Chargers vs. Vikings: Poor Pass Protection and Penalties Plague San Diego in Win

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystAugust 25, 2012

Aug 24, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jasper Brinkley (54) sacks San Diego Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (6) for a 3 yard loss in the second quarter at the Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE
Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Nick Novak squeezed a 45-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give the San Diego Chargers a 12-10 victory in Minnesota and a 3-0 preseason record.

Three preseason victories do not mask an ugly preseason for the Chargers. Friday night's game featured bad pass blocking, bad run blocking and 14 penalties. 

San Diego's offensive line was atrocious without Jared Gaither, Tyronne Green and Nick Hardwick. Jared Allen and Jasper Brinkley had two sacks each, and the Minnesota Vikings combined for six total sacks. The poor pass protection lead to a poor passing game, as Charlie Whitehurst and Jarrett Lee had almost no time to deliver the ball to receivers that happened to get themselves open. 

The running game didn't get going either, and the Chargers had just 78 rushing yards on 28 carries. The running backs averaged a combined 2.5 yards per carry. Ronnie Brown had just one carry without Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates in the lineup. The entire offense might as well have just stayed in San Diego. 

It's not all that unexpected for the offense to struggle against a good Vikings defense without Rivers, Gates, Gaither, Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown and Ryan Mathews. Norv Turner knows offense, and he'll figure out how to get production with the pieces he still has available, but he clearly sensed that another injury or two on offense could make his job nearly impossible. That's why Rivers and Gates did not play.

As you might expect from a game that featured just one touchdown, it was a defensive-oriented game. The only touchdown was scored with four minutes to play in the fourth quarter. That's actually good news for a Chargers team that is trying to pair a good defense with what was expected to be a good offense.

The Chargers held the Vikings' starters to just three points and had five sacks of their own. Larry English had two sacks and the Chargers first- and second-round picks, Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes, each had one. 

With no Adrian Peterson, the Chargers also had no trouble stopping the run and allowed only 3.3 yards per carry and 90 rushing yards to the Vikings' running backs. The Chargers allowed opponents to rush for 4.4 yards per carry last year.

Perhaps the most concerning thing for Turner was the penalties. The Chargers had 14 penalties for 96 yards against the Vikings, and that makes it 23 penalties this preseason. Over eight penalties per game would put the Chargers in the top five in penalties committed. The Chargers were among the most disciplined teams in 2011, and the spike in mental errors has to concern the coaching staff.

The mental errors were not confined to just the players. Turner called a timeout to ice the kicker at the end of the first half in a preseason game, leaving many to scratch their head. It would be odd if Turner needed the practice of icing the kicker considering he didn't feel it was important enough of a preseason game to play all his offensive starters. 

The Chargers' victory came on the back of four field goals, including two that were 50 yards or longer and the 45-yard game winner, and they can't feel good about how this preseason has gone.

Injuries and poor offensive production have been an issue. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Chargers get off to one of their characteristically slow starts and come back strong once Mathews, Brown and Gaither return to action at some future date.