MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins scores a touchdown over Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots during a game at Sun Life Stadium on September 12, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Okay, fine, my first prediction of the San Diego Chargers losing to the Kansas City Chiefs was wrong. It wasn't far off, though, and it was one bad Matt Cassel pass or missed Ryan Succop field goal away from being right. The main point I was trying to make is that the Chargers keep every team they play in the game by losing the turnover battle, and so they could literally lose to any team in the NFL.
That brings us to the winless Miami Dolphins. The same Dolphins team that looked roughly as good as the Chargers did when they faced the 2-1 Patriots in Week 1, then played a 2-1 Texans team tough before losing a close game to 2-1 Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. Perhaps if they had the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs on their early schedule, they would also be 2-1 like the Chargers are.
There's a reason that turnovers are often referred to as "the great equalizer". I'd venture to say that 80% of wins in the NFL also come with that team winning the turnover battle in their games. This season, not only are the Chargers 0-3 in terms of winning the turnover battle, the Bolts have a -6 turnover margin after getting just two interceptions against 8 turnovers by the San Diego offense.
You're wondering how the 2010 Chargers did at winning the turnover battle, aren't you? Well, San Diego won the turnover battle 4 times, tied at 1 turnover once and lost the turnover battle the other 11 games they played. In those 5 games where they either tied or won the turnover battle, the Bolts were 5-0 with wins over the Colts, Cardinals, Jaguars and Broncos (twice). If you're good at math, you just figured out that San Diego was 4-7 in games where they lost the turnover battle last season.
What about that 13-3 season in 2009? Surely, that team must've performed better. That team won the turnover battle 8 times, lost it 8 times and tied once (playoffs included). The 8 times they won the turnover battle, they went 8-0. The 8 times they lost it, they went 5-3.
We can start glossing now. The 8-8 season in 2008? The turnover battle was won just 6 times. The team went 4-2 in those games. The famed 14-2 Chargers from 2006? They lost the turnover battle just 3 times all season, including the playoffs, and finished 1-2 in those games. That means in games where they won or tied the opposing team in number of turnovers, they were 14-1.
Let's summarize. Here's how the Bolts do when they win or tie the turnover battle:
This explains why everyone still thinks the Chargers are still good, but yet they find ways to lose to bad teams. It's not just the special teams. It's not Ed Hochuli. It's not Norv's playcalling. Plain and simple, the Chargers create too few turnovers on defense and are careless with the football.
In terms of talent, on paper, the Chargers are up there amongst the best of the best. QB, WR, TE, RB, CB, Safety....you name it and we have a guy that can cover or catch or throw as good as anyone in the league. However, those same guys don't protect the football. Those same guys don't make big game-changing plays on defense.
Do the Chargers have more talent than the Dolphins? Absolutely. They had more talent than the Chiefs too, and could've lost that game. Losing the turnover battle week-in and week-out and winning by the skin of your teeth is asking for trouble, I don't care what lousy NFL team the Chargers are playing.
The Dolphins could be better than the Chiefs. They could be just as bad as the Chiefs with better luck. Until the Chargers fix this turnover problem, I'm going to predict them to lose every single week and rest easy knowing that there's at least a 50% chance that I'll be right regardless of the opponent.
The Dolphins will be in this game because the Chargers will give them a whole bunch of opportunities. A beaten up Chargers defense will not be able to stop that final drive, or that final FG. We'll be back here on Monday, people screaming for Norv's head and saying he's not making the most of the talent on the field. Maybe that's true, or maybe we need to do a better job of looking at these players.