This is a dark week for 20 teams throughout the NFL.
Their shot at a Super Bowl title is over.
Their locker rooms have emptied out over the past few days, and the players have gone their separate ways and won’t be back together until April.
But not for the Bolts.
The Chargers are in the postseason, and playoff fever is pulsating through the locker room.
Just ask Keenan Allen.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “It’s been a long time. It’s a lot of ups and downs with the organization, with myself, injuries and stuff like that, so just getting back on track as an organization is great.”
“It’s great,” added Austin Ekeler. “That’s what the whole season’s for. We play these 16 games with this in mind. This is the ultimate goal – to get a chance to play for the Super Bowl. That’s what we got.”
There’s clearly a different feel throughout the team facility this week.
So, how is Head Coach Anthony Lynn managing the locker room heading into Wild Card Weekend?
“I want to approach this game just like any other game, but understanding that it is a playoff game,” he said. “It's going to be a little more exciting. We've talked about it – different ways of handling anxiety and things like that. I just want guys to execute, focus on their fundamentals, their techniques and just execute.”
This is what the entire Chargers organization has worked hard for from the first moment they arrived for Phase I of the offseason program back in April. All their hard work has led to this, and Lynn stressed how this is a special group of men who’ve worked hard for this opportunity.
Take a look through the top 2018 offensive big plays from the Chargers’ 12-4 season
“This is why you do what you do in the offseason,” he explained. “When you train together and do the team-building exercises. Our guys keep it tight, and they're close, and it can show in the playoffs for sure.”
Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt echoed that very same sentiment, expanding on the emotional energy permeating throughout Hoag Performance Center.
Specifically, Whiz talked about the Chargers, who are making their first playoff appearance since 2013, and explained how nothing can really prepare you for what’s to come unless you’ve been through the fire.
“I think you always rely on the players that’ve been in the playoffs to help with the other guys, but you can talk about it all you want, it’s a different animal,” he said. “It’s awesome that we’re in it and our guys are excited about it. We’ve had pretty good energy the whole year, and I think that’s the reason why we had such a successful regular season, but it’s different in the playoffs. It’s a new world for some of them, but it’s exciting. It’s good to have some veterans that’ve been in it. They can talk to the young guys and that certainly can help.”
One of those players making his debut is Melvin Gordon, who is as amped up as anyone on the team,
“(It feels) electric,” he said. “I haven’t been to a playoff game since high school. Closest thing I got to it was a bowl game in college, so I don’t know what to expect, but I’m going to prepared for whatever is to come.”
Meanwhile, Damion Square played in his share of playoff games at Alabama from 2009-13, capturing three national titles as a member of the Crimson Tide. He entered the NFL expecting it to be a regular occurrence.
However, he quickly learned how different the pro landscape is compared to college.
“It’s been a long time, man,” he said. “I come from a college football program that won all the time, and when I got in this league, I thought it was automatic to play in the postseason. It is not. Just to be back here, you’ve got to take it all in, but we do have a tough opponent that we’ve got to go face. If we don’t win, it doesn’t matter. So you do pat yourself on the back, but then you’ve got to lock in.”
Square couldn’t have said it any better.
Be excited all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s all about out-executing the Ravens come Sunday.
“Just keep focused on the moment,” he went on to say. “Guys are going to be playing at a higher level. The game is going to be really intense. Some crazy things are going to be happen. Coordinators are going to be pulling out every play that they’ve got in the playbook. But just stay composed, play the next play, and like I said, pick your head up at the end of the game and see what happens.”
Recap the Bolts' 12-4 season with the top defensive big plays from 2018.