Chargers can’t hang with Chiefs in season-ending loss, face big offseason questions
The first half ended with an interception and so did the second.
In between, the Chargers fought back to take the lead, fought back again to close a widening gap and — after all the struggle and effort — ultimately fell short on a windy, chilly, gray day in another stadium turned against them.
A 31-21 loss to Kansas City concluded a disappointing and sobering season marked by too many turnovers, not enough third-down stops and a parade of plays that simply weren’t made.
“Just very frustrating,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “In this league, you gotta come with it every year. It will humble you real fast. There’s a lot of things that went wrong, a lot of things that have to get better.”
After making the playoffs last year, the Chargers finished 5-11 and in last place in the AFC West. They won back-to-back games in Weeks 8 and 9 and then lost six of their final seven.
On the positive side, the Chargers have the No. 6 pick in the draft in April. They have selected that high only once since 2004.
Quarterback Philip Rivers threw both of those interceptions Sunday to leave his 2019 count at 20, matching the second-highest total of his 16-year career.
Rivers, 38, is unsigned entering the offseason and might have played his final game as a Charger. Afterward, he said he planned on playing somewhere in 2020, preferably with this team.
As he talked about his favorite memories going back to the team’s days in San Diego, Rivers broke down and his eyes filled.
Quarterback Philip Rivers gets choked up while talking about his accomplishments with the Chargers following a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 season finale.
“Ultimate competitor, ultimate leader,” Henry said. “It’s been a pleasure to be able to play with a guy like that. Hopefully, I can do it some more.”
Coach Anthony Lynn referenced the turnovers first when asked what torpedoed a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Chargers finished with 31 turnovers and only 14 takeaways. Their differential of minus-17 tied for worst in the NFL.
“I gotta go back and look at the coaching staff and myself and the positions we put the guys in,” Lynn said, “and why, all of a sudden, we turned the ball over this season more than we did the last couple years. It’s a team effort. It’s everybody.”
Along with Rivers, the Chargers’ impending unrestricted free agents include Henry, running back Melvin Gordon, right guard Michael Schofield, safety Adrian Phillips and fullback Derek Watt.
Lynn is expected to be back and will be entering the final season of the four-year deal he signed when he was hired in January 2017.
Asked after the game if he would return, Lynn said, “Unless you know something I don’t, yeah.”
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tosses a touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki in the final seconds to deliver a stunning 27-24 win over the Patriots.
Along with the anticipated roster shuffling, the Chargers also are entering an offseason that could prove tricky regarding Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa.
Going into the final year of his rookie contract, Bosa is due to make $14.36 million but could hold out for an extension. Depending on the length, his next contract almost certainly will eclipse $100 million.
He said none of that was on his mind Sunday and he would rest before considering changes that might be coming.
“I want everybody to do what’s best for them, obviously,” Bosa said. “It’s going to be little weird. The team’s definitely going to be mixed up next year.”
For a group that considered itself so close a year ago, the Chargers missed wildly this season.
They finished 0-6 in their division, 3-9 in the AFC and 2-9 in one-score games. After a run of late-season success, they went 1-4 in December.
“I’ll tell you, this is not where I thought we’d be right now,” Lynn said. “We’ve got a lot to learn from this season. And we’re going to start working on that right away.”
It’s a shame ‘The Murph’ is a shell of its former self. Rusted seats and an outdated scoreboard are some of the legacies of the Chargers leaving San Diego.
With nothing tangible to play for, the Chargers did battle the Chiefs for most of Sunday. They led 7-3 in the second quarter and 14-10 in the third, but then Kansas City scored on a 104-yard kickoff return by Mecole Hardman and an 84-yard run by Damien Williams.
The Chargers had more first downs and total yards than the Chiefs and ran 26 more offensive plays. But, in fitting with their season, all that production wasn’t enough.
Keenan Allen had nine catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. He finished with 104 receptions, breaking by two the franchise record he set two years ago.
Mike Williams caught two passes for 38 yards to push his season totals to 49 receptions and 1,001 yards, both career highs. Running back Austin Ekeler also had a shot at a 1,000-yard receiving season but fell just short, finishing with 993.
After 16 games and 17 weeks, that was the story of this Chargers team: just short.
And now? No one can be quite sure.
“It would be awesome to have our crew here,” Gordon said. “I don’t think any of us at this point know where we are going to be. We are anxious, like you really.”
Williams made it through the season — he missed one game — despite dealing with knee soreness that dated to the opener. He said tests taken throughout the season showed no structural damage and that he and the Chargers are still unsure what’s wrong.
“I really don’t know how I played the rest of the season with it,” Williams said. “I just know it’s painful.”
He said there are no plans for surgery or any other procedures. He’ll rest over the next several weeks.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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