The 2021 NFL regular season officially came to an end on Sunday night, and it closed with a bang. The Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders faced off in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both the Chargers and the Raiders had playoff hopes wagered in this game, and only one team was going to come out as a big winner. Unfortunately for Chargers fans everywhere, that big winner ended up being the Raiders. While certainly disappointing for the Chargers, there is still plenty to look forward to for Chargers fans. These are the Chargers-Raiders takeaways.
Chargers Need to Stay Consistent
The Chargers team that the NFL world saw on Sunday night is not the same Chargers team that stomped out the Denver Broncos’ playoff dreams last week. The Chargers team that took the field on Sunday against the Raiders was sloppy to start and slow to get fired up, but finished as strong as they could. However, it was too little, too late. The Chargers were able to force overtime on the last play in regulation, but the Raiders still had momentum. They appeared to be unstoppable on offense.
This whole flip-flopping thing is nothing new for the Chargers, though. The Chargers seemed to play completely different on a weekly basis. One week, they’ll play like the best team in the league, and the next, they’ll play like the worst. This trend can be spotted as early as the Chargers’ Week 6 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. After a 3-game win streak, and following one of the team’s best performances of the season against the Cleveland Browns, the Chargers followed up that huge win with an embarrassing loss to the Ravens. After that game and a subsequent loss to the New England Patriots, the Chargers flip-flopped every week between wins and losses. That lack of consistency ended up being the nail in the coffin for this Chargers squad.
It’s a shame, because this squad showed so many flashes of brilliance, and inspired so much confidence in the team. It finally felt like the Chargers were worth rallying behind as a top team in the NFL. There’s always next year, though, and head coach Brandon Staley will do some good work with an entire offseason.
The Chargers Actually Blew Their Season Three Weeks Ago
Sure, the Chargers’ season ended against the Raiders on Sunday, so one could argue that the Chargers blew their season then. However, the Raiders are a solid team that clawed their way into the playoffs. The Chargers shouldn’t have even been in a win-and-in scenario, though. That is if they hadn’t lost a ridiculously easy game in Week 16 against the Houston Texans.
The Chargers’ loss against the Houston Texans was the real reason the Chargers lost the right to play in the playoffs. Sure, they weren’t eliminated at that point, but they might as well have been. Losing to the Texans when they were healthier than the Texans is a low point that fans could not even imagine. For many, it made them feel hopeless in the team. If the Chargers never lost to the Texans, and the Chargers still beat the Broncos, then this game against the Raiders would’ve been meaningless. But of course, the Chargers couldn’t produce a win against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
This Offense is Still Legit
Even if the Chargers had a heartbreaking loss on Sunday, there were still plenty of positives to the game. After all, Justin Herbert exists. Herbert threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns, with a lone interception early in the fourth quarter. Those 383 yards allowed Herbert to cross that 5,000 passing yard threshold coveted so dearly by NFL quarterbacks everywhere. Sure, Herbert had an extra game to do it, but who cares? 5,000 yards is still 5,000 yards. Justin Herbert is the entire reason the Chargers were in the playoff race in the first place. Without Herbert, the Chargers would be lost; a ship without a captain.
Herbert wouldn’t be complete without his supporting cast, though. The star of the day for the Chargers on offense was wide receiver Mike Williams. Williams hauled in nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Herbert and Williams’ connection was the primary drive in the Chargers’ comeback in the fourth quarter. Along with Williams, running back Austin Ekeler was a major contributor in both the ground and air game. With both running and receiving touchdowns, Ekeler leads the league in-game with such games. That stat shows just how crucial he is to this offense: he can finish drives. And who could forget the Chargers’ veteran pass-catcher, the Slayer? Keenan Allen is a gifted receiver. Though he didn’t have a very impactful game on Sunday, his impact on the team as a whole can not be understated. He is a leader for this offense, both on and off the field.
Even if the final result for the game may leave many fans rightfully disappointed, Chargers fans should try to look to the future. And that future is burning bright like a lightning bolt for these Chargers. Staley may have made mistakes from time to time both in this game and during the season, but he is a rookie head coach that showed signs of improvement and familiarity throughout the season. There are things that can be improved on this team, but the team’s chemistry and brotherhood will continue to improve over time. After all, the Chargers’ star players are humble and team-oriented, and will not cause unnecessary drama to create division in the locker room. These have been the Chargers-Raiders takeaways.