San Diego Chargers: Focusing On The Running Game Will Lead to More Points

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIIAugust 11, 2011

Ryan Mathews needs to break out for the Chargers
Ryan Mathews needs to break out for the ChargersDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

You know me, I was never the biggest Darren Sproles fan because I thought he was too much like Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders: too much flash and not enough chain-moving.

On the other hand, I’ve been a Mike Tolbert fan from the start. I just prefer big pound-‘em-up-the middle running backs. It probably has to do with my becoming a San Diego Chargers fan in the Marion Butts/Natrone Means era. No matter how great your quarterback is, he’s that much better if the defense is leery about having to deal with a bruising back.

Philip Rivers may have had his greatest statistical success over the last three seasons, but he had his greatest real world success his first two seasons as a starter when LaDainian “LT” Tomlinson and Michael Turner “Burner” were overwhelming defenses on the ground.

Rivers rarely turned the ball over and led the NFL in fourth quarter, red zone and third down passer rating in his only season under Marty Schottenheimer (his first as a starter).

While Rivers’ three straight seasons with over a 100 passer rating (and probably a fourth straight coming up) is impressive; what Rivers accomplished as a first-year starter was far more clutch than anything he’s shown under Norv Turner.

Rivers is a far greater quarterback than he was in his second year as a starter, but he no longer has help from the running game and hasn’t since the 2007 season when the Chargers were a few injured Pro Bowlers away from a Super Bowl appearance.

That’s where Tolbert comes in. Ryan Mathews is set to play the role of LT, but counting on Mathews to make it through an entire season may be asking too much. Mike Tolbert is built to give the Chargers 25 carries a game, and in the fourth quarter, he’s ready to take over. If Mathews can help by taking 10 to 15 carries leading up to the fourth quarter, all the worse for the opposing defense.

During the LT era, it was said that if you don’t stop the rushing attack, you don’t beat the Chargers. Newsflash: nothing has changed.

Rivers throws the most electrifying deep ball in the game. If defenses actually had to defend the run along with the threat of a Philip Rivers bomb to Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, or even Antonio Gates, it would be scary to think about how many points the Chargers offense could put up.

With Jackson, Floyd and Gates able to beat defenses short, intermediate and long, with Patrick Crayton providing tremendous run-after-catch yards from the slot, a powerful run game will make the Chargers offense a complete threat unmatched in the NFL.

And yes, that includes the Philadelphia Eagles.

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