Well, the San Diego Chargers certainly like to keep games close this year. That's two 3-point losses and a 3-point win through three weeks of play. A lot of you are going glass half full and saying they're only two plays away from 3-0. On the glass half empty side of things, they're only one play away from 0-3, which by my count makes that more representative of the 2013 Chargers than delusions of 3-0.
The biggest takeaway from this game, other than the running narrative of this team having no depth, is that Mike McCoy is in no way, shape, or form perfect. I'll give you a minute to process that brilliant insight. Honestly, though, this was the first time we got to see McCoy be faced with multiple 4th & short decisions inside no-man's land and elect to punt. He left at least a field goal's worth of expected points on the field with these decisions, and it's no coincidence that the game started slipping away after the first one. Also, late in the game as they were trying to kill the clock, they ran on 3rd and 10, basically conceding the down and the possession. This was insane given how poorly the defense had played all day and how well Philip Rivers had thrown the ball. Rivers was 6 for 6 on passes that travelled over 10 yards in the air.
To be clear, I understand that the offensive line was a collection of guys playing out of position and guys we had all hoped wouldn't play this year. That doesn't change the fact that, with the game on the line, McCoy elected to trust the likes of Crezdon Butler over Rivers, Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead.
This isn't even taking into account the tremendous pre-game blunder that left the defense short on linebackers. McCoy and co. failed to get their inactives list changed on time, and ended up with Donald Butler dressed but unable to play and a healthy Tourek Williams unable to even dress.
None of these mistakes lost the game on their own, but you can make an argument that the combination of them directly led to a loss in what was a very close game. If blaming McCoy isn't your cup of tea, there's always John Pagano. In Pagano's defense, he is being asked to coordinate a defense that was missing the likes of Butler, Manti Te'o, Melvin Ingram and Shareece Wright. That said, he hasn't put the players he does have in a position to succeed.
The starting defensive line is a collection of one-gap players in Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and Cam Thomas that are being asked to defend two games on most plays. This is perhaps difficult to do anything about mid-season, but it seems to me that this problem has been evident for quite some time.
The defensive backfield is made up of guys signed off the street in the last week, undrafted free agents and Marcus Gilchrist. And yet, with 20 seconds on the clock, a four point lead, the offense without time outs, and needing over 30 yards to score, Pagano asked them to play man-to-man with no safety help over the top. This is insanity.
The offense was mostly solid, but handicapped by McCoy's 4th down decisions and an incredibly stupid penalty by Rivers following an offensive pass interference call that negated a touchdown by Eddie Royal.
Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green and Danny Woodhead all showed up in a big way for the offense. Gates just continues to remind us all why he'll be in the Hall of Fame once he retires. I'm not sure what Green needs to do to earn more playing time. I don't understand it. Woodhead is everything we hoped for when he was signed. Rivers hasn't had that kind of receiving threat out of the backfield since Darren Sproles left in free agency.
Mike Harris was significantly better than I remember him being last year. He still got pushed backwards with regularity, but he didn't give up the quick pressure that he did as a rookie. You can't be comfortable with him as a starter, but he appears to have become a competent swing tackle option, and that's not bad for a guy that's one year removed from being an undrafted free agent and recording one of the worst seasons ever. Some of that's the system asking less of him, but he's also become a better player. Hat's off to him.
The officiating was terrible in this game. Both teams got away with things they shouldn't have. Both teams were flagged when they shouldn't have been. The referees were front and center way more often than they needed to be. The most egregious error occurred on Jake Locker's 39 yard scramble from the Titans' own 19 yard line. Chris Johnson was clearly guilty of a chop block, and the referees even threw a flag. However, thanks to the officials not understanding the rules, they picked up the flag negating a 15 yard penalty and allowing a fraudulent 39 yard gain to stand. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 of the NFL rule book states: Each of the above circumstances, which describes a chop block foul on a forward pass play, also applies on a play in which an offensive player indicates an apparent attempt to pass block, but the play ultimately becomes a run. (H/T Mike Pereira)
There wasn't a lot to like about this game as a Chargers fan. The biggest highlight is that it's over.