Result: L, 26-24
Rivers (QB) — 17/27, 217 yds, 3 TD
Tomlinson (RB) — 21 att, 97 yds, 3 rec, 15 yds
Tolbert (FB) — 3 att, 6 yds, 3 rec, 35 yds
Chambers (WR) — 1 rec, 44 yds, TD
Jackson (WR) — 3 rec, 47 yds, TD
Gates (TE) — 4 rec, 61 yds, TD
Manumaleuna (TE) — 3 rec, 15 yds
Castillo (LE) — 3 tack
Williams (NT) — 1 tack
Olshansky (RE) — 2 tack, 1 sack
Phillips (LOLB) — 8 tack, 1 fumb rec
Smith (MLB) — 2 tack
Wilhelm (MLB) — 3 tack
Merriman (ROLB) — 1 tack
Cromartie (CB) — 5 tack
Jammer (CB) — 4 tack
Hart (FS) — 7 tack
Weddle (SS) — 7 tack
Cason (CB) — 4 tack
Sproles (KR/PR) — 2 KR, 61 yds, 1 PR, 12 yds
Osgood — 1 tack
Kaeding (K) — 1/1 FG (27 yds), 3/3 XP
Scifres (P) — 5 punts, 47.6 avg
The Good — There was concern going into this game that Tomlinson and Gates would struggle to get going, due to the fact that they were coming off of serious injuries and had virtually no presence in all four preseason games.
Tomlinson, though a little rusty, turned in a solid performance, accounting for little more than 100 yards combined. Gates caught a TD and—despite turning the ball over on a great strip by the Carolina defense—looked solid, running routes well and looking like his old self.
The other offensive player coming off a major injury was Philip Rivers, and he looked comfortable in the pocket (even squirming out of it a couple of times and running), making good decisions and not turning the ball over once.
The patched offensive line only gave up one sack. Antoine Cason looked good in his debut, and Shaun Phillips was everywhere for the Chargers' defense.
The Bad — What's with the run defense? Our guys in the middle looked very soft and unable to make tackles in the first and second lines of defense. Wilhelm and Smith accounted for five tackles between them, and Jamal Williams made a grand total of one stop.
We know Merriman's banged up, but where was the pass rush? The Chargers sacked Jake Delhomme once in the entire game. The play-calling was bad on both sides, especially on offense. Conservative run-first calls dominated San Diego's offense for the first three quarters and netted only 10 San Diego points; the only touchdown in those first 45 minutes of play was obtained through a long pass to Chris Chambers.
The Ugly — Let's start by losing the home opener to a team with injuries to two of their top three wide receivers, allowing Carolina to march down the field in the final two minutes of play when their offense had not scored a TD all day and had gotten in the red zone only twice.
How about showing the rest of the league you're beatable at home and afraid to open up the game with passing routes?
Refs screwed up in the booth when a play that could have been ruled a fumble with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter wasn't even reviewed. Philip Rivers was also completely past the line of scrimmage in the second quarter when he threw for a first down, which was later reviewed—and upheld. The miscalls led to touchdowns by both teams.
Telling Stat — (33%): Percentage of third-down conversions for San Diego, attempting 12 and only succeeding in four.
MVP: Philip Rivers — Nice, solid passing from Phil on only 27 attempts. His two touchdowns in the 4th quarter and three overall had San Diego up with little more than two minutes in the game.
LVP: Derek Smith — Stephen Cooper comes back in three weeks. Until then, Smith has got to give the Chargers coaches a good reason not to cut him loose when Cooper is eligible. A pitiful performance. He couldn't stop the run nor stop the pass.
Offense: (C) Solid, but stale. Rivers was good all day, but he ignored Chris Chambers all day. Tomlinson failed to make a statement while coming back from his injury, and Gates fumbled away six points. Props go out to the O-line, as they held up, despite numerous injuries.
Defense: (D) Held together for the first 58 minutes of the game, but fell short when it really mattered. Virtually no pass rush allowed Jake Delhomme to throw it comfortably, and Carolina's running backs amassed almost 150 yards.
Special Teams (B-): Good for the most part, I have to question Darren Sproles' insistence to run it out of the end zone, even if he is seven or eight yards deep, though. Nate Kaeding did what was asked of him, and Mike Scifres made four great punts. The fifth one was a little short.
Coaching (F): Norv revives "Martyball" and then looks surprised when Philip Rivers fires for two TDs in the final quarter. Ted Cottrell, we know you're working around suspensions and injuries, but way to drop back and let Carolina pick you apart for their first offensive TD as time expires.
Denver will no doubt be fired up after watching the Chargers' defense implode in the fourth quarter today. Let's hope it was just a hiccup on the road to better things. San Diego should win at Denver next week, but then again, they should have won today.
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