Chargers will try to play spoiler against Minnesota Vikings
The Chargers were officially eliminated from postseason contention a week ago, just about the time they were concluding a thorough dissection of Jacksonville.
Victories by Pittsburgh and Tennessee meant the Chargers’ 45-10 thumping was little more than a soul-healing rout for a team frustrated by a season full of narrow defeats.
Yet, even before they trotted onto the field to face the Jaguars, the Chargers understood that their playoff fate for 2019 had been determined.
“We knew after we lost to Denver [the week before] that God was pretty much going to have to show himself if we wanted to get in,” safety Adrian Phillips said. “We knew we were basically done.”
Chargers rookie defensive tackle Jerry Tillery could play this week because of the scheme the Minnesota Vikings run, according to coach Anthony Lynn
Divine intervention isn’t something that happens often, not even in football, a sport that has a play called the Hail Mary and moment known as the Immaculate Reception.
So, the Chargers sit at 5-8 and heading nowhere but toward a longer-than-expected offseason entering their game Sunday against Minnesota at Dignity Health Sports Park.
But they insist they are not lacking in desire to make it two wins in a row in their first game in Carson since Nov. 3.
“We’re still bringing the same energy to these games,” tight end Virgil Green said. “We’re going to compete, no matter what. I expect us to play hard, fight hard and play with confidence, do everything we can to try to win this game.”
The 9-4 Vikings are the ones still watching scoreboards and contemplating tiebreakers. They entered Week 15 as the No. 6 seed in the NFC, one game behind Green Bay in the division and one game ahead of the Rams in the wild card race.
That means one L.A. team will be rooting for the other L.A. team Sunday, the Chargers in position to provide a significant boost to a rival that they’re competing with for market share.
That’s not to suggest the players in their locker room care much about what happens to anyone playing on a team outside that locker room.
“Winning is our main goal because, if you lose, they make changes,” Phillips said. “And you don’t want to be a part of that change. If it just so happens that us winning messes up another team’s playoff chances, that’s their problem, not ours.”
Said Green: “I don’t care if there’s nothing to play for or something to play for. At the end of the day, I want you to lose and I want me to win. Period. We’re competitors. We got here by competing. That’s all we know.”
Last week, the Chargers fell behind Jacksonville halfway through the first quarter and then spent the rest of the game overwhelming an opponent that looked less than convinced it wanted to compete.
Along the way, Austin Ekeler made history by becoming only the second Charger in the regular season and third overall to top 100 yards in both rushing and receiving in a game.
On Sunday, coach Anthony Lynn said he’d prefer to see an encore worthy of the original.
“I love what he did last week,” Lynn said. “I hope he can do it again this week. That’s where my focus is, getting that same type of production.”
The victory over Jacksonville was the Chargers’ most complete performance of this lost season.
They scored more than four touchdowns in a game for the first time in 2019 and, on the Jaguars’ final eight possessions, forced five punts and twice stopped them on downs.
The Chargers now have won three times by double digits but only two times in their other 10 games, each of which has been decided by a single score.
Because of that odd math, they have a point differential of plus-38, better than 10-3 Seattle and two teams — Pittsburgh and Houston — that are 8-5.
Knowing where they are and where — without all the crucial, late, game-costing mistakes — they could be is something the ’19 Chargers have to simply accept today.
Finally getting a chance to start as a fill-in, defensive back Brandon Facyson has impressed Chargers coaches with his tackling abilities.
“It was sort of a cool and almost angry moment when you see a score like last week,” guard Dan Feeney said. “All those explosive plays, it’s exciting but also frustrating. It’s like, ‘Dang, where’s that been?’
“But it happens in this league. People go down. Things change. Circumstances change. We can’t dwell on it now.”
No, they can’t, especially when facing a Minnesota team that opened the season 2-2 and since has gone 7-2, the only losses coming at Kansas City and Seattle.
The Chargers have three games remaining and, for the first time since the end of 2016 season, will kick off Sunday knowing the results mean nothing for them.
“The only thing that changes is you’re more upset because you know you had chances to actually be in the tournament and you missed out on it,” Phillips said. “We know the talent that we’ve got here. We know we let this year slip through our fingers. But we still have a chance to make the best of it.”
Desmond King won’t play
The Chargers announced Saturday that defensive back Desmond King will not play against Minnesota because of reasons not related to an injury.
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