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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Thu., Jul. 30, 2015 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM PDT
Fri., Jul. 31, 2015 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM PDT
Second Half Surge Boosts Bolts to Victory
Mike McCoy delivered his halftime speech to a room of frustrated players. Then, the first year head coach sat back, waited, and watched as the obvious sunk in.
"We have 30 minutes left, that's the only thing that's guaranteed to us," said McCoy. "Let's do what we want with it. Do the little things right and the big things will take care of themselves."
The halftime message was well-received. McCoy's team exited the locker room to take the field and soon, they took back control of a game that seemed to favor the Bengals after a dismal second quarter.
The Bengals have dominated minutes 15 through 30 all season. They had outscored their opponents 62-0 in the second period down the stetch of the season, and added 10 more points today. During that span, the Bolts didn't pick up a first down and punted three times.
That third point was the toughest to bear. The Bolts couldn't scrap together one of their textbook two-minute drills, and instead, the Bengals took the ball the other way and took the lead on a Mike Nugent field goal.
Nugent's kick broke a 7-7 tie, and ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back. After such a hot start, the Bolts were trailing -- and Philip Rivers said the halftime scoreboard woke them all up.
"I was thinking 'Goodness gracious, our defense just got a turnover and we punted it,'" said Rivers. "Playoff (football) isn't meant to be pretty."
But their response was a thing of beauty. They opened the second half by forcing the Bengals to punt. With a little momentum back on their side, they started to march in a no-huddle attack.
Rivers rushed his teammates back up to the line after each play. With that new time, the Pro Bowl passer could clearly read what the tired defenders on the other side of the line wanted to do. It paid off immediately.
After picking the defense apart with short throws, Rivers unleashed a bomb. It spun perfectly down into the waiting hands of Eddie Royal, who separated from Reggie Nelson and set the Bolts up to regain the lead.
They did on the ensuing play -- a perfectly executed fade from Rivers to Ladarius Green. And after the Bolts picked up an Andy Dalton fumble, Rivers finagled another three points on another scoring drive.
"That was huge," Rivers recalled. "Two big drives, didn't turn turn it over, mixed in some field goals."
Rivers labeled it "Playoff Ball" -- and it sounded like the exact formula to win. After those two drives, and some stellar play by the defense, they'd never relinquish the lead.
They opened their lead to 10 points when the fourth quarter began and turned their defense loose. Forced to thrown Dalton played right into the waiting hands of Melvin Ingram on an interception and the Bolts earned two more turnovers on downs.
Gone was the team that sputtered in the second quarter. The Chargers team that fought five weeks for its playoff lives finally appeared.
"Sine games early in the year, we couldn't keep it together," said Rivers. "We've just played better team ball five weeks in a row. We've been in playoff mode for five weeks…knowing you lose one and you're done."
Both in game and in season, the Bolts are a second half team. It took a while to click, but when it did, they finally pieced together a full game with the type of urgency their coach and quarterback asked for.