The Los Angeles Chargers lost on Saturday night to the Baltimore Ravens. Now, the likely path to the Super Bowl includes three road games.
A win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead signaled a new day for the Chargers. Then night fell against Baltimore.
The Ravens handled the Chargers in a 22-10 win that effectively bars Los Angeles from hosting a playoff game. Despite an 11-4 record, the Chargers need Kansas City to lose out while they beat the Broncos next week in Denver. Considering the Chiefs host the Raiders in Week 17, that’s highly unlikely.
But this isn’t about Kansas City. This is about the Chargers, who were roundly anointed the team to beat in the AFC only days ago. Los Angeles appeared to hold the cards, with two games favoring them while the Chiefs had to take on the Seahawks in Seattle.
Even though Kansas City held the tiebreakers and thus destiny in its own hands, the Chargers were very much in control. Then they lost at home. In primetime.
Baltimore is a good team, but it’s also an inferior team when compared to the Chargers. Nevertheless, the Ravens controlled the action all evening, gaining 361 yards while allowing 198. Philip Rivers, a trendy MVP candidate, threw for 181 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
All told, the end result left Rivers and his mates with a similar feeling of being good but not good enough in the big moments. A great win only remains great if its backed up. In this case, the Chargers allowed their monumental victory over Kansas City be washed away by a lackluster loss.
If there’s a silver lining, Los Angeles has been terrific away from StubHub Center this year. The Chargers are 6-1, with their only loss ironically coming within their city limits to the Rams back in Week 3. Perhaps playing home games in front of empty seats and hostile fans has prepared them for the rigors of the road.
Still, there’s no cushion for what transpired on Saturday night. Los Angeles is quite likely going to be playing on Wild Card weekend. The opponent is going to be either the Steelers or Ravens. Neither is a picnic.
Rivers hasn’t had this kind of chance to win a Super Bowl in his career. The 2006 team went 14-2 and had home-field advantage, but that team needed to beat Tom Brady in his prime and, should they have done that, Peyton Manning in the next round. It would have been a chore by any measure.
Had the Chargers earned the top seed this year, the biggest challenge likely would have come from a visiting Chiefs team. Now, should the two meet again, it comes at Arrowhead. Los Angeles could pull the upset again, but it won’t come without a great effort.
On Saturday, the Chargers were attempting to prove they are a different article than the previous ones. Those dreams slipped away into the darkness. We’ll see if their Super Bowl aspirations follow.