If pressed to name one game to sum up the 2016 San Diego Chargers season in a nutshell, you'd be hard pressed to cite a better example than Sunday's 19-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
After all, it followed an all too familiar script as the Bolts were done in by costly turnovers, untimely sacks and struggles in the kicking game. Even the positives were the same as the offense got off to a quick start and the defense continued to force turnovers at an impressive rate.
The only major difference on Sunday was that the defense struggled against Oakland's ground attack. San Diego entered the game ranked seventh in stopping the run, holding nine of 13 teams to under 100 yards.
In the end, it all added up to a familiar finish as the Bolts lost a game they led in the fourth quarter for the seventh time this season. Head Coach Mike McCoy offered a blunt assessment after the final whistle blew.
"It sucks. It's tough. (We) can't turn the ball over (like we did) couple times there in the fourth quarter…. We made some mistakes early on. We missed some opportunities. Too many errors in the kicking game whether it's penalties, decisions, blocked extra point, kicking the ball out of bounds to start the second half. Mistakes like that."
Losing in the same manner doesn't make it any easier. In fact, it's even more infuriating.
"It's not like they get any better," Hunter Henry said. "It sucks. Every single one hurts even more because they seem to pile on. It's just (that) we are right there. It's just crazy."
"We have been saying it all year and it is not for a lack of effort," added Kyle Emanuel. "It is execution. We go out there and guys are playing hard, but for whatever reason, it just hasn't happened for us. We can sit here and feel sorry for us, but no one else does."
Rivers and company have been able to move the ball up and down the field at will most of the year, but the Raiders proved up to the challenge, forcing the Bolts to punt more than they're accustomed to. Still, the Chargers were able to string together some impressive drives resulting in points.
Unfortunately, they were once again done in by late turnovers. First, Kenneth Farrow coughed up the ball at the San Diego 13-yard line while nursing a three-point lead. Later, Rivers was picked off trying to squeeze a pass to Dontrelle Inman on 4th-and-15.
"We had a chance, and we called the play we wanted for the coverage we got, but they played it pretty well," he said. "I could not have thrown that ball and kept the stat line pretty, or I could try to throw it in there on fourth down. And I'll do what I did every time."
Meanwhile, the defense forced two turnovers, making the Chargers the only team to record one in every game this season. While it's been a source of pride for the defense all season, Emanuel stressed the team needs to do an even better job at it, especially in key situations.
"We've been doing it all year, really, but at the same time, we don't do it consistently throughout the game. We give up that drive at the end of the half, or we make a few mistakes. Against a good team in a tight ballgame like that, everything gets magnified."
Dwight lowery agreed with that assessment.
"We are doing things to be in games at the end, (and) obviously there are things we can clean up during the course of the game, but at the same time they are going to make a play. It really comes down to who makes more plays, or who makes the last play. I think they did a good job at that. We made some good plays as well. They just made more than we did."