Despite all the mistakes and uncharacteristic sloppy play that plagued the Chargers throughout the game against the Denver Broncos, the Bolts still had every opportunity to win at the end.
Instead, they had several costly miscues, including a pair on the team's final two offensive plays, that gave the ball back to the Broncos and allowed them to author a game-winning drive.
Philip Rivers didn't mince words when addressing the media.
"We botched the game there at the end with having a chance there to finish it (off)," he said.
On 2nd-and-3 from the Denver 44 with the Chargers needing just a first down to clinch their eighth win on the year, Philip Rivers went to hand the ball off to Melvin Gordon. Unfortunately, the star running back misheard the play call and was nowhere in sight, forcing the quarterback to take a four-yard loss.
"I went the wrong way," Gordon said, "Ain't no excuses for it. It's the down to go get it and win the game. You just can't make that mistake, and I did today."
With the clock stopped at the two-minute warning, the Chargers trotted back out on the field looking to move the chains on 3rd-and-8.
Again, one simple first down wins the game.
Thus, the Bolts opted to stay aggressive, choosing to throw the ball for a first down rather than simply run to take time off the clock.
"We needed a first down to win the game, and we were trying to stay aggressive," Head Coach Anthony Lynn explained. "We needed a first down. We got a play where a back goes one way and a quarterback goes the other way. Then, we needed one first down to win the game. That's what we needed. We weren't trying to run time off the clock and punt it back to them and put the defense back on the field. Let's get the game (won) right now. One first down and the game is over."
According to Philip Rivers, the worst-case scenario in his mind was that he'd simply go to the ground and take the sack so that time would keep ticking away.
At the line of scrimmage, Rivers checked out of the third down play into another pass, opting to run a safer one instead in which he'd get the ball quick to Keenan Allen on the screen. However, Von Miller read it perfectly, and Rivers had to throw it into the ground as he saw the Pro Bowler read the play at the last minute.
"I felt (the corners) were going to kind of (play) soft (on) Keenan, and it was safe to get it to his hands and then see what happens. It's kind of a little bit of a dressed up running play, and Von, he sniffed it out again. He felt it again and made a good play. I didn't want to fool with it after the result that happened earlier in the game (when he had the interception). Obviously, reaction there. I would love to pull that thing back and let (the clock) run, but I didn't."
Chucking it into the ground avoided the interception.
Unfortunately, the play took only two seconds and stopped the clock, giving Denver 1:51 to march down the field into field goal territory instead of 1:20.
"I knew that when we were going out on the field, take the sack (if nothing is there)," Rivers said. "If you don't like anything, take the sack and run the time off. When you're in a screen, it's one of those catch it and throw it (right away plays). I'm not looking for any excuses. I need to pull the ball back and take the sack, or find a way to complete (it)."
Still, even though the offense felt like they should have closed the game out themselves, the defense still had every opportunity to seal the win.
The Broncos took over at their own eight, yet they still managed to get deep into Chargers territory to set up Brandon McManus' game-winning 34-yard field goal. They gave up two long passes of 38 and 30 yards, the latter coming on a 3rd-and-7. In fact, every single pass attempt on that drive was completed. The Bolts explained after the game that when you must keep a team out of field goal range, giving up that many yards was unacceptable.
"They only needed 50 yards to get a field goal," Derwin James said. "The playbook gets different when you are chasing a field goal, but we have to get off the field."