The Los Angeles Chargers came into MetLife stadium and grinded their way to a 27-22 win over the New York Giants.
It wasn't pretty, but it was exactly what was needed.
"Our guys hung in there and found a way," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said after his first win as a head coach. "It wasn't always pretty, but they found a way to win a close game, and I think there's a valuable lesson in there. I just want to enjoy this one today, and then tomorrow we will work on what that lesson really was."
"It's been a long time," added Philip Rivers. "I think it's justified to be excited and celebrate it just for a little while and then realize we have plenty of things to get better at. We didn't play our best game, but I think it's a good sign that you cannot play your best game and find a way to win."
There were countless occasions when the Bolts could have folded when the going got tough.
The offense was put in tough field position in the first half, with the average starting field position at their own 13-yard line for much of the first two quarters. However, Drew Kaser was able to give the defense some breathing room, averaging 53 yards on five first half punts.
"Changing the field position, that was outstanding," acknowledged Lynn. (And) the coverage was good."
Still, Rivers and company sputtered at the start.
Miscommunication near the goal line on the second drive led to an early snap and a quick safety, spotting the Giants a 2-0 lead. The offense went three and out of five of the other six drives to start the game, but still were able to put up 10 points for one point half time lead.
However, just when it looked like they found their groove on the first drive of the second half, Rivers threw an interception at the worst possible time. On 3rd-and-goal from the seven, he tried to connect with Keenan Allen but never saw Darian Thompson lurking in the middle.
Instead of getting a field goal at minimum, New York took over and went back on top as Eli Manning led a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Roger Lewis, Jr. touchdown.
Still, Rivers showed the poise that's made him one of the all-time greats, leading the Chargers to 17 points over the final 15:51, including the 23rd fourth quarter comeback of his career. Playing quarterback in the NFL tests your mental fortitude, but Rivers showcased the resiliency needed to thrive at the position.
"You throw an interception, you've got to bounce back," he explained. "That's just part of playing quarterback in this league. You just move on. I was sick about it too because we were kind of going pretty good there at that turnover. Felt like we had a little momentum, but you got a stop, and then we kind of gave it right back to them and then they went down and scored. So it was big for us to answer like we did."
Then there was the run game on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Melvin Gordon shook off some early first quarter struggles to eclipse the century mark for the first time since last season. On the flip side, after giving up 100 yards in the first half, the Bolts limited the Giants to only 52 the rest of the way. Not only that, but after failing to get a much needed stop a week ago to give the ball back to the offense late in the game, the defense delivered in a major way.
They not only got the stop, but they forced a turnover as Melvin Ingram got the strip-sack and fumble recovery on the Giants' 11-yard line with 3:46 remaining. It set up the game-winning score three plays later when Rivers hit Gordon for his second receiving TD of the day. Later, Tre Boston delivered the cherry on top, sealing the game with a fourth down interception of Eli Manning.
"We just executed," summed up Jatavis Brown. "We started out slow, but at the end of the game we found a way to execute and pull out this win."
"Obviously the defense came up huge (down the stretch)," added Joey Bosa. "Mel had the sack to turn it over. He somehow came up with the ball. It was unbelievable. And then that pick, it was just an awesome feeling to turn around and see our guy get his hands on it instead of their guys. A huge relief."
Rivers acknowledged the Bolts still have a long way to go, but agreed there is something to be said for showing the type of grit needed to leave the Meadowlands victorious.
"Thinking back to the teams we had that were really good, we were able to do that," Rivers explained. "I'm not saying we're there yet. I told you six to eight weeks ago I think we have the potential to be one of those teams, but it was good to win. Just to find a way to win. And maybe better (to win this way) than if it was in a two or-three score game like it probably should have been if we make some of the plays that we should make. I make some of the ones I should make. Maybe it was better that it's like this because we've lost (so many like this lately)."
He's not the only one who felt that way.
"Today was a statement that proved to ourselves that we have the talent, the team and the ability to push through close games," Gordon said. "We just have to find a way to make it happen. We did that today. So now we know we can do it. So, when we get back in this situation, we have all the confidence in the world to get through it because we just got through it now"
"Don't get anything confused; we're still 1-4," added Bosa. "But we battled. We need to play a lot better on offense and defense. But just to come out of a close game with a win is a huge relief. The team really needed it."