It wasn’t that either team played exceptional or inspired football. Rather it was a close fought battle that saw the Bolts come from behind to win with a touchdown pass on their last possession of the game.
I was prepared to criticize Norv Turner once again for another of his customary bungles of the game-clock in crunch time.
But in spite of Turner's goof, backup quarterback Billy Volek was able to connect on a 14-yard pass to Bryan Walters that gave the Chargers their very first lead of the game with three seconds left on the clock.
The drive had started at the Chargers’ 10-yard line with 3:11 to go in the fourth quarter. Seven plays later, the game was on the line as the Chargers faced a 4th-and-10 from their own 23.
On the play, the pocket broke down and Volek had to scramble to his left where he half shot-put, half side-armed the ball out to rookie running back Jordan Todman well short of the first-down marker.
Todman put a move on his defender and scurried ahead for 19 yards and a Charger first-down.
Four plays later, on a 1st-and-10 from the Cardinals 36-yard line, the Bolts were called for illegal procedure with 38 seconds remaining. However, under the new rule, the penalized team had to sacrifice 10 seconds off the clock unless they took a time out.
Everyone on the field, including the refs, thought Turner would take his last timeout to preserve the remaining 38 seconds.
He chose not to.
Instead, the ball was placed at the 41-yard line, the 10 second penalty was assessed, and the clock was started.
Looking like they had no clue the clock was running, the Bolts wasted another 15 seconds or so before they finally snapped the ball. Fortunately for the Chargers, Volek hit Bryan Walters at the Arizona 14-yard line where Norv finally did use his last timeout with eight seconds left.
Conventional wisdom, something Turner seems to lack, would have dictated that the timeout be used with 38 seconds left, when further clock stoppages could have been made via incomplete passes or spiking the ball. Yet Norv chose a different course, one that ensured he had only one or two plays to win the game instead of a possible four or more.
Call it genius or call it bumble-headed luck, but Turner’s decision was the right one as on the very next play, Volek hit Walters again, this time for the game winning touchdown.
Just to prove he wasn’t completely competent and to instill a lack of confidence on the special teams unit, Turner instructed his place kicker to squib kick the ball on the ensuing kick-off instead of simply booting it to the back of the end-zone.
Why give the opposition hope by allowing for the possibility of a short field return?
As if on cue, the kickoff was sent out-of-bounds giving the Cardinals the ball at the 40 instead of the 20. Turner’s lack of killer instinct once again reared its venomous head and gave the Cardinals a last chance.
As in so many other games in the Turner era, the Chargers looked to do whatever they could to keep the opposition in the game. Luckily for the Chargers, there were only three seconds left and the Cards failed to score on the last play of the game.
Still, I walked away from this game scratching my head and thinking, "Wow, what a game! That was awesome!" I have to give Turner some credit for coming out on top in the last seconds of a game that the Bolts had no business winning. Good job Norv!