The 2010 season is upon us and the Minnesota Vikings predictably fell to the New Orleans Saints.
What is not predictable, however, is whether the Chargers will perform well against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
Under Norv Turner, the Chargers have gone 2-1 on opening day, but in terms of performing up to expectations they’ve gone 0-3.
It’s been a 2-3 start for San Diego every year under Norv, but the Chargers have finished a combined 21-0 to end those three potentially disastrous seasons, winning the AFC West title in all three seasons and frustrating the perennially second place Denver Broncos (and the Bronco Nation) in the process.
In 2007, coming off of a 14-2 season under former head coach Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers were supposed to blow away the competition. They opened the season against the defending NFC Champion Chicago Bears.
Off season smack talk centered around a LaDainian Tomlinson Nike commercial had both teams fired up. In what turned out to be a foreshadowing of the first month of the season, the Charger offense could barely get out of it’s own way.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was completely ineffective, rushing for 25 yards on 17 carries, but he dazzled the Bears with both a rushing and passing touchdown.
It was only dazzling due to the fact that the bad Rex Grossman-led Bears were lucky to end the game with the 3 points they did.
This game set NFL offenses back nine decades.
In 2008, the Chargers suffered through a rebuilding year as their two cornerstones, defensive tackle Jamal Williams and Tomlinson, began to show their age. The NFL kings of stopping the run and running the ball were dethroned by younger players on other teams and the Chargers win/loss record suffered as a result.
To open the 2008 season, the Chargers welcomed the supposedly overmatched Carolina Panthers who proceeded to march up and down the Qualcomm turf like the 1999 St. Louis Rams in the first half.
Carolina dominated the first half time of possession battle. Well, that’s if you call the Dream Team verses Angola a battle.
All Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman attempted to play through torn ligaments, which made no sense to anyone but himself. He was injured and out for the season early in the game. As was the case with the Chargers in those days, no Shawne Merriman, no defense.
Hot off of his stunning playoff performance the year before, Rivers continued to flourish as he made several amazing plays to come back from a 19-10 deficit to lead the Chargers to a 24-19 lead, forcing Jake Delhomme (in the swan song of his career) to lead the Panthers to a TD on the final possession to win the game.
Delhomme channelled his inner Joe Montana as he tossed the game winning touchdown pass to tight end Dante Rosario as time expired, robbing Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson of a game winning touchdown of his own.
In 2009, the Chargers returned to Oakland for a Monday Night showdown with the Raiders for the second time in four years. The assumption was that the Chargers would hand out another beating to the Raider Nation.
However, the Nation had other plans. The Bolts suffered a verbal beatdown from the Black Hole and a physical beat down from the Raiders on the field.
The shockingly hard hitting Raiders knocked five Charger starters out of the game.
The sluggish Charger run defense was once again a non-factor to open the season as Raider running backs repeatedly high stepped down the field untouched. However, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot by allowing JaMarcus Russell to throw the ball on running downs.
The gift from the Raiders coaching staff allowed the Chargers to adjust their game plan and the Raiders offense began to sputter.
While the Raiders never ran more than a few plays on the Chargers side of the field in the second half, the desperate Raiders went for it on 4th and 15 from their own 42 yard line.
Too much time for Philip Rivers and company.
In what has become a formality in close games against Oakland, Philip Rivers marched the Chargers 89 yards with running back Darren Sproles capping off the drive with a surprise draw play for the game winning touchdown.
In 2010, for the sixth straight year, the Chargers will play a supposedly inferior opponent and once again that opponent brings an unquestionably superior rushing attack.
The Charger defense has been very slow to come to the table in the last two seasons. Especially against the run. If it happens again, the upstart Chiefs will be looking to take advantage of the situation.
The only season opener under Norv Turner in which the Charger defense has come to play was against the Chicago Bears and that was an absolute grudge match against what was thought to be the elite team of the NFC.
In the Chiefs, the Chargers find themselves facing an opponent that they outscored 80-21 in two games last season and the games weren’t as close as the score indicates.
There is no motivation for the Chargers to come out of the gate with fire.
There is no Marty Schottenheimer soliloquy so elegantly and passionately recited to put a jolt in the Bolts either.
Not so for Kansas City.
The Chiefs are playing the four time defending AFC West Champions at a newly remodeled, sold out home stadium with a young fiery team that ended a horrendous 2009 season by dominating the rival Denver Broncos.
Knocking the Broncos out of the playoffs in the process.
They will be ready for the Bolts. Recent history tells us that the Bolts will not be ready for the Chiefs.
The first half is a potential trouble spot for San Diego.
The Chargers have not gone to halftime with the lead on opening day since the days of Schottenheimer, but they have not been outscored in the second half during that time period either.
The Kansas City rushing attack may catch the Chargers defense out of position in the first quarter, but I expect the Chargers to begin controlling the game midway through the second quarter.