Jacoby and the Rest of the "Special" Teams
I heard an interesting stat during the game Sunday. "The Chargers average starting field position is the 21 yard line, which is the worst in the NFL." Yep. And guess what? It got worse yesterday. Check it out: The Chargers gained possession of the football 12 times against Oakland. They started on the: 11, 20, 20, 16, 8, 20, 20, 18, 15, 17, 20, 20/12 = 17.08 average starting position. Needing to go 83 yards to get a TD and 50 to have a legit shot at a FG is not easy in the NFL.
Take a look at the bolded numbers. That is where the Chargers began a possession after Jacoby Jones elected to return a kick-off caught deep in the end zone instead of just taking a knee. Getting the ball at the 20 in each of those situations would have meant 27 more yards for the Chargers to play around with Sunday. It doesn't sound like much, but it is the small decisions, the details, the little things that may look miniscule to the casual fan that adds up to wins or losses when football is played as a profession.
This speaks again to coaching. I have always heard that unless it is a few seconds until half time, or your team is in a desperate situation at the END of a game, a returner takes a knee if he gets a kick more than 5 yards deep in the end zone. Perhaps Jones is smarter than anyone else on the field and knew that the Bolts were in a desperate situation from the time they ran out of the tunnel, but I don't think so. My own opinion was that these were dumb decisions made by a professional that should know better. As such, it is another symptom of the illness afflicting this team in 2015.
Verrett and the Half---sed Dropback
The Bolts defense finally had a chance to get off the field without allowing any points the fifth time the Raiders had the ball. After sending Flowers on a blitz that resulted in a sack, then tackling Murray after a mere 3 yard gain, the Raiders faced a 3rd and 14 on their 49 yard line. Any gain not resulting in a first down was going to be outside of Janikowski's range and the Raiders would have punt. With the score at 20-3, the Bolts really needed a stop. It didn't happen, but it should have.
Verrett was on Cooper all day and this play was no exception. As the ball was snapped, Verrett was giving a 10 yard cushion to Cooper. No problem; the Raiders needed 14. Cooper ran right by Verrett who did not break out his backpedal until Cooper was already past him. Cooper located the pass - a hanging, floating mortar shot by Carr, the kind of ball (the "late throw over the middle") that begs to intercepted or knocked down, got position in front of Jimmy Wilson and waited...
...for a long time. Eventually, Cooper high pointed the ball and made a 44 yard reception. The pass should have been knocked down or picked off by the "lock-down" corner on the Bolts roster. Watching the game, I saw Verrett not run at full speed to recover the blown coverage downfield.
Perhaps Verrett knew that he had deep help on a post route. Maybe he just misjudged the play or did not locate the ball and see that there was a play to be made. Either way, a corner in man coverage needs to stick with his assignment. Even if the concept was zone on that play (the single high safety suggests that it was not), recognition is critical. Nobody was coming under Cooper. The danger was the guy running past you. That means that you put max effort to recover against a receiver that is in a voided area or working in front of your safety, but past the down marker. What I think I saw though was young player that said "___ it, I've got help there" for a couple of seconds and basically jogged after his assignment.
I am trying to think of one Charger player on Sunday that did not have at least one play of "aww, to hell with this" and I can't bring one to mind now. Maybe Oliver or Woodhead. But even El Capitan in the middle of the 3rd quarter had a moment when he clearly did not want to be playing football right then and there; his facial expression and body language were unmistakable. To his credit, he did snap out of it and played his tail off in the 4th quarter. I would hope that Pagano or Weddle rips Verrett a new one looking at the game tape, because the half----sed effort just can't happen when you are a professional.
Another Road Game in Mission Valley
Yes, San Diego is a town where a lot of people come from elsewhere. Yes, a lot of those that come from elsewhere are current or former military (thank you all for your service!) or are just chasing the dream of a better life in CA. Or maybe you live elsewhere in CA or AZ if you've got to drive a few hours to see a football game, there are much worse places to end up at then SD.
With that said, I believe that the Bolts playing 10 or more road games every season is unacceptable. Season Ticket holders, I am looking at you. There were 56,000+ season tickets sold prior to the start of the season. What that tells me is that there should be no more than 10,000 people at any Bolts game wearing the visiting team's colors and that those people should be in the crappiest seats in the stadium, spread out all over the place and outnumbered 5-1 by Charger faithful. Is that what we TV viewers saw in the Steeler and Oakland games? No...
There were rows, blocks, nearly entire sections playing early Halloween wearing knock off Goth crap on Sunday. A lot of you 56,000 decided once again to recoup your costs on the tickets by getting Steeler or Raider fans to overpay for some single games out of your plan. Kind of like last year with the Raider and Patriot games.
Before I continue, let me tell you straight up; I get it. The high cost of living in SoCal had me relocate to an area of the country where my single income could buy a home and a decent lifestyle for a family. Season Tickets, plus parking, a couple of beverages, food; all of it, I know it adds up. Not to mention some of the extra-currica-peccadillos that can happen at a Raider game. I am sure that the opportunity to pay for 5 or 6 games by auctioning a couple of games of tix on the web is pretty tempting.
But hey, if you buy the season ticket that implies a level of support and responsibility. If you can't afford all of the tickets, team up with somebody, throw the tickets into a hat and draw which games you go to. Sell a game or two worth of tickets to friends and co-workers that you know love the Bolts. Give tickets away as presents or early Christmas gifts (my friends and family did this for me for YEARS - MY FAVORITE PRESENTS OF ALL!). At the very least, there are charities such as churches or disadvantaged youth programs that would LOVE to be able to send their clients (or even staff) to a football game and give you a nice tax deduction at the very least.
If you NEED to sell your tickets to be to afford them, please do not sell tickets to a divisional game or an opponent like Pittsburgh or Chicago, as the market forces driving the price to tempting levels means that a lot of folks who don't normally go to a Charger game want to all of sudden for some strange reason (HELLO! HINT HINT! the guy that wants to buy your $75 seat for $300 ain't interested in putting on his powder blue #21 Jersey and cheering on the Bolts). If you really can't afford your season tickets without dealing out a few games, maybe a review of your life choices is needed.
I'm getting sick of hearing chants of "defense! defense!" when Rivers is waiting for a snap in Qualcom. I'm already dreading the Bears game. If it is anything like the typical Cubs game against the Padres...blech. If you want to know why the team looked flat against the Raiders, one reason might involve coming out of the tunnel and getting booed by half of their "home" stadium.