Finally, the nightmare is over.
The turncoat Chargers concluded their potential last season in San Diego in much the same way they ended most games this season ... by grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.
This week, the Chargers overcame a plus-four turnover margin to lose to the noodle arm of the previously semiretired Peyton Manning.
Still, the play of a few young Bolts -- including cornerback Steve Williams -- nearly killed the Chargers' chances of finishing the year 0-6 in the division and securing the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.
Williams, a former fifth-round pick out of Cal, is the quintessential young player who can make big plays at times, but isn't consistent enough to be anything more than a rotational player. Nothing demonstrated this more than his play against the Broncos.
Getting increased snaps in place of injured starters Jason Verrett and Patrick Robinson, Williams ended the game with an otherworldly stat line, coming home from Mile High with six total tackles, a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles. However, Williams' impact on the game was more a result of luck and determination rather than an indication of skilled play or future potential.
Working one-on-one against Emmanuel Sanders on the outside midway through the first quarter, Williams allowed Sanders plenty of room to get open for an easy reception from quarterback Brock Osweiler. Sanders turned upfield for a huge 46-yard catch-and-run, but to Williams' credit, he did not give up on the play and was rewarded for his hustle.
Showing good speed in pursuit, Williams caught Sanders from behind after Sanders slowed up trying to dodge safety Jahleel Addae. Williams stripped the ball right out of Sanders' hands. Although he was initially beaten badly on the coverage, Williams' impressive hustle led to an equally impressive turnover.
"We knew coming into the game we had to fight like that," Williams said. "Everybody had each other's back."
On the very next Denver drive, Williams came up with another huge play, this time an interception. Denver wide receiver Jordan Norwood beat rookie cornerback Craig Mager short over the middle, but Osweiler's pass clanked off of the receiver's hands and bounced right into the arms of Williams, who was covering wide receiver Cody Latimer in the middle. The play was more an occurrence of being in the right place at the right time, as the pass should have been caught, but Williams did have the wherewithal to handle the deflected pass.
The one turnover that Williams really impressed on was the strip-sack at the beginning of the second quarter. Lined up in the slot, Williams came unblocked off the edge on a corner blitz, showing impressive speed and quickness on his way to dropping Osweiler, who never saw Williams coming. Osweiler was hit just as he was dropping his arm back to pass, resulting in a fumble recovery by DT Damion Square.
"It was a good game by the defense," Williams said. "It was tough, we fought, it's just unfortunate we couldn't come out with the win."
The takeaways kept San Diego in the game, there is no doubt about it, but aside from these big plays Williams was mediocre at best, being consistently beaten in coverage by Denver's clearly superior receivers.
At the end of the first quarter, Williams was working against Demaryius Thomas in man coverage on the outside and allowed Thomas to blow past him on a go-route. Williams and the Chargers defense were fortunate Osweiler overthrew what should have been an easy completion, because there was nothing but pay dirt in front of him.
Once Peyton Manning relieved the struggling Osweiler, it was open season against the third-year corner.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Williams allowed Sanders to get a step on him on the outside, and Sanders would have walked into the end zone had the pass not been overthrown by Manning.
Later in the fourth, Williams again gave Sanders a cushion on a deep out, allowing an easy 18-yard completion before touching Sanders down. During the initial part of the route, Williams got turned around after his back pedal. Sanders then stopped and fought off Williams before turning to catch the pass. On the very next play, Manning went after Williams again and Sanders was able to gain another 15 yards on a comeback.
In addition to allowing easy completions, Williams was also not an especially sound tackler. On Denver's third possession, Osweiler slung it out to Bennie Fowler on a short bubble screen on second-and-4. Williams, playing on the outside, easily sniffed out the play but failed to wrap up the ball carrier. Linebacker Manti Te'o and few others were able to bring Fowler down short of the first, but Williams should have had Fowler two yards earlier.
This was a case were Williams' diminutive frame wasn't doing him any favors. Listed at 185 pounds, Williams is nearly 30 pounds lighter than Fowler. Still, he didn't have much success tackling the lighter Sanders either.
While having perhaps the game of his short career, Williams proved perhaps definitively that despite coming up with some big plays, he is likely never going to be anything more than a special teamer hanging around the bottom of the depth chart.
What are your thoughts on Steve Williams' performance on Sunday? Discuss in our message boards!
A San Diego native, Trenton Villanueva graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a minor in the hydraulic principles of the keg. Prior to writing for SDBR, he covered sports news for FanSided and wrote music reviews for the San Diego State Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter @TrentNotDilfer