COMMENTARY | Going into the beginning of this season there were very few people who thought that the San Diego Chargers had any real shot at making the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.
As the season began to unfold we saw coach Mike McCoy shake the rust off an offense that former coach Norv Turner had mishandled and mismanaged for years. The result was, week in and week out, one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Unfortunately the team's defense was mostly impotent. They gave up yards to any and all comers -- averaging around 400 yards per game. The team managed to win a few of those games -- saved by some luck that kept the scoring down.
In Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, they gave up their usual 400 yards and allowed a season-high 38 points. The Chargers managed to squeak out a win, but more importantly after this game something seemed to click with the defense.
Starting with a seven-point loss against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 and going forward through their first-round playoff victory against the same Bengals, the Chargers defense was one of the best in the league.
Suddenly they were averaging only 300 yards per game allowed and even though coach McCoy seemed to be doing it with smoke and mirrors instead of natural player talent, he finally had a defense to complement his high-flying offense.
Sure, San Diego needed a lot of luck in the final week of the season to get into the playoffs, but they certainly deserved to be there. And they proved that by pounding the Bengals in the first round.
They lost the next game against the Denver Broncos on the road because they couldn't get the offense going for the first three quarters. Their fourth quarter was more what we had gotten used to watching. The Chargers scored 17 points and came within one 3rd-and-17 play of getting a chance to tie the game late.
A sixth seed going to the Super Bowl certainly wouldn't have been unprecedented. Just ask the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2010 Green Bay Packers. It isn't always about the "best" team winning these games. The 2008 New York Giants are a great example. They were one regular-season play against the Dallas Cowboys away from missing the playoffs entirely and then they won the Super Bowl on a drive where a player caught a ball with his helmet and then never played another game in the NFL.
The Chargers making the Super Bowl was a very real possibility. If they had gotten their offense moving in the first half against the Broncos, they would have matched up well against the New England Patriots -- though it's unclear whether San Diego would have had one of their wide receivers intentionally (allegedly) blow up Akib Talib and knock out the Patriots' best defensive player.
So, let's take a look at how the Chargers would've matched up against the Seattle Seahwaks in what would most likely have been the lowest rated Super Bowl in years.
The real Super Bowl has Denver favored by -2.5. Betting lines don't always represent who the better team is, since they're designed to get the most gambling on both sides, so the house wins with the vig no matter who wins the actual game. Seattle would definitely be favored against San Diego, but that's just the way the Chargers like it. Let's put the line at Seahawks -4.
The Seahawks have the advantage here. Marshawn Lynch and his "beast mode" would likely be Seattle's primary mode of transportation. However, the San Diego combo of Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead has been very effective against defenses the last two months of the season. A good amount of that has to do with being set up by Philip Rivers' passing game.
This is the one area of the game where San Diego has the clearest advantage. Rivers has had a historic season and seems to finally be free of the Norv Turner malaise. Antonio Gates and (the most deserving) Rookie of the Year candidate Keenan Allen have had huge years catching the ball. Not only is this the Chargers' greatest strength but it's also the Seahawks' greatest weakness. The possible return of Percy Harvin might help, but Russel Wilson & Co. are nowhere near Rivers et al.
As with the rushing offense, this is an area where the two teams are very evenly matched and if we just look at the Chargers' last six games it would be fair to give them a slight advantage. I'm not sure exactly what adjustment Coach McCoy made to get this defense in sync, but the scheme they're running has ranged from very good to excellent of late.
This is easily the greatest weakness of the Chargers and there is no better passing defense in the league than the Seahawks. They have the ability to completely shut down any passing attack and of course there's Richard Sherman. Well, he's the best corner in the game! The Chargers shouldn't try him with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, because we know the result you're going to get. If you open your mouth about the best, he'll shut it for you real quick.
The snow and freezing cold that's in store for the Super Bowl will be tough for any team in the league. And neither Seattle or San Diego are particularly used to those kinds of conditions. However, the Chargers would've had to beat the Patriots in very similar conditions to get to the big game -- not to mention beating the Bengals in the cold in Cincinnati and the Broncos in Denver.
Even though the two teams line up against each other pretty well, it's easy to envision either team barely winning as well either team blowing out the other. Both have proven in the last two months that all of those possibilities exist.
Oh well, we'll just have to live with watching the Seahawks' and their no. 1 defense go up against the Broncos and their no. 1 offense.
Now, let's talk about the halftime show and what could have been if Justin Bieber hadn't retired from music and turned to a life of crime...
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can find him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- San Diego Chargers
- San Diego
- Super Bowl
- Norv Turner