In a wet mess that reminded Charger fans of last year's playoff game versus the Jets, the Chiefs prevailed in a spasm of red frenzy. The only good to come out of this game is that Charger fans can feel lucky they don't live in Kansas City. After the hundreth close up of another red clad, red faced goon screaming in the stands, even with a loss and a team with serious flaws, we can be glad we live in SD.
Because of the rain and the frenzied crowd, I can discount some of the breakdowns and mistakes made by the Chargers on Monday night. San Diego seemed to be slipping and sliding all over the field, right past the more sure footed Chiefs. On the 94 yard punt return by Arenas, Tolbert had him in his sights and lost his footing. Darren Sproles depends on churning those little legs and changing direction faster than the other guys. The wet field seemed to completely neutralize him.
During the worst of the downpour, Rivers couldn't get a grip on the ball as almost every pass fell short of its target. It seemed like it hadn't even occured to the Chargers that it might rain. This, combined with first game jitters, was too much for some of the younger players.
The rain can't excuse everything though. The run game is essentially broken. The Chiefs don't have great personell and the Chargers never controlled the line of scrimmage. The pass blocking was good enough, but Norv's realization of the weakness of the run game was evident at the end when the Chargers ran one draw and passed three times when they had first and goal at the four. After the game, Mathews honorably blamed himself for missing holes, but anyone watching could see the Chargers' offensive line simply wasn't getting any push. This bodes ill for the season. I don't think it's the personell either. The run game hasn't been strong since 2006. I think these guys aren't being coached up correctly on their schemes and technique.
In the passing game, it became clear that the Chargers' recievers can catch the ball, but seem to falter when they need a big play. These guys just don't have the confidence yet to step up on crucial third and long or fourth down situations. Naanee's drop of an easy pass on 4th down was one indication of this. Buster Davis and Floyd missing catches because they fell down in the final series of the game is another indication. The pass blocking was, well...passable.
The Chargers defense essentially shut the Chiefs down except for one major breakdown leading to Jamal Charles 60-yard touchdown run. I would blame this (just like in the Jets game) on weak safety play. Steve Gregory had responsibility for that gap and got blown out of the hole. He simply doesn't have the physical tools to play at a high level in the NFL.
Lastly, while the rain can excuse some of the special teams play, it was evident the Chargers have some guys out there who are inexperienced and just aren't very good at what they're doing. Everyone noted the loss of Kassim Osgood, which is a huge factor, but I would also add the loss of Tim Dobbins into the mix. These to guys made the majority of the tackles and big hits last year. Someone else better step up, or the Chargers will continue to lose games they shouldn't.
Positive things fans can take from this game? Antonio Garay played like an absolute stud early in the game. Part the reason Cassel only had 68 yards on the night was that Garay had rocked him three times in the first half, causing the Chiefs to stick to the run and quick passing game. Coaches should choose to leave Garay in longer instead of sticking to the constant rotation. In general, San Diego was able to get some pressure and chaos into the backfield. Larry English didn't make any huge plays, but he looked more comfortable and natural as the game went on. He needs that experience if he's going to evolve into the great player the Chargers need him to be.
The coverage in the secondary was also solid. Like I've mentioned before, the cornerback position is now a major strength of this team.
Overall, this game was a complete nightmare, but I think it will prove to be more of an anomally than a precursor of things to come. The Chargers must (and will) rebound strongly against Jacksonville next week.