The San Diego Chargers' hopes of reaching the Super Bowl were dashed on Sunday after a 24-17 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. A multitude of things went wrong for the Chargers over the course of the game; however, one thing stood out above the rest: the offensive game plan in the first half.
Philip Rivers and Co. simply could not get it going over the first two quarters of action on Sunday. This was rather shocking due to the fact that head coach Mike McCoy had been able to revamp the offense over the 2013 regular season.
Something seemed off against a suspect Broncos secondary.
Early in the game Rivers was under a heavy amount of pressure. In fact, he was sacked a total of four times over the contest—two of which came on the Chargers' very first drive.
Perhaps it was the pressure that was being applied to the quarterback that made the coaching staff rather conservative with the offense, although they shouldn't have been.
Denver was atrocious over the regular season, ranking 27th in the league against the pass and allowing an average of 254.4 yards per game through the air. This should have been the area for San Diego to attack on Sunday.
So much for those questions about Broncos defense. 45 yards by SD in first half!— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) January 12, 2014
That wasn't the case.
The Chargers relied on short, underneath passing routes to Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown rather than airing it out to explosive rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen. San Diego's wide receivers were seemingly left out of the game plan early on.
For whatever reason, McCoy and Co. decided to run this highly conservative offense well into the second half of play. They did not make the appropriate halftime adjustments and allowed this stagnant play to consume almost a full three quarters of the game.
Once the Chargers finally decided to air it out, the game became quite interesting.
Allen showed that he has the makings of an elite NFL wide receiver. He finished the game with six receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
Keenan Allen is having a HUGE 2nd half -- 6 Rec, 142 Yds, 2 TD. Broncos lead Chargers, 24-17 with 3:53 left. pic.twitter.com/Jhoy3FmiaW— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2014
Now, why would he not be the offense's focal point early and often?
Even Rivers ended the game with some impressive numbers after the offense was finally expanded. He finished the contest completing 18 of 27 passing attempts for 217 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 115.8.
Yes, that was a higher passer rating than what Peyton Manning was able to deliver.
Unfortunately, almost all of Rivers' production came late in the second half.
McCoy is a first-time head coach after serving as an offensive assistant and offensive coordinator for years at the NFL level. It is possible he came out conservative due to his lack of experience as a head coach in playoff situations.
However, he must have known—especially after facing them twice this year—that going up against Manning and the Broncos requires significant offensive firepower.
Of course, there were other factors that came into play which resulted in San Diego's loss. However, none were more blatant than the lackluster offense that appeared in the first half of Sunday's contest.
Hopefully this will be a learning experience for McCoy and the rest of his coaching staff. The Chargers have an immense amount of talent and should not have trouble finding their way into the playoffs once again next season.
For now, it's time for McCoy to concentrate of the offseason and continue to build upon the strong core of the Chargers' roster.