Relive Sunday's annual alumni game with photos from the Bolts' victory over the Titans.
Here is a six-pack of the top lessons learned from the 43-35 win over the Tennessee Titans.
1. “Most Since”… – San Diego’s victory was a total team effort that required numerous perusals through the team’s record books. The Chargers scored the most points since also posting 43 in 2009 against Kansas City. They also eclipsed the 40-point barrier for the first time since 2013, which came vs. the Chiefs as well. Melvin Gordon’s 196-rushing yards were the most since LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 198 in 2007 vs. the Raiders, and he became the first Chargers running back to top 100 yards in the first half since LT did it in 2007 against the Lions. Meanwhile, the defense scored two defensive touchdowns for the first time since a 2012 win in Kansas City. Casey Hayward notched his fifth pick of the year, which is the most by a Chargers defensive player since 2011. For all those reasons and more, Head Coach Mike McCoy surmised how it was a total team effort:
“A big team win. Great effort by everybody in all three phases of making enough plays throughout the game. Got off there to a fast start and then they kind of got on a little roll there, but we responded to it. Very pleased with the way everybody played the game.”
2.* Gordon Carries Bolts *– While there were many heroes that made it a total team effort, no one rose to the occasion more than Melvin Gordon. When all was said and done, he posted the third most total yards from scrimmage (261) in franchise history. Gordon carried the ball 32 times for 196 yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. According to Pro Football Focus, 103 of those yards came after contact. He also caught all four targets in the passing game for an additional 65 yards. Philip Rivers had the best view for Gordon’s big day, and came away impressed:
“He was just awesome. I would have paid a ticket to watch him today. It was good. We were very balanced obviously, today. We had more of an up tempo, no huddle deal like we’ve done plenty of times over the past three and a half seasons now. We thought that was going to be to our advantage and I think it was. We came out and scored the first drive and was really rolling there for a while. And then obviously some of the big runs Melvin had and the guys did a great job up front blocking and protecting. It was all around good.”
3. Run Stuffers – As important as it was to establish the run, it was arguably more important to stop it. Tennessee entered the game with the third best ground game in the NFL, averaging 152.3 yards per game. The Bolts held them to only 80. Minimizing DeMarco Murray and company took Tennessee out of its rhythm, which was further exasperated by San Diego racing out to a two score lead forcing Marcus Mariota to air it out. McCoy explained that was a point of emphasis:
“We knew it was going to be a physical game and we understood that this football team was coming in here to run the football. We talked about it and said, ‘Listen, we’ve got to be the ones to run the football more efficiently in this game.’ We understand they’ve got a good front on defense, so we’ve got to challenge these guys and we say, ‘This is what it’s got to be. This is how we’ve got to do it.’”
4. Gates Turns Back the Clock – The Chargers have managed Antonio Gates’ snaps on the year to maximize the 36-year old’s impact. With Hunter Henry out with a knee injury, more was put on number 85’s plate and he responded with a vintage performance. Gates caught six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, bringing him within three of Tony Gonzalez’s NFL record of 111 by a tight end. He also took over Henry’s role in the run game by opening lanes for Gordon to burst through. Philip Rivers has thrown 81 of Gates’ 108 career touchdowns, and raved about the tight end’s performance:
“He played really well. Obviously this is as physical of a game that he’s had to play in a long time. He was the lead blocker on isolation. As he likes to say in his words, ‘I’m in the mix out here’ and he was. And there were a couple he caught going out there then coming in the flat. So it was a good job, a good plan, and we got in a rhythm. In the personnel group a lot of times with Antonio Gates and the three receivers, they’re a heavy past. But we were able to keep them honest with formations and things we were doing. Although I wanted to get him another touchdown. Coming in today I shorted and didn’t quite get what I thought. I told the guys last night in the quarterbacks meeting that I was going to get him nine catches and catch a couple touchdowns. He didn’t quite get that but he definitely had a heck of a game.”
5. Defense Maximizes Chances – San Diego’s defense lamented missed chances to turn the ball over in Week 8’s loss to the Denver Broncos. On too many occasions, they dropped easy picks that could have turned the tide of the game. Against the Titans, they capitalized on those chances. Not only that, all three turned into points. Hayward’s interception at the end of the first half led to a field goal. More importantly, the two turnovers forced in the second half ended with the defense putting points on the board. Korey Toomer dislodged the ball when Mariota ran the option, resulting in a 41-yard scoop and score by Dwight Lowery. Late in the fourth quarter after Josh Lambo extended the Bolts lead to eight, Brandon Flowers sealed the win by jumping the route for a pick-six. The cornerback described his big play after the game:
“It felt good to just make a play at home. A key play that was big for our football team. I felt like this was a game we needed to win. We have got like the next five out of eight at home, just to create a spark. I think our team did a good job of creating a spark, to making us just have that feeling at home. (When) we come into the stadium we think we are going to win. That is how we feel. I just felt good to make that play and get a win.”
6. Past Influenced Present – Sunday’s game marked the team’s annual alumni game as the Chargers honored their Hall of Famers. Their presence didn’t go unnoticed by those who currently don the lightning bolt. Gordon explained how he wanted to make LaDainian Tomlinson proud as LT was in the house. Perhaps no one has a better appreciation of the team’s history than Rivers, who detailed what it meant to him to get the win in front of those who’ve represented the Chargers over the past 56 years:
“Seeing some of the guys at the practice field and here, it puts faces to names and you realize there’s way more than just these guys here over the past 56 years. Over the different times and eras, you just realize what it means to be a San Diego Charger and what it means to be part of this community. A lot of those guys are still part of this community. There were a lot of years represented here today and I was just glad we were able to go out and take care of our part.”