Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chargers Start on Road to 10-6 Record Today?

With Chargers' fandom making accusations about who is to blame for this season's horrible start (Fire Norv! Fire AJ! We should've kept LT, Jackson, Williams, Osgood etc.) I'm going to posit something that is perhaps controversial. Maybe the horrible start to this season is more attributable to bad luck than anything else.

Despite the horrible special teams play, without the fumbles, this team could be 7-0. Fumbles? Think about the timing and physics of what it takes for a player to fumble. A hit or swipe has to come at the exact time and place the ball carrier isn't ready for it. A millisecond to early or too late and....well, no fumble.

Even with all the injuries last week and the fumbles, the Chargers were in position to beat what many have been calling one of the "elite teams in the league."

Bad luck, chaos theory, entropy, or whatever you call is to blame more than anything else for this season. Once again (I know I said this last week) at some point the law of averages should even out. This can't go on.

The Titans have been good this season, but they aren't that good. The Chargers will put together a fumble free game and win this one. If they do, looking ahead at the schedule, there is a fairly sane path to 10-6 and another division title. The biggest question is whether or not the team's confidence has been battered too much from the series of unfortunate events this season. I'm encouraged that Antonio Gates seemed to speak up and take on more of a vocal leadership role this week. Hopefully the Chargers listen.

Chargers 17, Titans 10

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chargers Must Win Against Pats

This week, the so far so sloppy Chargers host the best coach in the game, who was probably drawing up X's and O's in his crib. Bill Belichick will find and probe and exploit any weakness the Chargers have exhibited over the first six games (he'll have a lot to choose from). If San Diego isn't at its best, the 4-1 Patriots will roll over them, then frustratingly control the clock and the game by throwing short passes to their stable quick mini-receivers.

Because the Patriots are smart and well coached, it is crucial the Chargers get off to a fast start and stay very close or keep the lead throughout the game. Another sleepwalking start will be fatal. There will be no charging second half comebacks this week. The Pats are too good.

From listening to the Charger players this week, it appears they realize do or die time is finally here. Dropping to 2-5 with a couple more tough games ahead might just be too devastating to recover from, even in the woeful AFC West. Norv's got to know, despite what everyone says about AJ and Dean's love for him, that if this team fails to make the playoffs this season, some crucial momentum and confidence will have been lost within the franchise (a hard thing to get back) and it will be his fault. Look at the New York Giants, a team that won the Super Bowl a few season's ago, now their momentum is gone, and head coach Tom Coughlin seems unable to get it back (should have been fired last year).

This game against the Patriots might just be the tipping point. Win and you've beaten one of the best teams in the NFL and shown The League you still belong in the elite; lose and you may signal the long slow slide of a franchise back to mediocrity. The window will close.

Perhaps my emotions are getting in the way, but I'm not ready let this era of the Chargers die yet. Playing at home seems to give the younger players more comfort and confidence to perform at their best. My head says I may be fooling myself here (how could a fan not lose faith after the last two weeks?), but I'm picking the Chargers to win this one.

San Diego 27, Patriots 24

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saints Show More Heart and Better Coaching

Something is seriously amiss with the San Diego Chargers. They have a great quarterback and offensive minded head coach. All other phases of the game are seriously lacking, causing losses to some of the worst teams in the NFL. The Chargers simply aren't doing the little things right.

To begin the game, the offensive line was not prepared for the Rams' blitzes, leading to five sacks and increased confidence for a Rams team that is in rebuilding mode. If the Chargers want to win these games against inferior teams, they have to step on their throats early and stay on them until their confidence breaks. The Chargers seem to simply lack the aggressiveness gene this year. Where is the sense of desperation?

After the Rams went up 10-0, Norv seemed to panic a bit and abandon the run game, passing on first down for several series in a row, but the lack of pass blocking led to the Chargers going backwards instead of forwards.

On special teams, San Diego gave up another long punt return and now the field goal unit failed by allowing a hugely important blocked kick. Steve Crosby's units continue to find new ways to let the team down. The guy should be fired.

The only good news out of this week is that Kansas City also lost, so the Chargers are still within striking distance for winning the division. The AFC West is still weak.

Norv needs to focus his energies on all phases and details of the game to turn this team around. He seems so dialed into what's going on with Phillip Rivers and the X's and O's of the passing game that everything else is going to pot. This season has started HORRIBLY, but is still salvageable.

We'll find out what Norv and these players are made of next week as they face the Patriots at home.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chargers Battle Themselves in St. Louis

The Chargers are going on the road to face another bad team this week. Once again, this game is less about their opponent than about the Chargers' own psychological make up. We know Rivers and the offense can move the ball up and down the field and score points. We know the defense can contain rookie QB Sam Bradford and running back Steven Jackson. What we don't know is if the Chargers can avoid crucial mental errors on special teams and fumbles.

If San Diego can hold onto the ball and not give up huge plays on special teams, they will win. If they don't, they will lose again, throwing this team into further turmoil that could jeopardize this entire season.

The Chargers need one solid game in all phases of special teams to begin to build confidence that they can be consistent throughout the season. If they can get this thing figured out, they might just go on another huge run and enter the playoffs as one of the top teams in the AFC.

We'll find out this week if special teams coach Steve Crosby is capable of fixing this thing or if we are just "being silly" by expecting more out of the San Diego Chargers this season.
I may be foolish, but once again (even though they didn't fire Steve Crosby) they will figure it out enough to win.
Chargers 24, Rams 20

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lights Out for Good

The Chargers didn't listen to my call to fire Steve Crosby, but correctly decided they could no longer carry Shawne Merriman yesterday. His injury problems were just too consistent to wait any longer this season with the team's needs at linebacker and on special teams.

Merriman may have a future in the NFL, but it doesn't appear he will be ready to play at a high level this season. His first three years were fantastic in San Diego, but when the "dietary supplements" went away and after he was the victim of a devastating direct attack by the Tennessee Titans three years ago, he simply has not been able to return to form or stay healthy.

Without a vague hope of Merriman coming back, the team now must look to other player to provide leadership. Just saying this is "Rivers' team," is not sufficient. Great teams need several leaders. After the three horrible losses so far this season, that should be obvious to Charger fans.

Maybe this kid is now crying over losing Light's Out...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fire Steve Crosby

I know it's hard to blame a coach for the poor play of professional football players, but this whole thing needs to be blown up. The Chargers brought in starters and a few free agents in the last two weeks, and the thing is still Pop Warner-style embarrassing. Crosby may have been good once, but sometimes people just lose it, and he's lost it. Kickoff returns, punt returns, now punts? Let's see...what's next? Kaeding would need to have a field goal blocked, or perhaps the field goal blocking team can find a way to give the other guys a touchdown too.

Some of the Chargers have said, we've been good in the past, it's not like Crosby suddenly forgot how to coach. It looks like he has. One would suppose he had some say in which players the Chargers cut or kept from training camp. He's picked the wrong guys. He also should have been able to see this whole thing wasn't working in practice. It's horrible and there has to be someone out there in the world of coaches who is young, hungry and more competent.

On the whole, San Diego has now become the weirdest team in the league. Who else can dominate on offense and defense in all statistical categories (besides turnovers) and still find ways to lose games? One could speculate they have players indebted to the mob, finding more and more bizarre ways to ensure the Chargers don't win.

Rivers, Gates and Floyd are on absolute fire. My other theory (and maybe more serious one than the gambling paranoia) is that Norval is simply focused on the X's and O's of the passing game at the expense of everything else. Chargers fans must consider after the last few years that perhaps the guy is just a really really good offensive coordinator and not a real NFL head coach. Maybe Norv just isn't paying enough attention to ALL the fundamentals and details of the game. Rivera seems to have the defensive side nailed down, but everything else has gone to pot.

Despite all this, we know the Chargers have started 2-3 every year under Norv and usually find a way to right the ship. They are only one game out of first and division is still terrible.

Next week San Diego goes on the road once again to face the worst team so far in the rebuilding Rams. If they can't beat these guys on the road, the season is over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Here We Go Again

Once again, last week the Chargers proved they could beat a horrible team at home. The best news out of Cardinals game was that the special teams seemed truly improved with some starters and new players added into the mix. The running game also looked great, but we'll have to see if they can do it again this week.

Today, just like two weeks ago, the game is more about the Chargers against themselves than about the Raiders. Can the young guys go on the road in a hostile environment and play at a high level? The Raiders are wounded and starting back-ups all over the place. The Chargers are obviously the better team. Can they play like it?

Despite all the injuries, Oakland's offense is improved. The Gradkowski to Zach Miller connection is very effective, and Michael Bush at running back can catch the short pass and find the hole in the defense. The Raiders will be competent enough to move the ball and beat the Chargers IF San Diego turns the ball over and plays horribly again on special teams.

I think have solved the worst of their special teams issues, and just by dumb luck they're due not to have more stupid turnovers this week. The Raiders are a little more confident this year, but also a little desperate to not let another season slip away so early.

This could be a close one, but San Diego will pull it out.

Chargers 31, Raiders 24

Friday, October 1, 2010

Last Week this Week and Last Year

Anyone get the feeling this season is just an extension of the horrible playoff loss to the Jets last season? The Chargers are 1-2 due to turnovers, poor special teams play and a couple breakdowns on defense. San Diego continues to look like a team with a great quarterback and genius offense coordinator, but falling short on the fundamentals(blocking, tackling, special know, FOOTBALL). I am not one of the sad folks who call for the return of Marty...but some sort of blend of Marty and Norv seems to be what this team needs.

Think about it. If it weren't for Rivers, this team might just be absolutely horrible. His ability to execute Norv's high flying offense makes the difference week in and week out. But who else is really stepping up and making great plays?

The coaches this week blamed the special teams failures on anonymous "new guys," but the blame really has to fall squarely one the coaches' shoulders. If those guys weren't ready, someone should have noticed and yanked them before San Diego lost to Kansas City and Seattle. Terrible. Or, short of yanking them, coaches should have been able to teach these guys how to play special teams. That's their job. What happened in those two losses weren't small problems needing adjustments, they were complete and utter failures. Special teams coach Steve Crosby and Norval should be ashamed.

The defense has looked good, but we all need to remember that they've looked good against three horrible quarterbacks. They'll get another bad QB this week, so the Chargers should be able to pull out a win, but I wonder if the Chargers are setting themselves up for a shock when they face a real NFL QB. The pass rush has not been all that strong. With English down and Merriman on the permanent post-steroidal gimp train, I'm worried this D may not look quite so good against the upper echelon offenses. The only hope is that Antwan Applewhite starts to do amazing things with regularity now that it appears he's the starter.

On offense this week, we'll get to see a healthy Ryan Mathews again, and we can only hope he has his head together after a devastating start in which he fumbled away two balls, one probably leading to the loss in the KC game. I think he's going to be great, but he's had some bad breaks so far.

The offensive line did not look as solid last week and they need to rebound to show they can be better than below average. With LT lighting it up in New York (5.6 YPC), the excuses for the pitiful run game are looking more and more tenuous. I'm tired of reading about how "determined" the line is this year. We need to see some consistency.

I'm hoping some of the turnovers have just been bad luck and bad bounces, and that the law of averages helps the Chargers actually catch a few breaks at home. They need this one.

Chargers 27, Cardinals 13