Monday night was a disaster — except for the $2.00 homebrews I discovered at the dive bar near my house in New York! May account for my record tweeting binge between the hours of 8:30 and 11:00 EST. But I digress..
As to the Chargers, there’s room to be thankful after that debacle. I said it. Two things good come out of Monday night: (a) the Chargers identified a foundation for success; and (b) they also identified where they have to improve.
First, room for optimism:
— The defense pretty much stalled the Denver running game start to finish. I have been high on this group under this coordinator from the start. Absent a few gashes by McGahee in the second half, the front seven played disciplined, tough football. Kudos.
— Every member of the defense does a great job of breaking down and tackling and going for the strip. Denver was lucky not to fumble more, given the way Chargers’ relentless swipes at the ball.
— Weddle and Bigby fly to the ball in run support.
— Demorrio Williams should have had an Int last week and a sack this week, both negated by penalties. Might be the best backup linebacker in the League.
— Mathews showed his burst, toughness, and protected the ball.
— Malcolm Floyd continues to elevate his game. He will be a true elite threat before his next contract expires.
As apparent as those positives should be to anyone watching the game, the negatives are just as clear. I contend that’s a good thing.
— Jammer is just slow and lacks a certain nose for the ball. As heartening as it was to see that interception, it is all to rare for him to get the best of a quarterback like that. He tends to survive on just not getting beat very often — which he did on the previous play (although it looked like he was expecting safety help over the top) and at other times throughout the game. Cason is not much better, btw.
— The O-line is awful, particularly in pass protection. As I’ve tweeted, the Chargers have chronically neglected the offensive line in the draft, and it shows: other than Hardwick, the starting five against Denver did not boast a draft pick higher than the third round. Rivers had to cut short his drop half the time and the rest he was throwing with someone in his lap. Mike Harris, the cause for everyone’s fretting at the beginning of the year, might be the most talented of anyone — he jumped out the catch a blitzing safety I thought he’d never get to before the play started. Jeromey Clary, five or ten years his senior and much better compensated, cannot say the same. He fights very, very hard — and still gets manhandled or beat around the corner routinely.
— The receivers as a crew do not fight for the ball and have too many drops. Gates also showed some surprising immaturity in his scuffle with safety Mike Adams in the third quarter and his obvious pick-move on the crossing route. Vincent Brown will improve this unit a lot.
— Norv Turner exposed himself yet again as a coach who cannot make in-game adjustments and does not have the ear of his team. Up 24-0 at the half, the Chargers should have made every conceivable effort to avoid putting Phillip Rivers in the position to throw the ball. That is the time to get conservative, to buck the too-often-cited refrain. NFL teams win something like 75% of games when leading at the half — let alone with a 24-point lead. Jackie Battle should have seen a lot more runs up the gut.
You could also see that Norv lacked the pulse of his team, and they knew it. Norv walks right up and starts jawing at Rivers after he threw his fifth interception, and Rivers just waves him off without even looking his way. It shows Rivers is petulant, and Norv garners no respect on that team. The time for a change has long passed.
…and the Debate is starting! I will get to Rivers in my next post.