I didn't get the chance to watch Saturday's game until Sunday evening. I took notes. There was one note that I took that I felt bad about, but kept looking at. I would add more to it and feel even worse. I knew I'd be hated for it, and I hated myself for it. So let's get that one out of the way first.
Philip Rivers' Slow Starts: I know. He went 18/28 for 198 yards and 2 TDs. That's not why he's here. Philip is here because it's time we all stop coddling him and start giving him at least a smidgen of the blame for last season. Philip Rivers gets off to slow starts in most of the Chargers games. I brought this up on the High Boltage Radio show on 8/20, but you already know that because you all listen religiously...right?
Maybe it's Norv and the playcall, which I think is where this blame is usually laid, but Rivers seems like a different QB in the beginning of games. His footwork is shaky and he seems to rush everything. Saturday night's game was a very good example of what I saw repeatedly last season. Rivers started the game completing 3 of his first 7 pass attempts. The first of those was a ridiculous Malcom Floyd catch that should've never been thrown or caught, and should've actually been intercepted twice.
Let's pretend that Floyd play never happened, and here's the next 6 pass attempts from El Capitan:
- 1st & 10: 7 yard pass to Randy McMichael
- 2nd & 3: Incomplete Pass
- 3rd & 3: Incomplete Pass
- 1st & 10: 7 yard pass to Mike Tolbert
- 3rd & 2: Incomplete Pass
- 3rd & 6: Interception
Outside of first down (which the Floyd play was also on), Rivers started the game 0/4 with an interception. I know that's a really small sample size, but this is something I saw week-in and week-out last season. Rivers, and the offense itself, never seemed to come alive until the Chargers were down. In this case, Rivers played like a jittery, inaccurate QB until the Bolts were down 17-3. In his quest to improve each of his weaknesses, Rivers (and Norv) needs to get better at starting each game fast so that they're not playing from behind.
Whew. Oh wait....there's 4 more things? Okay!
Donald Butler's Coverage:
Donald Butler had such an odd game against the Cardinals
. Against the run, he seemed improved over his game against the Cowboys
. He also played with some fire, which is good. However, there were plenty of rookie mistakes mixed in, most of them dealing with him getting fooled in coverage. He also needs some lessons from Takeo Spikes
on running through a tackle.
Stephen Cooper's Age:
I'm sorry, Coop. I've always been a fan, and Stephen's toughness will never be questioned. However, as soon as he stepped on the field the Cardinals took advantage of Cooper's speed (or lack there of) every chance they could. Put simply, Cooper is not fast enough to cover any TE or RB in this league anymore and the injury robs him from any toughness that would help him in slowing them down. He shouldn't make the team, but I'm afraid that he still might.
Missed Tackles: I don't know what makes a bad tackling team turn into a good tackling team, but I wish I did. This Chargers team has struggled to stop running backs and receivers on the first hit for ages, it seems like. It continued again on Saturday, and it needs to be corrected before Adrian Peterson comes to San Diego. Did you just have a "war flashback"? Me too. The one thing that will hopefully help matters is....
I'm hoping that all of the starters that missed this game (Antonio Garay
, Shaun Phillips
, Larry English
, Travis LaBoy
, Marcus McNeill
) were missing it for precautionary reasons. Missing 3 LBs and the Nose Tackle showed that the Chargers' depth does not go on forever. Missing Marcus McNeill showed, as it always does, just how important he is in protecting Rivers and in the ground game. If there's a weakness to this Chargers team, it's that they're a little more nicked up right now than you'd like to be. Hopefully they're ready to go 13 days from now.