San Diego Rookie coach Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers are still fishing for a miracle.
They’ll know on Sunday whether McCoy will keep out his playbook for at least another week or reach for his tackle box and schedule another offseason trip to the British Virgin Islands with his pal Dennis Allen, coach of the Oakland Raiders.
The Chargers (8-7) remain alive in the chase for the second AFC wild-card spot. By kickoff of their home game against Kansas City (11-4), the Bolts will know if they’re still alive or if McCoy should book that trip to the Caribbean like he did last offseason, when his family and Allen’s family vacationed together.
Besides beating the Chiefs, the Chargers need both Miami and Baltimore to lose or tie.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is expected to approach this game the same as an exhibition because Kansas City is locked into the No. 5 seed. Some starters might not play and others might be in for a series or two before hitting the bench.
While warming up, the Chargers will keep their eyes on two games: Miami hosts the New York Jets and Baltimore plays at Cincinnati. San Diego can also clinch with a tie against KC and losses by Miami and Baltimore.
McCoy has had a few rookie missteps, tangling his line with losses to the two-win Texans, the four-win Raiders and, the most egregious of all, the three-win Redskins. The Chargers had the ball first-and-goal at the Washington 1 and had to settle for a tying field goal before losing in overtime.
Here are five things to know as the Chargers prepare to fish or cut bait:
HELP!: The Chargers keep invoking a Beatles hit. They needed three games go their way last weekend, which they did, and need to have the same thing happen this Sunday. While warming up last Sunday, the Chargers learned the Dolphins lost 19-0 at Buffalo. McCoy’s squad then beat his friend Allen’s team, which played like the hapless Raiders so often play, 26-13.
The Chargers stayed alive thanks to Baltimore getting routed 41-7 by New England. Now the Bolts have to go through it all over again. The Miami and Baltimore games will be over before kickoff in San Diego. If the Chargers make the playoffs, it’ll delay McCoy’s fishing trip and no doubt have the Bolts humming another Beatles tune: “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
RYAN MATHEWS: The running back has yet to get through a 16-game regular season. That could change Sunday, when McCoy expects Mathews to play despite an injured left ankle. Mathews was hurt against the Raiders but ran for 99 yards and a touchdown to run his season total to a career-high 1,111. Mathews wore a protective boot on his left foot all week.
SMITH & CHARLES: Most Chiefs starters are expected to play a series or two and then sit the rest of the game, including quarterback Alex Smith, who was teammates with Reggie Bush at Helix High in La Mesa, which is about 7 miles from Qualcomm Stadium. “It’s not up to me,” Smith said. “I mean, I’m here to play, so I’m getting ready for it. No answers yet, just prepare to play and we’ll see what happens game day. ...
“I grew up there, I played high school football there, I played some college games, so yeah, always fun to go back there and play in that stadium, you know. I grew up going to games there.”
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said Smith will at least start. “He’s got to play. We want to erase the mistakes we made in the game last weekend. We have one more opportunity before the postseason starts.”
Pederson said Jamaal Charles doesn’t need to be taking unnecessary hits, “but he knows, too, that in order for him to have success in the postseason, his timing with Alex and the offensive line needs to stay hot, and they have to play.”
OTHER CHIEFS: OLB Justin Houston (dislocated elbow) and LT Branden Albert (hyperextended knee) are supposed to be healthy enough to play. It will be interesting to see whether they play to knock off any rust ahead of the playoffs.
KEENAN ALLEN: San Diego’s wide receiver, a leading contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year, says “it crossed my mind” to quit after he didn’t get any offensive snaps in a season-opening loss to Houston. “It wasn’t finished or anything like that,” Allen said. “It just crossed my mind if I wasn’t playing and I didn’t feel like playing the game.”
“I started playing,” said Allen, who’s glad he didn’t walk away. He set the team record with 66 catches and has 957 yards. He needs 45 yards to break John Jefferson’s team rookie record of 1,001 yards. Allen’s the guy who, not long after being drafted by the Chargers, posted a picture of himself wearing a Raiders cap. He apologized, saying he bought the cap while he was at Cal and didn’t think it would have the effect it did.