special padding designed to protect his neck.
The Chargers have only lost twice since Sept. 23, and one of those losses came against the Broncos at StubHub Center.
During Week 11, Denver won 23-22 on the final play of the game, a Brandon McManus 34-yard field goal.
“They did come in here and beat us,” Lynn said. “They are a division game, a common opponent. That should be enough motivation [for Sunday] right there. I’m not really worried about that.”
The Chargers led 19-7 and were driving late in the third quarter when Philip Rivers had a pass intercepted by Von Miller.
The turnover led to a Broncos touchdown and shifted the momentum and tenor of the afternoon.
Rivers finished with 401 passing yards as the Chargers dominated the box score. But they also were called for 14 penalties for 120 yards and had the game’s only two turnovers.