I rewatched the Giants game, intending to write a Winners and Losers article like normal. After rewatching the game, however, I realized that I couldn’t put together a great list. Lots of players had up’s and down’s, and despite getting the win the list of ‘losers’ was a lot bigger than the one of ‘winners.’
Here’s the deal. This is a bad football team. The Giants first TD is proof of that. This was the worst rushing team in the league, but they spent a drive running the ball down the Chargers throat, culminating in a 23-yard rushing TD for Orleans Darkwa (the Giants first rushing TD of the season scored by anyone other than Eli Manning).
Oh my god there is so much wrong with this play pic.twitter.com/jaa4ZFWkQg— Jupjamie (@jupjamie) October 10, 2017
That play is just painful to watch. The entire defense manages to play bad football. The defensive line all get washed out. Hayes Pullard takes a ridiculous angle to the ball and wipes himself out the play. Desmond King misses a chance at a tackle close to the line of scrimmage, and Trevor Williams comes up in run support but overpursues and leaves a wide open path for Darkwa to score. Tre Boston could have stopped him - that’s kind of the deep safety’s job here - but he doesn’t get wide anywhere near quickly enough. Boston slows to a jog expecting King to bring him down, and by the time he realizes Darkwa is heading for paydirt he’s not in a position to make a play. It would be comical if it wasn’t so depressing. This is a talented defense on paper, but the fundamentals are not there. No professional football team should be this bad at the basics.
First play of a new drive after forcing the Giants to punt at midfield. Austin Ekeler gets the ball but Matt Slauson gets driven back right into Ekeler and Joe Barksdale does absolutely nothing to stop his man coming over all the way from the RT spot to clean up the play. Blaming the coaches can only go so far. At some point, your players need to be able to execute basic plays. That puts the Chargers deep into their own territory on 2nd and 12, and there’s not a lot you can do in that situation. An incomplete screen and a thrown away pass, and the Chargers end up punting from their own end zone.
Next drive and they’re starting from their own 3-yard line. Negative run, incomplete pass, Keenan Allen drop on 3rd and 11 (which would have given them the first down). After the opening possession, the Chargers started the following drives on their own 4-yard line, their 10, their 23 (after a kickoff), their 12, and their 3-yard line. They scored one TD - the only time they started outside of the 20 in that spell - gave up a safety, and went 3 and out four times.
With a stretch like that, it’s a miracle the game wasn’t out of reach. An offensive coordinator will split the field into (generally) four sections when calling plays: Their own 0-25 yard line, their 25-yard line to midfield, midfield to the opposing 25-yard line, and the 25-yard line to the goal line. A team might have about 50 plays they want to use in a given week as the ‘core’ part of their playbook, but that shrinks to a whole lot less when you’re consistently starting drives at your own 10-yard line. Wiz was calling the right plays to move the Chargers out of that hole and deeper down the field where he could open up more of the playbook, but the team just weren’t executing them.
On both offense and defense this season, actually executing a play has been a real problem. That’s why they’re 1-4. It’s not injuries, or coaching, or luck. The team is mostly healthy. Anthony Lynn is the right man to lead this team. Gus Bradley still has some head-scratching moments (Hayes Pullard on Odell Beckham? Really?) but he’s also done a great job putting Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa in a position to make big plays. The Chargers have had a reasonable amount of luck this season, too. It simply boils down to the players. If you don’t execute on the field, you don’t win. The Chargers haven’t been executing.
With all that said - I’m still optimistic about this 2017 season. There’s no better tonic than victory, and the Chargers are heading off their first win under Anthony Lynn into a matchup against the Raiders, who will be getting QB play from either E.J. Manuel or an injured, immobile Derek Carr. The Raiders run through Derek Carr, and there’s no better time to play them, as they’ve lost 3 games in a row. Amari Cooper has 3 catches for 23 yards... in the last three games. Their defense is not good. As bad as the Chargers have been, this should be a win.
Two wins on the bounce would really get this team grooving. Mike Williams looks set to debut either this week or next, which will be a major boost to the offense. It looks like they might have finally worked out that Hunter Henry is quite good at this football thing. Denzel Perryman coming back after the bye (hopefully) will be huge, considering he’s a MIKE LB who can actually play as a MIKE LB. The Chargers schedule has some easy games after the bye, and there’s a chance that they can go on a little bit of a late-season run.
I’m not saying the Chargers are going to go on a winning streak and make it to the playoffs - there’s still an awful lot of work to be done, but things are trending in the right direction. This is a talented football team who aren’t playing like one. Problems such as not being able to tackle aren’t going to go away overnight, but the more you practice and actually play games, the more your fundamentals should improve.
At the end of the day, the Chargers are 1-4 because their play hasn’t deserved any better. But even with the fundamentals being as lacking as they have been, Kansas City (who are the best team in the NFL) were the only ones to get a comfortable win over the Chargers. I believe in Anthony Lynn, and I believe in this team.
This season isn’t over.