San Diego Chargers: 5 Sad Lessons We've Learned from the Patriots Game

Peter KleissAnalyst IISeptember 19, 2011

San Diego Chargers: 5 Sad Lessons We've Learned from the Patriots Game

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    Losing to a team as good as the New England Patriots in Foxborough is normally nothing to be ashamed of. Plenty of teams make the attempt, but few are successful.

    In the case of the San Diego Chargers, however, their total collapse and capitulation to the Patriots in Week 2 is a complete embarrassment. For a team that wants to be considered a Super Bowl contender, the Chargers looked more like Chicken “The sky is falling” Little laying an egg this past Sunday.

    I wanted desperately to come up with a positive review. I wanted to be able to say something wonderful about the Chargers in this game. Unfortunately, my efforts were in vain as all I could come up with are these five cynical lessons that the Chargers have yet to learn.

The Defense Is Not “All That"

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    After giving up 28 passing yards to the Minnesota Vikings in week one, the Chargers’ high-flying pass defense came crashing back down to earth against the Patriots. Tom Brady lit up the porous San Diego secondary for 423 yards, and he did it with ease.  

    I would love to say that Brady was unstoppable and the Chargers did everything they could to contain the league’s undisputed top passer, but that is simply not the case.

    For most of the game, San Diego defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s pass rush consisted of only three players. The result was that Brady had all the time in the world to pick out his receivers and that is exactly what he did. The Chargers consistently gave Brady five, six and even seven seconds to throw the ball on just about every down.

    In what can only be considered a massive brain-fart, the Chargers' defensive game plan was to drop everybody back in a zone and hope the coverage would outlast the pass rush.

    Surprisingly (only to the coaching staff), that didn’t work at all. New England scored on all four of their first half possessions and led 20-7.

    A change in tactics at the half saw the Bolts come out in the third quarter and attempt to go after Brady. Shockingly, this new tactic led the Patriots to nine total offensive plays in the quarter, zero points and their only two punts of the game.

    But as the Chargers drew closer on the scoreboard, they abandoned pressuring Brady in favor of the three man rush again. Ostensibly, the team wanted to avoid any unnecessary injuries they might incur when toppling over the New England quarterback while simultaneously conserving energy for next week’s game.

    By all accounts, the move was strategically brilliant as the Chargers put in virtually no effort on the Patriots last two possessions of the game, allowing them to score both times.

The Chargers Can Drive the Length of the Field

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    It wasn’t all bad for the Chargers in this game even though they turned the ball over four times and practically handed the Patriots an easy victory.

    On the contrary, the Bolts offense showed they are quite capable of holding onto the ball for long, time-consuming drives deep into the opposition red zone before they eventually cough it up.

    San Diego had nine possessions in the game and all but one ended in New England territory. Those possessions consisted of one punt, three touchdowns and five turnovers—if you include the failed fourth-and-goal attempt.

    Head coach Norv Turner’s game plan of keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands worked to perfection. Apparently, Turner had singled out time of possession as a key to the game and must have been overjoyed that the Chargers successfully held the ball for two minutes longer than the Patriots.

    Yes, the Chargers were masterful at avoiding what killed the Dolphins last week by keeping Brady on the sidelines and the Chargers' defense refreshed. At least the Bolts can take pride in the fact that they were not sucking wind as Brady threw any of his three touchdown passes on the day.

The Team Still Lacks Discipline

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    The Chargers of old are gone and the new-and-improved Chargers are (finally) here.

    At least that is what we were led to believe.

    No more will the Bolts be the team that chokes in the big game. No more will they out-play an opponent only to find a way to lose in the end.

    Thank God and pass the potatoes because I might have thought otherwise had I been watching this last game.

    It is such a relief to know that Chargers fans will no longer have to suffer through mistake-ridden football games where they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Gone are the days where four turnovers would be considered a bad day at the office. Full of Charger-pride, we now rejoice that our team didn’t turn the ball over seven times like the Steelers did in week one.

    I mean really, who cares that the team coughed the ball up more times than a two-pack-a-day smoker? They went 10 for 12 on third down conversions and that is all that matters.

    Sadly, one player, Vincent Jackson could not stick with the program as he fell from grace with 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Hopefully his performance won't affect how well the others play next week.

Norv Turner Is an Idiot

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    Are there any Chargers fans left at all that don’t feel this way?

    Having Norv Turner walking the sidelines for your team is akin to fielding a roster of amputees. Turner’s idiocy handicaps every player on the Chargers’ squad before they even dress for the game.

    In fact, using the analogy that Tuner’s influence equates to a team full of one-armed or one-legged players is an insult to amputees everywhere as I am sure that any of them could do a better job coaching the Chargers.

    The number of moronic blunders that Turner made against the Patriots is fodder enough to complete a thesis on the mentally disabled. I, however, will reserve my ire for just two.

    Early in the game, when the outcome was still in doubt, the Chargers drove to the Patriots goal line. Faced with a fourth down inside the 1-yard line, Turner decided to go for the touchdown instead of kicking the field goal.

    I give credit where credit is due and the decision to keep newly acquired place kicker Nick Novak on the sidelines was a good one. After all, when it comes to beating the Patriots in their house, you have to take your chances when they arise.

    In a move of sheer stupidity, however, Tuner had his team line up in the power “I” formation showing that they were about to run with Mike Tolbert, then had Rivers hand him the ball at the 6-yard line. With about 18 inches needed to score, Turner chose instead to have Tolbert try to pick up 18 feet.

    The “great offensive mind” couldn’t have chosen a more obvious and easily defendable play had he taped his playbook to the wall and thrown a dart at it. The numb-skull decides to make an aggressive move and then picks the most conservative play in his arsenal to execute it.

    An inside handoff, a play-action fake to Tolbert with a rollout or even a quick slant would have at least had a chance for success. Turner couldn't show run and then pass just like he couldn't show pass and then run even though those types of plays had worked for him everywhere else on the field. Instead he let the Patriots know exactly what was coming and they easily stuffed the play for a loss.

    Right at that moment, the game was over for the Chargers. Turner’s imbecilic play calling deflated his entire team beyond recovery. If the Chargers’ confidence was an airship it would have looked like the Hindenburg burning.

    Sadly, the bumbling coach wasn’t finished dashing his team’s determination quite yet. If there was any hope that the Chargers would make a game of it, Turner quickly put that idea to rest as the first half came to an end.

    Right after New England defensive end Vince Wilfork made his first ever NFL career interception of a flat Philip Rivers pass, the Pats had the ball at the Chargers 47-yard line with only 9 seconds remaining and no timeouts.

    Everyone, including announcer Phil Simms, knew all the Chargers had to do was cover the sidelines and prevent the Pats from picking up yardage and stopping the clock by running out of bounds. All they needed to end the half was one tackle in the field of play.

    But dim-wit Turner refused to make it hard for the Patriots and allowed them all the room they need on the sidelines to complete two passes for 18 yards in 8 seconds and setup another score to end the half.

    What could be easier than to play a team coached by Norv “simpleton” Turner?

The Chargers Are Not an Elite Team

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    Ultimately, the Chargers want to see themselves as an elite team, a real Super Bowl contender. They are still anything but.

    As a team, the Chargers need a lobotomy, and they need it yesterday. It’s one thing to play your best and still come out on the losing end, that is forgivable.

    It’s quite another to simply capitulate like a feather in the wind every time you line up against a quality team.

    The way I see it, the Chargers have two fundamental problems that prevent them from realizing their potential, Philip Rivers and Norv Turner. Rivers repeatedly saves his worst performances for the biggest games and Turner just crushes his team’s ego with half-baked buffoonery.

    Thankfully, the Chargers will get one more chance to restore hope to their beleaguered fan base in five weeks when they travel to the east coast once again to take on another elite team, the New York Jets. Until that time, the Bolts will need to rededicate themselves to fixing the issues that they have yet to resolve.