If you're wondering why Richard was handling the Open Threads today, it is because I was still recovering from creanium's bachelor party last night. Also, a little part of me was worried that I had becomea curse like Jonny Dub and that the only way the Chargers could win on the road would be by letting someone else handle the duties. I suppose I was wrong about that one.
Anyways, onto my own madness before getting to the actual analysis. I watched this game in a bar, with a pounding headache, and wasn't much surprised at the outcome. I didn't know how to start off the rant that's about to come until I got in my car to drive home afterwards. From the CD that was playing came a song, and a chorus, that said it perfectly for me:
"I'm not crying wolf", you whisper. "I'm really dead this time."
I found myself nodding along to this line every time it came around, thinking "The Chargers aren't crying wolf, they're really dead this time." This isn't a slow start that will be correctable. There isn't a 10-game winning-streak and a Division Title ahead of us. This is a bad team, with bad coaching. Amongst the worst in the league this year. This is a team that you can either punch in the mouth (like the Raiders did) or coach circles around (like the Rams did), and then feel good about doing so at the end of the day because there are so many "stars" on the squad.
After the jump, I'll tell you what's wrong with each facet of the Chargers game and why I don't have hope for it getting fixed any time soon.
"We lead the league in offensive yardage." Blah, blah, blah, I don't care. You know what I care about? Do you know what every football coach on every level of football tells his team? "It starts with winning the battle in the trenches." I can't remember the last time the Chargers won that battle.
I cannot remember the last time I was thinking, at the end of the game, the our offensive line had pushed around their defensive line. Jaguars game? Nope, that game was mostly won off the fact that the Jaguars have the worst secondary in the league so Norv left in extra blockers and Philip Rivers bombed them to death. Cardinals game? Nope, that game (and the Jags game too, actually) was won off the fact that the opposing QB threw easy interceptions to our secondary and then they lost the will to fight later on. The last time I can remember this offensive line actually looking strong and fierce was in Tennessee, Christmas 2009.
This is a problem. If you want me to get crazy about it, the last time the offensive line looked strong at run-blocking (when it's more about pushing the other guy backwards, whereas pass-protection is just about holding your ground) was in Marty Schottenheimer's last season with the Chargers. "I KNEW IT!", a bunch of you just said. Calm down, it had nothing to do with Marty. It had everything to do with Hudson Houck, the Offensive Line coach that season, leaving San Diego in the offseason to join Cam Cameron in Miami.
I certainly don't want to start attacking Hal Hunter, but the fact of the matter is that this is a group that under Houck was strong, violent and fearsome in run-blocking. Now it seems as if they're content to hold their ground and let the running backs navigate their way through the jungle of defensive linemen and linebackers that are being help up. This is not what I see when I look at teams like the Ravens, Jets, or even the Cowboys (who are currently coached by Hudson Houck).
This was one of the worst games I've seen by the Chargers offensive line in a long time, and part of it was Marcus McNeill's rust and part was Jeromey Clary being overmatched all game (get warm, Brandyn Dombrowski), but the toughness and strength of this unit needs to change in a big way if the Bolts have any sort of playoff aspirations in the next few seasons.
This one is a two-parter. The first part is tentatively-titled "I don't understand you, Ron Rivera"
Man, it's pretty crazy that Future Hall of Fame QB Jason Campbell finally figured out the NFL and will dominate for years to come. Here I was thinking that his nearly-perfect second half performance against the Chargers had something to do with the Chargers not getting any pressure on him. It turns out the 49ers blitzed the hell out of him, and I'm willing to bet he tore them to shreds. Let's take a peek.
|vs SFX / 10.17.10||Passing||Rushing|
Oh. Surprise, surprise: Jason Campbell is still a bad QB who will make mistakes (2 interceptions) when you pressure him and force him to throw on the run.
Look, there's no need for a long rant here. I can sum up my thoughts pretty succinctly. When average QBs, and rookie QBs, regularly have "career games" against your defense it means that the scheme you run is incredibly simple and does not bring nearly enough pressure. Want to see the potential of a QB? Watch him in practice, or against the Chargers defense. Remember how JaMarcus Russell almost looked good whenever he played the Chargers? That's absurd. Ryan Leaf should un-retire just to play against this defense once and rebuild his reputation.
I know this sounds horribly simplified, but Ron.....you need to fix it. There are other people out there that would love the opportunity to be the Chargers defensive coordinator, and would love to create a suffocating/attacking defense rather than one that relies heavily on the Chargers offense to score 30 points a game. I would love to see them try, but what I'd like even more than that is to see you try. Pretty please. With a cherry on top.
The second part of this section is titled "I'm sorry, Antwan Applewhite..."
I'm sorry, Antwan Applewhite, you seem like a great guy and I will continue to root for you to rise up the ranks and become a great player. However, at this moment, your abilities as a pass-rusher make me miss the ghost known as Larry English ("A gust of cold wind just blew past me! He's here!"). Also, you're probably at least part of the reason Ron Rivera isn't sleeping these days. Again, sorry....
I was sitting at my table at the bar, and one of the people sitting with me was a lovely lady and BFTBer named Jackie. I don't believe she was there early enough to see the 42 yard punt return that would've been a TD if not for the Chargers having the best-tackling Punter in the league, but immediately after the blocked Field Goal she asked "Why has the Chargers Special Teams coach not been fired yet?"
I gave her a quick answer ("He's been with the team for 8 years, and he's a bit of a legend amongst Special Teams coaches."), but the truth of it is that the Chargers are hoping that this is a hiccup. They believe the hype, that Steve is one of the best Special Teams coaches in the business (he actually won the Best ST Coach award in 2007), and that this is an issue of luck or player-talent or both.
Before this week, I disagreed with that philosophy. "FIRE HIM", I said, "Show everyone that a month's worth of incompetence is not to be tolerated. That the expectations in San Diego are higher than that!" Now, I've made a 180 degree turn. In my head, this season is pretty much over. Sure the Chargers are really only about 2 games behind the Chiefs, but have you seen their schedule? Jacksonville, Buffalo and Oakland over the next 3 weeks. The toughest teams that play are the Broncos (twice) and the Chargers (whom they already beat). This team is showing that not only is it talented, but it will not play down to the level of the opponent. They are sufficiently motivated.
So here's the Crosby risk. Let it ride for the rest of the season. If he causes another few losses and doesn't get it figured out, he's fired at the end of the season. Hell, a lot of people probably will be. If he figures it out, now or in a couple of weeks, the Chargers just found themselves a legendary Special Teams coach (and looked smart/patient in doing it) that will hopefully learn from this time and never repeat it. Win-win, kind of....right?