San Diego Chargers: What Slow Start?

Cameron WardContributor IIISeptember 26, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on September 25, 2011 in San Diego, California.  The Chargers won 20-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

San Diego Chargers fans are jumping on the back of Norv Turner and Philip Rivers after a lackluster performance this past Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. While I understand the frustration with the Chargers in the first three games, those calling it a "slow start" should really reevaluate their stance on the Bolts so far in this 2011 season.

After three games, the plain and simple fact is that the Chargers are 2-1. 2-1 after posting a -6 turnover ratio in the first three games, which ranks them second worst in the league in that category!

Dating back to 2004, the Chargers have only started the season 2-1 two times. In those two seasons the Chargers finished 13-3 (2009) and 14-2 (2006). Even with these slow starts, the Chargers have made it to the playoffs every year except for two in that same time period.

Yes, the offense has sputtered early on. Despite Rivers' comments that the offense would be ready to go despite the lockout, it is very evident that the time away is affecting his confidence and ability on the field. 

Despite Rivers' six interceptions (eight turnovers total), the offense has still put up over 20 points every game (21.7 per game). The offense is fifth in total yards (417.3 yards per game), sixth in passing yards per game, and 16th in rushing yards per game. Yes, 16th. By the sound of Charger hate mail you would think they ranked dead last in the league.

The real story has been the defense thus far. Despite giving up 500 yards to the Patriots in New England, the Chargers defense has still only given up 317 yards per game. Good enough for 8th best in the NFL.

These are very good ranks despite their stats being bloated by an early Patriots run-in. A team that crushed us 38-14 in a Week 2 run-in back in 2007 when they went 11-5 and made it to the AFC championship game. 

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Antonio Garay #71 of the San Diego Chargers reacts to a third down hold against the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL Game on September 25, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty
Donald Miralle/Getty Images


The secondary is the real reason the Chargers are 2-1. They held McNabb to only 39 yards passing and Cassel to only 176 yards passing. In the first half of this past Sunday's game, the Chiefs couldn't even manage a first down; their longest play being for four yards.

Cassel's only big plays on Sunday came after cornerback Quentin Jammer went out; he got hurt on the Bowe reception down inside the five yard line and was out for the Bowe TD catch (he did not return to the game). 

Before Jammer got hurt:

Cassel: 6-for-7, 18 yards

Bowe: 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 TDs

After Jammer got hurt:

Cassel: 11-for-17, 158 yards 

Bowe: 4 receptions, 67 yards, 1 TD

Further proof that Jammer is the most underrated corner in the game...

Simply put, the Chargers defense is the reason that the Bolts have been able to stay in games despite a plethora of turnovers. Their has been constant pressure to stop opposing teams when they start in Chargers territory after turnovers (the Chargers have given the opposing team 25 points off turnovers in only three games), but the Chargers defense has shown it can shut down teams when it really counts. 

Slow start? No. Fast start, by Charger standards? Yes.

The Chargers have a lot to work on in these upcoming weeks, but I'll take a 2-1 record and first place atop the AFC West.