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San Diego Chargers lose to the Denver Broncos in a Shootout

While I'm still trying to get over the Bolts losing, this was a great game to watch. My favorite pregame prediction was two thirds right, the sky is still blue and the earth is still spinning, but best of all we are going to have some barn burners to watch as this season careens along. This game had great offensive play from both sides; both teams have worries about how much give there was in their defenses. Rivers and Cutler both looked like elite QBs absolutely dissecting the opposition defense; a small grain of salt as defenses usually take a few weeks to sharpen up. From the Chargers perspective you have to love their ability to come back from big deficits, there certainly is no give in the offense. Unfortunately there was nothing but give on the defense; the secondary was in tatters; Cromartie may have had one of the all time bad games. Not only did he get burned, but was penalized countless times, clearly they just got into his head. While the Chargers defense put together some good stops in the second half, when the heat was on they melted for a second straight week.


Darren Sproles doing his thing.

At the end of the game Ed Hochuli whistled the play dead, killing a Cutler fumble at the ten yard line instead of allowing the Charger fumble recovery. There was no doubt that the Zebras made huge errors; but there is just no way you can give up a TD and the two to follow and say the Bolts didn't have their chances to stop it. It was a pity that bad calls marred what was otherwise a terrific game between two great offenses. Still, I'm going to be sticking pins in my Ed Hochuli doll for some time to come. His quote after the game went like this:

"The ruling on the field was that it was an incomplete pass. We went to replay; it should have been ruled fumble. By rule, by the instant replay rules, on that particular play where there's a pass/fumble, a quarterback pass/fumble the rules do not permit you to give the ball to the other team. All we can do to fix it is put the ball at the spot that it hit the ground, which is why we moved it back to the 10-yard line and the down counts and it becomes third down.''

Pretty dry stuff, I would have liked to see him do a 'mea culpa maxima'; wallow on his belly like a lizard and plead for forgiveness.

Even from a game like this there were a number of positive signs. This offense can light it up; even with a hobbled LT. LT was clearly still bothered by his toe, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, but when they could get Sproles running in space he just ate up a very quick Denver defense. He returned one kickoff for the TD going 103 yards, but also busted two other runs, one for a TD, the other called back for a holding call on Chambers.

vs DEN / 12.28.08 Rushing Receiving
Rush Yards Avg TD Rec Yards Avg TD
Darren Sproles 7 53 7.6 0 2 72 36 1

Phillip Rivers looked completely healthy and played flawlessly under pressure. He did everything necessary to win, throwing long TD's, making crucial third down conversions; his knee appears completely healed. Antonio Gates looked to be his old self, and Chambers was just a monster on the field with 4 catchs for 83 yards and two TDs, one of them he just torched Champ Bailey.

You have to credit Denver's offense, but there is no getting around the fact that there was no pressure whatever on Cutler. Two sacks in two weeks, coupled with a -1 on the turnover ratio is just not going to cut it. This is a game where folks may argue that the Chargers are banged up, but on defense the only player out that they are going to get back this year is Cooper; clearly Merriman's absence leaves a hole that has yet to be filled. Cottrell may end up being forced to blitzing and taking risks more often, as the defense stands now it is the death of a thousand cuts. The rookie Cason continues to impress with some great tackling and a key interception; Jammer also looked good, but Cromartie was just eaten alive by Brandon Marshall; and then tacked bone headed penalties on to boot.

This is a team that has the look so far of the Chargers of old where they are going to have to see if they can put up points faster than they give them up. I do still believe in the talent on defense, but until they find a way to pressure the QB they are going to be giving up territory faster than the French army. Next week they face a revamped Jets team on Monday night, they do not look to me as fierce as they first two opponents turned out to be.