Fans of the Chargers are waking up from a six game win streak hangover today. Most are probably wondering where that hot chick that they crashed with last night is and who snuck this ugly lady into their bed.
Oh yeah. Sunday felt that bad. The Chargers laid an egg against the Broncos on Sunday. What really stings here is not just that they lost, but how they lost. The dreams of home field advantage for the playoffs are out the freaking window. The hopes of winning the AFC West are smashed to pieces.
It will be a difficult road to the Super Bowl for the Chargers. Here is why they will not make it:
Lack of discipline
This has been a mark of the Chargers for the last decade. They have had plenty of talent but they never seem to get out of their own way. Sunday was no different as the Chargers committed 14 penalties for a total of 120 yards. The most harmful ones came in the first quarter when penalties single-handedly stalled two drives and the Chargers had to settle for field goals.
Then there was the end-of-game meltdown. Melvin Gordon ran the wrong way on second and three. If he hadn’t, the Chargers would have run the ball on third down. Even if they didn’t get a first down, they would have run 40 more seconds off the clock. However, one mistake led to another. On third and seven the Broncos sniffed out the screen, and Rivers chucked it into the dirt instead of scrambling or taking a sack, which gave the Broncos 40 seconds of much needed time.
You need to focus when it matters most, and the Chargers have lacked this discipline for a long time.
Poor special teams play
The season started with a Tyreek Hill punt return for a touchdown. Later that game, the Chargers fumbled a punt that the Chiefs turned into a touchdown. Then Caleb Sturgis took center stage. The Chargers, in what could be considered one of the most bizarre football moves in the last decade, fired their punter. It comes as no big surprise that this didn’t solve the problem. One of the Chargers’ top goals at the end of last season was to fix their kicker problem, but now they have regressed and need to fix their punter problem and their kicker problem.
The Chargers did catch a bit of luck on special teams when they moved Desmond King into the punt returner role. However, in true Charger fashion they have mysteriously replaced him with Travis Benjamin who has historically made poor decisions in returning punts.
Special teams has been a problem for the Chargers for too long of a time. I know George Stewart is a good friend of Anthony Lynn, but I’d rather Lynn have a friendly beer with him on the weekend than ask him to run the special teams unit.
Strange personnel decisions
If you thought getting rid of Caleb Sturgis would have removed the elephant from the room, you were wrong. Jahleel Addae is the new elephant. You only need to look at two big plays from the Chargers game to see why.
On Phillip Lindsay’s 41-yard touchdown scamper, Addae was playing 15+ yards deep and yet he failed to see Lindsay come straight up the middle of the field. He was one-on-one with him with a 15-yard head start and he failed to get within 5 yards of Lindsay.
The other play is Keenum’s pass to Sanders on the final drive. After the completion, Addae totally whiffed the tackle, which allowed Sanders to pick up an additional 25 yards. This play was similar to the whiff that Addae made in the Titans game on their last drive of the game which allowed Lewis to run for 36 yards.
The knock on Addae is he takes bad angles, he misses tackles, he has poor tackling fundamentals, he is always lunging instead of keeping his feet and wrapping someone up, he is poor in coverage and he does not have good speed. Yet for some reason, he still plays 100% of the defensive snaps. I do not see how Adrian Phillips could be any worse. My only guess is that someone is trying to save face because they gave Addae a fat contract.
You can also put Travis Benjamin on this list. The team was better when he was inactive. He has been back the last two weeks taking offensive snaps from Mike Williams and punt returning duties from Desmond King. A downgrade at both positions.
Poor play calling
I am not sure how the wide receiver screen is even on the table when you are facing third down and seven yards. The wide receiver screen is one of those all-or-nothing plays. It’s a gadget. You use it on first down to catch a team off guard. When you need seven yards, you put the ball in the hands of one of your best players, Philip Rivers. You give him protection and time to make a good decision. With Allen, Williams, Williams, Ekeler and Gordon as possible threats it seems that odds would be in the Chargers’ favor to get one of them open and make a completion.
The problem with Whisenhunt is that sometimes he tries to trick the other team instead of just lining up and saying, “We are better than you. Here it comes. Try to stop us.”
The Chargers were the better team on Sunday but they tricked themselves into a loss. During their six-game winning streak the Chargers might have been able to hide their blemishes, but they showed them on Sunday. The Chargers’ road to the Super Bowl will go through Pittsburgh, Kansas City and New England. It will be a tough task for the Chargers to hide their blemishes under the bright lights of those stadiums.