This game continues to teach me things. Like a penalty at the 1 yard line, moving the ball "half the distance" for maybe 12 inches, can mean the difference between a season spinning out of control and a season that still has some hope.
Going Away From The First Drive Blueprint
Philip Rivers and the Bolts absolutely carved up Pittsburgh's defense on the first drive of the game. 5 plays, 4 of them passes, 3 of those on 1st and 10. As a result, the Bolts scored a TD on their first drive of the game for the first time this season. And then, as this coaching has a tendency to do, what had worked so well disappeared for a long, long time in this game.
4 of the next 5 series started with runs; no points resulted. Yes, I know those drives were completely screwed up by penalties, but here is the other thing. The Steelers showed no ability to stop Antonio Gates over the middle about 8 yards past the LoS. That particular route and combination was not revisited until the final drive of the half. When the Bolts started doing the middle short intermediate again, they started scoring again, but the time spent in penalty hell and trying to establish something that could not be established amounted to offensive suicide.
I said it last week with regards to Gordon and I'll say it again with regards to the game plan this week: Good offense coaches see a weak spot on a defense and attack it. If the opponent's defensive coach has not figured out how to strengthen or cover-up that weak spot, the offense will be successful. When the offense is successful doing "x", the good offensive coach will continue doing "x" until the other can demonstrate that it can stop "x".
For a real world example of this, look at New England. Bellichick, McDaniel, and Brady are absolutely ruthless when it comes to finding and exploiting defensive weaknesses. When those 3 men figure out something that works, they keep doing it. That is how the team can score all 9 times it gets the ball against Jacksonville, 7 out of the 10 times it gets the ball in Buffalo, and currently stand at #3 in scoring offense in the league. That #3 mark is more impressive when you consider that they have played in one less game than the #1 team (Arizona) and #2 team (Atlanta).
WWBBD, Mr. Reich? What Would Bill Bellichick Do indeed...
Losing The Turnover Battle
I understand that if they could catch better, fast guys like that would be wide receivers. Still...some of the most catchable balls that Vick threw on Monday night were nearly right at Charger DB's. Three were dropped; the one that got caught was a Hail Mary as time expired in the first half and meant nothing. The Steelers did not fumble once.
Two good Charger drives were ended with turnovers. One of those turnovers resulted in 7 points to the Steelers. To that point, the Steelers had been held to 3 points. The football gods tried to hand the Chargers several gifts Monday night and the team could not unwrap one of them. Instead they handed the Steelers a gift on a silver platter.
Still Having No Idea What The Team's Identity Is
Five weeks into the season and I have to confess that I still have no clue as to what this team really is. Is it the group of mentally tough and physically gifted playmakers that have the resiliency to come back from an 18 point deficit and score 30 unanswered points? Or is it the team looked like a collection of unmotivated semi-pro players that got run off the field in Minnesota? Perhaps the team, like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, is one in the same with which one being predominant depending upon as yet unknown variables.
The fact that this team seems to be both within the same game is the most troubling. The team looked awful in the first half of the Lions game, the second half of the Vikings game, and performed unevenly throughout the Bengals, Browns, and Steelers games. The 2015 Chargers show flashes of GREAT and flashes of AWFUL in the same game regularly.
The baffling variance in performance was seen again Monday Night. What my own lying eyes saw in that game was the team having long stretches of outplaying the Steelers. The defensive effort was good enough for the win; with the only exceptions to that being one blown coverage and a two-minute drill defense that was reminiscent of the one that collapsed in Tennessee in 2013. It was the offense's turn this time to take a 30 minute (game time) break. That was followed by the defense being AWOL for the last 8 minutes of the game.
The team's inability to play 60 minutes of quality football is a bad thing. Also bad is the inability to play well from one game to the next.