Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews Key to Success For the San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers continue to feel as if they have the right pieces in place to make a significant run at the Super Bowl. Only problem is, that feeling seems to come around each and every year and the only thing they seem to find is disappointment.

But there's a new feeling in San Diego area coming in to the 2011 NFL Draft. Could this team finally be putting together the kind of team that can, finally, make the type of run they have talked about for so long?

They do have two pieces already in place that could make the biggest difference going forward. One is quarterback Philip Rivers and the other is second year running back Ryan Mathews.

Say what you want about these two players and how both have underachieved at times, but if the Chargers want to do what they have never done in franchise history, win a Super Bowl, it is going to begin and end with the performance of these two players.

Rivers has one of the strongest arms among the NFL quarterbacks and he can shred any defense for 300 yards or more on any given Sunday. Though there are times he makes bad decisions and telegraphs his passes, he can also look like one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

The knock against him, at least from other teams, is how much Rivers likes to talk trash on the field. He gets a tad too fiery and might run his mouth a little more than he should. Outside of that, his teammates love him and the Chargers as a whole love him. It's why they drafted him in the first place as the new face of the franchise.

Ryan Mathews, the second year running back out of Fresno State, was drafted by the Chargers during the 2010 NFL Draft amid hype from the local media and the Chargers themselves.

Though Mathews was the heir apparent to former star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, his slow start and fumble problems led fans to wonder why they drafted him in the first place.

But the team wasn't giving him many chances to really show what he was capable of. There were a few points during the 2010 season where Mathews was able to run through a hole in the opposing defensive line and show the burst of speed everyone talked about.

While the Chargers were giving their former running back more than 20 carries per game, Mathews was seeing just above 10 per game. Not exactly enough to show why the team wanted him to be their next star at the running back position.

When they finally did give him more than the 20 carries usually reserved for someone at Mathews' position, he put up his best game of the season, rushing for 120 yards and three touchdowns against the Denver Broncos.

While the team has seen great regular season performances, the playoffs have been a completely different story.

In 2004, the Chargers were led to a 12-4 season by Brees after he took the majority of snaps during training camp thanks to a Rivers hold out due to a contract dispute. They would capture the AFC West division crown but would face defeat in overtime, 20-17, to the New York Jets in the very first round of the playoffs.

Two years later, in 2006, the Chargers would win 14 games during the regular season but would fall again in the playoffs this time to the New England Patriots after blowing a fourth quarter lead at home.

In each of the following three seasons, 2007 and 2008, the Chargers would again be bounced from the playoffs by the Patriots in the 2007 AFC Championship game and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2008 AFC Divisional round game.

After three straight seasons of playoff disappointment, the Chargers finally looked like they were going to break through during the 2010 season. After losing three of their first five games, the Chargers went on a blitz and ran off 11 straight victories to close out the regular season with a 13-3 record, captured their fourth straight AFC West title, and a first round bye in the playoffs.

Their divisional round game against a playoff foe they had faced before, the New York Jets, ended the way every other playoff game had ended for San Diego. This time a 17-14 loss to the Jets at Qualcomm Stadium, sending the players and fans home wondering how this continues to happen.

In 2010 the team got off to what most would call a shocking start. Thanks to mental lapses, turnovers, and terrible special teams play, the Chargers would love five of their first seven games and were never able to recover. They finished the season with a respectable 9-7 record but would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Things just don't seem to be going right for this NFL franchise. Whether it's playoff losses and losing games they had no business losing, they just can't seem to dig their way out of the hole they've been stuck in.

With a new season and new possibilities on the horizon, Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews will be looked to by the Chargers' offense to move them in a new direction. These are the two players would could make the most impact to a team looking to finally accomplish greatness.

Though Mathews is mostly unproven, especially after an ankle injury kept him from really being able to show what he can do, there's going to be a lot of skepticism around the team from the media as well as the fans.

As for Rivers, everyone knows what's capable of and they know what he brings to the table. His leadership has both brought them to the highest peaks as well as the lowest valleys. He knows that this team needs and he knows that they need from him to be able to be the team to beat in the AFC once again.

The team's success and ability to do something only done once in franchise history lands squarely on the Chargers' quarterback and second year running back. 

Find greatness and there is no limit to the heights this team can soar. 

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