The bye week was supposed to give the San Diego Chargers time to sort through their issues and make the necessary adjustments for the second half of the season. Instead, the Chargers' issues were magnified in a 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns. It was a game the Chargers weren’t supposed to lose.
The only thing the Chargers really accomplished over the bye week was getting healthy. Thankfully, the Chargers get a Thursday game against the floundering Kansas City Chiefs and an extended break before Week 10, which gives them time to further evaluate their problems.
The passing game has been a big issue and something is wrong with Philip Rivers. It’s the second season in a row Rivers has struggled. A.J. Smith and Norv Turner are on the hot seat largely because they expected Rivers to bounce back and he hasn’t. In their defense, a franchise quarterback performing so poorly at age 30 is almost unprecedented in the modern era and it really puts the Chargers in a unique situation.
One of the biggest issues for the Chargers has been the ability to throw deep. About one out of every five passes Rivers has thrown deep (19.2 percent), but he’s completing just 30.6 percent of his deep attempts.
As you can imagine, the loss on the road to the Browns dropped the Chargers in several statistical categories. The offense dropped between two and eight spots across the board with the only exceptions being sacks and interceptions. The Chargers now have the 21st ranked passing offense, 23rd ranked rushing offense and 25th ranked offense total.
The pass defense improved slightly, but with almost no pass rush opponents are going to continue to move the ball on the Chargers. The Chargers have given up a lot of completions and first downs this season through the air and that’s not something that is likely to get better overnight.
Trent Richardson became the first player to rush for over 100 yards on the Chargers, but the performance hardly registered and the Chargers actually climbed a spot in the rankings. San Diego’s run defense has been one of the best and ranks in the top six in nearly every significant category.
The run defense has been good enough that the Chargers might consider switching out some personnel groupings to further help the passing game. Only a couple rushing teams remain on the schedule and it would be a good time to start considering how to stop passing offenses like Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
The Chargers look like a flawed team with a mediocre offense that could occasionally recapture the magic against weaker opponents that are unable to take advantage of their week pass defense. That’s been true in three of the Chargers’ losses as Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have exploited the San Diego secondary and led their teams to victory.
The stats support the observations about the team with only one small exception. The Chargers should be getting more passing yardage with how many completions Rivers has thrown. Either the Chargers will start gaining more yards or Rivers’ completion percentage will be next in line to regress.
The Injury Report
The Chargers announced that they have placed returner Richard Goodman on injured reserve and released Nate Kaeding. Both moves were expected. The Chargers are relatively healthy and have been since healing up over the bye week in Week 7.
On Tuesday, Eddie Royal didn’t participate in practice. Royal is a candidate to replace Goodman on kickoffs and punts. If he can’t go the Chargers will have to turn to Chris Carr, Antoine Cason or Eric Weddle to fill in on punt and kick returns.
Carr was also limited in practice, which doesn’t give the Chargers much time to consider who will be the primary return on Thursday night. The only other player that was limited was Robert Meachem, but the injury seems like it’s probably minor.
When and if Vincent Brown ever returns from injured reserve, the Chargers might be able to open up the deep passing game once again.