Maybe it was the hope. We had never seen this before. New coach, new offensive coordinator, a seemingly new Ryan Mathews. For the first two and a half quarters, the 2013 San Diego Chargers looked like Super Bowl contenders and Mike McCoy looked like the missing piece of the puzzle that Norv Turner never could be. Then it all went to hell.
After jumping out to a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter, the Chargers were unable to keep the Texans from doing whatever they wanted to do for the rest of the game. Houston eventually settled for a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, but it was over long before that.
There's plenty of blame to go around. The play-calling was bad on both sides. The cornerbacks were terrible. The pass rush disappeared during important plays. The quarterback....let's talk about the quarterback.
Here's what I saw, although I need to go back and rewatch the game for sure. Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, was struggling in the first half. His team couldn't stop the run and they couldn't stop the pass. Most notably, the Houston safeties were struggling in coverage. Phillips decided that the best way to protect his safeties was to blitz early and blitz often.
The blitzing kept the running game for going anywhere. After rushing for 73 yards in the first half, the Chargers ran for 7 yards in a second half in which they were leading almost the entire time.
The blitzing got Philip Rivers out of his comfort zone. He wanted to take advantage of the poor safety coverage deep, but didn't have the time because J.J. Watt was being left one-on-one every play because of the blitzes that were being called. Rivers stopped setting his feet before his throws and ended up throwing a lot of balls in the dirt to receivers that were 7 yards away from him.
The two factors above led to the Chargers defense being on the field a lot more than they wanted to be, which lead to them getting fatigued and eventually being as useful as a wet paper bag against the Texans offense.
It's pretty simple, really. It took Phillips' decision to blitz on just about every play of the second half, a move that he was doing mostly to hide a weakness on his own defense, to show all of the weaknesses of the Chargers offense. Maybe Wade planned it that way, maybe he didn't, but that's certainly how it played out.
Now, the San Diego Chargers' new coaches have to figure out the solution to the problem that cost their predecessors their jobs: How can this team beat the blitz?
Tonight is one of those nights where it's tough to be a Chargers fan. Take solace in the fact that most of the teams that San Diego is scheduled to face this season are not as talented, or as well coached, as the Houston Texans.