CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 26: Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 26 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Bengals 34-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Sometimes my dad, who is more a Joe Everyfan than a stat geek, will ask me questions about the San Diego Chargers that I have absolutely no answer for. This can sometimes be due to nobody knowing — "Is there going to be football this year?" — but when it's not I try to make a point of researching the answer and turning it into a post. Chances are I'd end up doing the same research and sending him a long e-mail on the subject anyway.
During this Memorial Day weekend, my dad was reminiscing about opportunities missed by the 2010 San Diego Chargers when he said "What happened in that Bengals game anyway?" I had no answer. This could just be because I blocked it out of my memory but, seeing as how it's probably the most important game of 2010 for the Bolts, I felt that it was worth revisiting.
Welcome to post 1 of 3, where I will attempt to find out exactly what went wrong on that fateful December 26th in Cincinnati. I figured the best place to start would be with BFTB's initial response to the game. Sure we didn't let it pass by without analyzing it to the point of conclusion … right?
Lazy (Picture) Preview: Chargers at Bengals
A Game Preview made up of nothing but pictures. It came off as a little arrogant because it was. Am I to blame for the Chargers loss?
Cincinnati Bengals Embarrass San Diego Chargers 34-20
I somehow managed to gloss over any real reason for the loss. Instead, this post is a rant against Norv Turner and his patented slow starts putting the Chargers in a terrible position late in the season. No help here.
5 Good Things: Chargers at Bengals
Here's what I learned from this post. Rivers and Mathews played well, the Special Teams (surprisingly) was a positive instead of a negative and Mike Tolbert left the game on a stretcher. Most noteworthy, though, is that Rivers' deep ball was taken away by strong Cincinnati winds. Many of his passes were check-downs to Darren Sproles.
5 Bad Things: Chargers at Bengals
Here's where we get to the real meat of the problem. Norv running the ball three straight times on the 1 yard line for -1 yards, the defensive secondary looking lost, the pass rush looking non-existent, and some general sloppiness and selfishness to boot. This was a terribly-coached game by Norv, and an even worse-coached game by Ron Rivera.
Signal Stealing: Comments & Tweets from Week 16's Chargers vs. Bengals Game
Here's a feature I can't wait to see on a weekly basis. Richard Wade grabbing interesting points from Twitter and the BFTB Open Thread. What I learned from here, that I had previously forgotten, is that the Chargers were coming off of a 10 day break after playing the 49ers on Thursday Night Football. I also learned that the offensive line was awful on those goal line plays (Thanks Canepa!)
Conclusion: The reason it is so hard to remember why the Chargers lost this game to the Bengals — which looked like an easy victory heading into it — is that there were multiple places to point the blame.
- Norv Turner is a terrible game-planner. Just awful. If the Chargers outplay another team in the first half of a game, it's purely by luck. However, the real problem in this game was the inability of the offense to do anything in the second half. It's almost like without Antonio Gates, Norv had no idea how to run plays with routes that were less than 30 yards downfield.
- Ron Rivera's defense played terribly. Actually, Ron's defense all season was pretty average. It's when they would have a good game (e.g. against SF, JAX, ARI or IND) that they would stockpile the statistics that would look good over an entire year. With Caron Palmer looking like a beaten man all season and with the Bengals' top two WRs out of the game, who knows why he didn't blitz like crazy. But Ron's plan obviously backfired. Palmer had his best game of the season, by far, and that had a great deal to do with Rivera's (lack of) defense.
- Mike Tolbert's injury was scary. I'm not big on "the injury scared all the players and affected their play" line of thinking, but it certainly didn't help to see one of the sparkplugs on the team taken off the field on a stretcher.
- During the most crucial series of the game, the offensive line seemed to stop blocking. Or at least had no idea what was being thrown at them by the defensive line. Very weird for a line that played pretty great through the second half of the season.
So, the conclusion I am drawing from my own previous write-ups is that the game was mostly lost by coaching. Specifically: Ron Rivera's and Norv Turner's mistakes in game-planning and adjusting caused the team to lose the game even more than a bad series by the offensive line or Tolbert's serious neck injury.
Over the next few days, I'll see what the box score tells me and then I'll rewatch the game (I know, I'm a masochist) and see if I draw the same conclusions.