That was a total disaster. It will take us a few days to break down all the ways in which the San Diego Chargers blew that game against the New Orleans Saints, along with all the ways that the refs worked against the Chargers to hand a victory to the Saints.
Let's start with rookie OLB Melvin Ingram. With a 10 point lead and plenty of momentum, Ingram provided pressure up the middle against Drew Brees and Brees threw a pass into the chest of Demorrio Williams (who returned it for a touchdown). Oh, but wait....
Yeah, that's a penalty. You're not allowed to put your head down and drive the "crown" of your helmet into the QB (and you're definitely not allowed to do it right under their chin). The best part is that he didn't need to do it at all. He could've very easily just lead with his shoulder and the outcome would've been the same (without the penalty/heartbreak). The 7 points for the Chargers were taken off the board, the Saints got the ball back (and moved 15 yards closer to the San Diego end zone) and quickly figured out that Marques Colston could not be covered by Antoine Cason.
The rest of he night was a comedy of errors. Ryan Mathews, who was averaging more than 7.7 yards per touch, warmed up a spot on the bench. Philip Rivers did his best, but every pass completed for more than 10 yards was called back due to phantom calls that even the NBC announcers were ashamed of. The Chargers defense couldn't help Cason with Colston without opening up space for the Saints' running game and Darren Sproles.
This is why the New Orleans Saints scored the last 17 points of the game and won. You're probably not going to win a game in which your opponent scores the last 17 points of the game, and tonight was no different.
Everyone deserves criticism. The pass-rush was non-existent in the second half, which didn't help the secondary (which looked terrible). The offensive line was dominated, and Jared Gaither ended the night by limping around while letting anyone who wanted to get to Rivers get there easily. The running game didn't cross Norv's mind after the first half. Philip Rivers was sacked more than a few times instead of throwing the ball away, and knocked the team out of FG range twice with that song and dance.
The receivers! And Gates. They don't deserve criticism. They played well, all of them. Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal all played very well. Even Ronnie Brown and Dante Rosario played well as receivers when they were in there. I mean, they were going against what is probably the worst secondary in the entire NFL, but they played well against them.
Ryan Mathews too, who was banished to the bench simply because Ronnie Brown is the new Mike Tolbert (the RB when Norv decides he doesn't want to run anymore). He was great running the ball and catching the ball, making big plays, avoiding turnovers and generally getting more yards than an average running game would get every time he touched the ball.
We'll have much more coverage tomorrow, but this was a big step back for a Chargers team that had really high hopes before this game. It wasn't that they lost to a good team, it was that they were in control and handed the game to the other team. Good teams don't do that.