If there is one team in the NFL that really needs a bye week, it’s the San Diego Chargers. After blowing two straight second-half leads on national television, it is time for the Chargers to sit back and figure out exactly what is causing them to struggle in the second half of football games.
The bye week comes at a perfect time for the Bolts, who are struggling in areas on both sides of the ball. With three of their next four games on the road and two of those in the Eastern time zone, the Chargers need to improve on the little things that will make these tough upcoming games much easier.
The Chargers head into the bye week at 3-3 and tied for first place in the AFC West. The loss to the Broncos makes the road to an AFC West title harder, but when have the Chargers done things to make their playoff aspirations easy?
Here is a list of adjustments that the Chargers must make if they want to make their dream of winning the AFC West a reality.
I’m not sure what exactly happened between the 2010 and the 2011 season, but something is wrong with Philip Rivers. Rivers was brilliant in the 2010 season; he threw for 4,710 yards and 30 touchdowns while just throwing 13 interceptions.
That season propelled him into the “elite quarterbacks” discussion, and many experts picked Rivers as one of the top four quarterbacks in the league.
Then in 2011 it seemed to go all out the window for Rivers, who had a miserable year. He still threw for 4,624 yards but he turned the ball over 27 times, which beat his career high by six (2007).
Rivers has kept up the same trend in 2012. He has already thrown nine interceptions and fumbled the ball five times. Rivers is holding onto the ball too long, and when he does have time he forces the ball into terrible areas of the field.
Rivers needs to use this bye week to figure out why he keeps on putting himself and his teammates in terrible situations. While Rivers has not had a stable offensive line for the past two seasons, most of his turnovers against the Broncos and the Saints came when Rivers had time to get rid of the ball but instead forced it and was intercepted.
If the Chargers want to make the playoffs in 2012, they need better play from Rivers, who is on pace for 36 turnovers this season.
The bye week offers teams many different options. Some teams use it to get rested or to get over the injury bug, but Rivers and the Chargers need to use the bye week to dissect Rivers' play and get to the bottom of why he has turned into a turnover machine. If things with Rivers don’t turn around, he and his teammates will bring in 2013 on the golf course.
The deep ball has been burning the Chargers for most of the season. The problem doesn’t just lie with one player, although Antoine Cason and Marcus Gilchrist have not had great individual seasons.
The problem is with the communication between the corners and the safeties, mainly Atari Bigby. Bigby is often the lone safety back with Eric Weddle playing much closer to the line of scrimmage.
Watching the games, it is obvious that the corners and the safeties are either having communication errors or they just don’t know the playbook.
In the Denver game, Jammer dropped into a zone, leaving Eric Decker wide open for a big play. On the replay you can see the confusion between Jammer and Bigby. The Chargers defense is one of the top units in the league but they need to cut down on the giving up deep passes if they want to win more games.
The front seven of this defense has been carrying the team through the first six weeks of the season, and if the Chargers want to take that next step they need to improve their secondary. It’s not that they are not talented enough to do so, they just all need to get on the same page—something that can easily be done over the bye week.
This one falls on the whole coaching staff, not just Norv Turner. The Chargers coaching staff needs to be able to make adjustments to their game plan throughout the game. The game will change and momentum will swing and right now the Chargers are not able to adapt.
For example, the Chargers came out against the Saints and ran the exact game plan that they were running when they went up by 14 on the Saints in the third quarter. However, when the Saints changed what they were doing and began getting Marques Colston into open space the Chargers did not change anything they were running.
The result: nine catches on 18 targets for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Fast-forward to last Monday night. The Chargers absolutely crushed the Broncos in the first half. John Fox, head coach of the Broncos, changed his offensive game plan to make sure Peyton Manning was able to find multiple short passes which then opened up the down field looks.
Norv Turner and his staff were unable to catch up, and the result was a complete blowout in the second half and a loss for the Chargers.
The first thing that the coaching staff must do during the bye week is figure out how they are going to adjust during games.
Whether its making multiple game plans or studying film in order to be able anticipate the changes that opposing coaching will make as the game goes on. It is the coaches’ job to be prepared for the game on Sunday and that preparation much include having a backup plan for when its time to make adjustments during games.
It is unacceptable for a NFL team to be as one-dimensional as the Chargers are now. If the Chargers want to become serious contenders in the AFC they must be prepared like a contender.
One of the areas that has been the most disappointing for the Chargers this year is the play of their receivers.
The top two receivers, Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem, have totaled just three touchdowns through the first six games of the season. Quite a difference from last year, when Vincent Jackson had three touchdowns and two games with over 100 yards receiving in the first six games last year. Floyd and Meachem have reached 100 yards just twice combined.
It is obvious that Rivers is struggling with the absence of Jackson in 2012. Teams have recognized this and have tightened up coverage on tight end Antonio Gates, who is by far Rivers' favorite target in 2012. If one of the receivers can step up and be a constant threat, it will open up the offense in a whole new way.
Rivers needs to spend extra time during the bye week with both Norv Turner and his two top receivers, so that they can all get on the same page. Rivers needs his receivers to step up more than ever, with a weak offensive line Rivers can’t hang in the pocket for an extended amount of time so his receivers need to run routes that will open them up quickly.
Turner needs to everybody on the offense on the same page that that they can open up a much more diverse playbook and it all starts with the receivers ability to get open.