COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers ended the season a with a 41-28 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs. Here’s a recap of the season and what’s next.
Season grade: Above average. Coach Anthony Lynn improved on a 9-7 campaign his first season to lead the Chargers to a 12-4 record and the team’s first postseason appearance since 2013. Philip Rivers had one of his best seasons as a pro, earning his eighth invitation to the Pro Bowl. However, the Chargers still stubbed their toe in the playoffs, and Rivers is 5-6 all time in the postseason.
Season in review: The Chargers won more games in a season than they had since 2009 and finished 8-0 when they boarded a plane during the regular season (including a “home” game victory over the Titans in London). Rookie Derwin James led the team in tackles with 105 and already is one of the best safeties in the game. By making the postseason, the Chargers are slowly gaining some momentum in building a fan base in Los Angeles, as the new Inglewood Stadium opens in September 2020.
He said it: “I thought we were a tough team when we finished the season last year, but this year I think that culture kind of carried over. 8-0 [in games played away from Southern California]. Obviously, we were 12-4 this year, so we did something better. I thought the execution with the offense, our balance was much better. Defense did a heck of a job setting up and stopping the run. This year, we improved in those areas.” — Lynn on his team’s 2018 season.
Key offseason questions
Will the Chargers get a contract extension done with Rivers? Rivers, 37, has one year left on his current contract that pays him $16 million for the 2019 season. Rivers has said he still wants to play when the Chargers open the new Inglewood Stadium in 2020. The Chargers should begin negotiations this offseason on a new deal for their franchise quarterback.
How will the Chargers better protect their aging QB? Overall, the Chargers’ offensive line played solidly in 2018. However, Rivers faced more pressure late in the year, which affected his ability to lead the offense. Left tackle Russell Okung turns 32 next season, and second-year pro Sam Tevi is improving but has been uneven as a pass-blocker. The Chargers probably will consider adding young talent at the tackle position either through the draft or free agency.
A new deal for Melvin Gordon? The workhorse running back has improved every year he has been with the team, and he enters the final year of his rookie contract in 2019 scheduled to make $5.6 million in his rookie extension. Gordon has made Rivers’ job easier, and the Chargers should figure out how to keep the Wisconsin product around long term.