The Chargers turned the ball over 4 times and collected zero turnovers themselves against the Patriots. Against the Rams, they turned it over once and collected zero turnovers. Against the Raiders, they turned it over 3 times and collected zero turnovers. So, in the last three games, the Chargers turnover margin has totaled -8. FOR THREE GAMES! If they did that over the course of the entire season they'd finished with a turnover margin of -42 at least.
Blame Special Teams all you want, they've had their hand in this travesty of a season, but the biggest reason the Chargers have not been able to win games is that they are turning the ball over plenty and taking it away almost never (unless they're facing David Garrard or Derek Anderson). When you take away 4 of your own offensive drives, and give the Patriots 4 free ones with good field position....you're not going to win.
Before the Chargers start winning games, they need to figure out how to stop fumbling and how to create turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. It's the one thing the defense has not done well, but you could argue that it's the most important thing a defense can do. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl last year with a defense that was average but created a lot of turnovers. Every year the Chargers and Ron Rivera say there's a new-found focus on creating turnovers, and yet it has yet to turn into anything.
2. The Running Game
Heading into this game, the Patriots had given up almost 110 rushing yards per game at 4.0 yards per carry. The Chargers managed just 38 yards on the ground, picking up 2.0 yards per carry. I don't really know who to blame (Hal Hunter? Ryan Mathews? Jacob Hester? Norv Turner? Bill Belichick?), but it seems fairly obvious that somebody somewhere did something that Norv Turner wasn't expecting and he didn't adapt. We'll talk more on that later.
It was touched on only briefly during the game, but the Patriots made a statement in their games against the Chargers and Ravens the last two weeks. They moved Vince Wilfork, one of the league's premier Nose Tackles, to DE and switched him with Gerard Warren. During the game, Phil Simms said that the Patriots will do this "against teams that are not good enough to handle Warren one-on-one in the middle of their line". Leave it to Bill Belichick to realize that moving his best defensive lineman to the outside (to help the OLBs) would sure up a porous run defense.
It's not that complicated, in hindsight. Identify a weakness, and put a strength there to help it. However, with the diversity of the Chargers' running game they should be able to find a hole in any defense they're up again. Run outside with Mathews and Darren Sproles, run inside with Mike Tolbert and Hester, run screens, draws and counter plays. However, the running game just never got going and the 2010 Chargers looked a lot like the 2009 Chargers.
|vs NEP / 10.24.10||Rushing||Receiving|
I remember writing, prior to this season, that I was not worried about the loss of Vincent Jackson because Randy McMichael and Kris Wilson were two weapons that would be getting additional time on the field and would help the offense just as much. That's not really how the season has played out.
McMichael has been a good blocker, but hasn't done much this season as far as being a receiver. Wilson has been able to get open, just based off the fact that most teams don't have enough defensive talent to cover two or three receiving TEs, but has had trouble catching balls or holding onto the ones that he does catch. Basically, the guys I pegged as "the key to the new offensive gameplan" haven't done much. The game against the Patriots was further proof of that.
|Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
4. Norv's Offensive Gameplan
Something that I've thought, and have sometimes spoken about over the lats few seasons, seems to be a hot topic this week. That is that Norv Turner seems to make his offensive gameplan around the strengths of his own team instead of the weaknesses of the opposing defense.
I know this is going way back, but I remember in the first week of the 2004 season the Patriots were going up against the Indianapolis Colts to start the season. Going into the game, it was well known that the Colts' secondary might be a little shaky. I remember being amazed as the Patriots started the game by running 8 straight pass plays (here's the play-by-play). The Colts were confused, and eventually had to completely over-compensate to try and stop the pass plays....which is exactly when the Patriots started running the ball.
The entire game was not so much about consistent balance as it was about passing until the Colts compensated, then running until they compensated again. The pats had them off-balance all game. Read through the play-by-play and you see entire drives made up of nothing but passes, and then ones where it's all runs with only 1 pass thrown. It was a brilliant display of attacking the weaknesses of your opponent, and it's something you will never see Norv Turner do.
Norv's not alone here. More than half of the offensive coordinators in the league wouldn't dream of doing something like that. However, I think that Norv completely under-utilizes Philip Rivers by not doing it. You see players like Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan occasionally going into a no-huddle offense and audibling at the line of scrimmage. Their coaches trust them to make the right call and reads, and to attack whatever weaknesses the defense is showing. With Rivers, it seems like the only thing he's allowed to do at the line is point out who the blitzer is going to be and then run whatever play is called.
It's painfully obvious to everyone, even Norv, that he has a talented offense and a very intelligent QB. I wish he would focus more on attacking the weaknesses of the defense rather than just running the plays he wants, and I really wish he would loosen the reins he has on the offense and Philip Rivers to make them less predictable and more difficult for defenses to plan for. I think that would help get the offense going early, because for years now it seems like the offense cannot get into a rhythm until Turner has had a chance to go into the locker room at halftime and make adjustments. That's like giving your opponent a two-quarter head start.
5. Richard Goodman, Rookie
Here's the real shame of the Richard Goodman "fumble". Immediately before the play happened, as the team was lining up, I thought to myself: "The Chargers should throw a deep pass to Goodman. Nobody on the Patriots can keep up with him, they definitely won't double-cover him, and even if it's incomplete it might scare them enough to open up the defense underneath for the rest of the game."
25 yards later, I'm shouting "Yes, yes, exactly like that......NO NO NO!!!!!" As I expected, Goodman sat for just about the rest of the game (at least on offense) after that and saw his opportunities go to Seyi Ajirotutu. Seyi is a big, strong receiver who showed off his good hands during the game....but he's not scaring defenses deep with blazing speed.
Goodman was the best player on Special Teams, making 3 tackles by consistently being the first guy downfield on coverage and recovering the onside kick, so I think his roster spot is safe. However, I think a play that could've opened doors to more playing opportunity turned into a rookie mistake that will delay those opportunities for a bit longer.