I recently wrote an article about the lack of focus on the Chargers, due to the lacking leadership of Norv Turner, which was yet another about face on my part regarding the much maligned San Diego Chargers head coach. I'll admit that I've changed my mind many times about him. Now he must be fired. I have never seen a team so unfocused in my life.
Keep in mind that the Chargers turned the ball over four times in the first half and still almost tied the game at the end against the New England Patriots.
I decided to follow the previous article up with an account of the mental errors made by the team to see if my rant on San Diego's lack of focus was justified or not. The result was incredible. The Chargers made at least twenty colossal unforced errors.
- The first mistake was Norv Turner's call to attempt a poorly executed 'surprise onsides' kick. The unwarranted desperation move, made with a 3-0 lead, was the first step in a comedy of errors, giving the Patriots excellent field position.
- The Chargers defense stuffed the Patriots, but Kris Wilson fumbled the ball at the Chargers' 21 yard line and the Patriots weren't even attempting to strip the ball. Common sense tells you to protect the football deep in your own territory.
- Antwan Applewhite received a hands to the face penalty and gave the Patriots an automatic first down inside the Chargers ten yard line.
- Later in the sequence, Eric Weddle attempted to knock a Patriots receiver out instead of wrapping him up. The receiver broke the "tackle" and turned a one yard loss into a five yard gain to the Chargers' one yard line. Easy touchdown for the Patriots. They led 7-3 over the Bolts.
- Philip Rivers threw a laser to rookie receiver Richard Goodman for a huge gain. Forgetting that he is no longer in college, Goodman got up untouched leaving the football on the ground as the veteran Patriots dove on the ball. More gimmie points for the Patriots made it 10-3.
- Running back Mike Tolbert dropped an easy reception in the second quarter.
- Rivers checked down to fullback Jacob Hester, but Hester couldn't make the catch. Swatting the ball forward, he walked back to the huddle. The only problem was the pass was (incorrectly) ruled a lateral. The Patriots pounced on the ball and high stepped down the field, forcing Rivers to make a touchdown saving tackle. I have never in my life seen an NFL player not try to dive on a near lateral. That was pathetic.
- Sensing he needed to make a play, Rivers forced a jump ball pass to Patrick Crayton against perfect coverage. The pass was easily intercepted. In Rivers' defense, he probably knew that even if it was intercepted, it was far enough down the field not to do much harm. However, it was San Diego's fourth straight drive that ended in a turnover. That's letting the other team off the hook.
- On a second down play, Ryan Mathews caught a quick pass from Rivers. If he'd run straight up the field or at a slight angle, he would have likely picked up the first down. Instead, he ran sideways and gained three yards.
- On the next play, Mathews dropped a perfect pass on third and 2 in the second half with time winding down.
- On the ensuing punt, Hester attempted to tackle Patriots return man Julian Edelman by the neck. After easily evading Hester's attempt at a tackle, Edelman raced 39 yards to midfield.
- Even so, the Chargers defense stopped the Patriots again. That is, until Antoine Cason was called for a ridiculous pass interference penalty. The ball wasn't close to being catchable, but Cason's armbar defense gave the official no choice but to make the call. Tom Brady thanked Cason for the free points, and the Patriots led 13-3.
- The bungling continued in the second half. The Chargers were seemingly on their way to another stop of the Patriots offense, until Antonio Garay was called for a stupid personal foul penalty on 3rd and eight. The referees allowed both guys to get in a shot after the play, but Garay had to land a definitive blow. The officials were once again forced to make a call they clearly didn't want to make. The Patriots proceeded to march down the field to take a 17 point lead, 20-3.
- With the Chargers driving and trying to close a seventeen point gap, Rivers mishandled a perfect shotgun snap when he took his eyes off the football for a loss of six yards.
- Later on, Rivers uncharacteristically lost seven yards when he needlessly scrambled to avoid the rush when the offensive line had everybody blocked. The score was then 20-6 after a field goal.
- After Rivers threw a pass behind a wide open Buster Davis on first down, he hit a wide open Patrick Crayton on third down, only to have the ball dropped. Crayton redeemed himself with a huge fourth down catch on the next play.
- Following a Patriots field goal, tight end Antonio Gates had a chance at a fourth quarter touchdown. The ball hit him in the facemask and was almost intercepted. Tolbert saved the day with a one yard touchdown run. The Chargers pulled to within ten points, 23-13.
- The Chargers scored another touchdown to pull to within 3 points after being down 17 in the second half. Predictably, kicker Kris Brown drove the kickoff out of bounds to give the Patriots the ball on the 40 yard line. The Chargers defense stuffed the Patriots yet again. Unbelievably, the Chargers had the ball with the score 23-20 with under two minutes left.
- Crayton continued the laughable errors as he dropped the ball on 1st & ten; a catch would have resulted in at least a ten yard gain, and it proved to be crucial, as the Chargers only managed to move the ball another three yards after the gaffe.
- With the game on the line and an incredible comeback ensuing, the Chargers lined up for a 45 yard field goal attempt. The inevitable happened, Louis Vasquez was called for a false start penalty. On the 50 yard field goal that followed, the Patriots came extremely close to blocking the kick. Instead, Brown hit the right upright and the ball bounced to the outside rather than the inside of the goal post. Gee, what a shock.
Give LaDainian Tomlinson his due. He blamed Norv Turner as the reason for his decline and I finally believe that he was right. The defense made a mistake here and there, but Norv Turner's offense is a mess.
The Patriots are clearly less talented than the Chargers, but still walked out with a victory. The Chargers need to get back to basics on offense. Tomlinson has said it, I've said, and you've probably said it: Norv just doesn't get it. The offense is out there doing too much instead of what they do best. Things need to be simplified.
I've heard people try to blame Chargers general manager AJ Smith for this debacle of a season. Smith is only to blame if he does nothing about this. Norv has got to go. This team should be 7-0 with seven emphatic wins; instead, a total lack of focus has resulted in five comical losses. How can the Chargers beat any team while making this many mental errors? The team is not focused at all.
The Chargers have been in position to win or tie EVERY game they've lost this season, and have let mistakes derail four of them at the end. The other was against Kansas City, who would like to take this time to thank Norv for passing the ball in the rain instead running in for an easy touchdown at the end of that game.