Not satisfied with sharing their cursed gospel to a Los Angeles audience that never wanted anything to do with them, the Chargers forced their distinct brand of self-sabotage on an entirely new country.
Chargering became a global phenomenon Monday night.
Now, their season is over. And their next one might already be, too.
What a way for the Chargers to all but officially eliminate themselves from postseason contention, the franchise without a home watching its championship window close as it was adrift in a foreign land.
In the wake of a 24-17 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs at Aztec Stadium, the Chargers are 4-7, which places them second from the bottom in an AFC West that has offered them every chance to get back in the race.
“We knew how big this game was and we didn’t get it done,” quarterback Philip Rivers said.
Their inability to take advantage of the opportunities gifted them by their opponents defined not only their season to date, but also this particular game.
The Chargers simply couldn’t get out of their own way.
By almost every statistical measure, the Chargers dominated the first half. They nonetheless went into the break down 10-9.
In the last five minutes of the game, Rivers was granted two opportunities to tie the score. Both possessions ended with him throwing passes that were intercepted, including one that was underthrown to running back Austin Ekeler on the right side of the end zone with 24 seconds remaining.
You can take the Chargers out of San Diego, heck, you can even take them out of the United States, but they’re still the Chargers.
With a victory, they would have positioned themselves well within striking distance of the Oakland Raiders (6-4) and Chiefs. By losing, the Chargers allowed the Chiefs (7-4) to move three games ahead.
“We talked all along about everything we wanted was still in front of us,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “Yes, we needed to win this game today. I felt like if we could have won this game today and won out, we could control our own destiny. But now, obviously, I don’t feel that way. I still think we have enough to win next week and beyond that, but we probably are going to need some help.”
Lynn sounded resigned to his team’s fate. He wasn’t alone.
Asked how the Chargers would move forward from this setback, Rivers made no mention of the playoffs.
“The only way I know is to fight,” Rivers said. “You just keep fighting. You sign up for them all, regardless of what your record is. Been in this spot before and you just keep playing.”
Rivers threw a total of four passes that were intercepted. He delivered only one touchdown pass, a seven-yard strike to Keenan Allen late in the third quarter.
Allen’s touchdown marked the only time the Chargers reached the end zone in the game.
The inefficiency of the offense explained why they were down by a point at halftime even though they outgained the Chiefs 312 yards to 109 over the first two quarters.
The Chargers had 14 first downs in the first half, the Chiefs only five.
Michael Badgley kicked three field goals in the first half, from 27, 26 and 49 yards. He also missed a first-half attempt from 40 yards.
“We got to get ball in the end zone,” Lynn said. “We kicked too many field goals in the first half. A team like Kansas City, you can’t kick field goals. You got to score. I thought we let them hang around by kicking field goals.”
Rivers has thrown seven passes that were intercepted in his last two games. He has 14 interceptions this season, more than he had all of last year (12) or the year before (10).
“It’s a football game,” Rivers said. “If you could just pick and choose and never throw them ever, I would choose to throw zero. Certainly don’t want to throw them, but certainly I know it’s hurting us right now.”
The season started with considerable promise, in part because Rivers was back.
His performance has not only contributed to his team’s decline, but also raised questions about whether the team’s projected championship window might close a season earlier than expected. The Chargers were supposed to contend again next season, but they won’t be doing that with Rivers playing like this.
The team’s two running backs, Melvin Gordon and Ekeler, could depart as free agents. So could Hunter Henry. Defensive end Joey Bosa could hold out for a new contract. Sidelined safety Derwin James has experienced problems with the same foot that was responsible for his draft stock falling two years ago.
The loss in Mexico on Monday night ended their season. That’s a near-certainty. The fear is the damage might extend beyond that.