Chargers’ playoff hopes lean massive on win over Tennessee Titans

They pressed and pushed Miami’s pace throughout SoFi Stadium, the Chargers producing their most interesting defensive efficiency of the season by bullying the Dolphins right into a parade of empty performs.

Now comes a Tennessee offense that prefers to function extra downhill than downwind.

“You gotta get physical, man,” Chargers security Alohi Gilman mentioned. “It’s one on one, me and you, in the backyard. That’s kind of how I was raised. I’m down for the challenge. I’m ready to go.”

Final weekend, the Chargers restricted Miami to 1 offensive landing on a day after they, too, have been restricted. Gilman began and performed each defensive snap instead of Derwin James Jr., who’s uncertain once more for Sunday due to a quadriceps pressure.

Additionally they have been lacking defensive deal with Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (core muscle). Each practiced in a restricted capability main into this sport and are questionable.

Regardless of these absences, the Chargers dominated the Dolphins per week in the past and made quarterback Tua Tagovailoa seem overmatched, two issues few folks would have forecast earlier than kickoff.

“Nobody thought we were going to win, right?” linebacker Drue Tranquill mentioned. “In a lot of ways, that was a must win for us, and we didn’t have close to our best recipe. That’s why the locker room afterward was so special.”

The victory — approaching an evening when the Chargers have been three-point underdogs — notably boosted the workforce’s postseason potentialities. Getting into Week 15, the Chargers have been eighth within the AFC.

They’d the identical 7-6 file because the seventh-seeded New England Patriots and the ninth-seeded New York Jets. The Chargers have been a sport behind the Dolphins for the No. 6 spot.

Amongst these 4 groups, the Chargers have a transparent benefit in power of remaining schedule. Additionally they have bettering well being — even with James’ harm — and numerous really feel good left over from the Miami victory.

“If we weren’t in the playoff conversation, it doesn’t really matter that we’re getting hot right now,” Tranquill mentioned. “But if we can continue to play good defense, it means everything.”

Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill strains up earlier than a snap towards the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 4.

(Rick Scuteri / Related Press)

What the Chargers did to the Dolphins was what they have been anticipated to do that season. It simply took till Week 14.

The franchise invested closely — in each cash and draft sources — to rebuild a protection that in 2021 did not maintain tempo with one of many NFL’s top-five offenses.

Accidents didn’t assist however a scarcity of execution extra considerably led to a continued incapability to cease the run and seize video games there to be taken. Then the Chargers grabbed Miami by the throat and wouldn’t let go.

Sure, if they will maintain enjoying protection like this, there’s nonetheless time for the 2022 Chargers to meet their potential.

“It definitely can carry over if us, as a crew, keep that same urgency,” Gilman mentioned. “Sometimes, with human nature, when good things happen we kind of take a breath. This week, we’re harping on ‘Let’s keep building.’ ”

Regardless of struggling three consecutive losses, Tennessee figures to make that constructing course of for the Chargers’ protection a bit extra difficult. Solely 4 groups run the ball at the next proportion than the Titans do, their offense sometimes propped atop the highly effective legs of Derrick Henry.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry carries the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 11.

Tennessee Titans operating again Derrick Henry carries the ball towards the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 11.

(Peter Joneleit / Related Press)

The Chargers are tied with the New York Giants on the backside of the league in yards (5.4) permitted per rush. They’re yielding 147 yards a sport on the bottom, which is twenty eighth.

“Everyone knows they’re a big running team,” Gilman mentioned. “It’s up to us to stop them. I think we’re up for the challenge. We know the narrative that’s out there. But we’re excited about this game.”

The Chargers aren’t solely coming off their most interesting defensive exhibiting of the season but in addition their most emotional triumph. Their pleasure in overcoming the Dolphins confirmed itself most clearly within the actions of Justin Herbert.

Usually as stage because the midfield stripe, the workforce’s third-year quarterback scrambled for an important conversion late after which marked the second by standing and dramatically signaling for a primary down.

Later, Herbert entered the locker room carrying a commemorative soccer he had been offered by NBC throughout his postgame on-field interview. With the room watching him, he out of the blue spiked the factor as cheers erupted.

“I came in there and everyone was kind of looking at me to do something,” Herbert defined. “So I felt like that was the right move. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have spiked it… It was a lot of fun. I think the guys enjoyed it.”

Requested why he had second ideas about what he did, Herbert mentioned: “I didn’t want to disrespect the football or ‘Sunday Night Football.’ It had the logo on there. I meant no disrespect for the Sunday night team.”

Really, after what felt like a press release win, the exclamation level appeared acceptable.

Now the Chargers should regroup and announce their intentions yet again.