I want to start this off by admitting that I am a huge Chargers fan. I have season tickets, a couple of jerseys, multiple shirts and hats...you get the idea. I even take the time to follow the team on-line, through phone apps., talk radio, newspaper articles. If anyone can make an excuse for poor play, or make an argument why Chargers fans should not by worried about the seemingly hollow 4-1 start this season.
After their week 7 game against the New York Jets, I can't defend them anymore. At least not right now. Let's take a look at this game and pick out some facts that became painfully obvious and get a honest opinion of where the Chargers are in the real world.
First, let's start with the positives.
Antonio Gates returned to the Chargers lineup and had a decent game. A team leading five receptions for 54 yards and a TD in the first half was a nice first day back since week 2. He was open at least one other time as he beat the defense on a third and short. On that play, Rivers tried to squeeze a pass in to a covered receiver. The ball was deflected to Revis who took it the other way for around 60 yards. If Rivers looks to Gates on that play, the game may have been completely different.
Mike Tolbert was another positive until he left the game with an apparent pulled hamstring. He averaged over five yards per carry before leaving the game. It was nice to see Tolbert step up after Mathews came out early with a bad thumb. Fortunately, Mathews was able to return after Tolbert got hurt.
Shaun Phillips had a nice game with two sacks and a couple of QB hits. One of those hits caused Sanchez to throw slightly behind his receiver, which allowed Butler to get his hands on the ball.
The defense did force a couple of turnovers. A wonderful strip and score from linebacker Donald Butler in the first quarter and a nice pick by Eric Weddle in the second. I have much more to say about the Chargers defense, but the positive part of my post would be the wrong section to do it.
The Chargers kicking team was very decent today, cutting the number one kick return team down from an average of 44 yards per return to a very respectable 26.
Finally, Mike Scifres continued to show how talented he is. His first punt of the day said it all as it sailed 59 yards and still forced the Jets to fair catch.
Okay, I'm done with the things that didn't affect the outcome of the game. Let's move on to the things we learned about the Chargers that did have a direct impact on the result.
On the negative side, let's save the really juicy stuff for last and begin with the obvious.
The Chargers defense can't tackle! I couldn't count how many missed tackles there were in this game, or the number of yards after contact the Jets earned over the marshmallow like defensive hits of the Chargers. I know that Shonn Geene is a big, strong back, but give me a break! 20 carries for 112 yards? This is especially bad as he was often hit within the first yard or two and then just shed the would-be tackler and continued on for several more yards.
Next, Antoine Cason cannot play against big time receivers (or at least perceived big time receivers). I was under the opinion that Cason was coming into his own. The reality is that he just got destroyed by Plaxico Burress all day long, including three touchdowns. Burress came into the game being called the least effective receiver in the league.
Moving on, Quentin Jammer has lost a step and his experience is not enough to make up for it. Jammer was not going up against Pro Bowl receivers, yet he was beaten on several key plays and committed two pass interference penalties (the second one was a terrible call).
What did we see on the other side of the ball? Receivers who can't get open when they need to. There were some times when Rivers missed the mark on some passes, but the fact is that the Chargers receivers were not up to the challenge of facing Revis and Cromartie. I wanted nothing more than to watch Cromartie get torched like he did in San Diego.
Okay, let's get to the real problems.
Philip Rivers was horrible today, and hasn't been great all season. I still like Rivers as a quarterback, but there is something wrong with this former play maker. His deep ball passes are almost always off the mark and his decisions are often wrong. Today, he missed an open Vincent Jackson downfield on a big third down attempt. The announcers gave 'Rival Island" all the credit on the play, but the fact was that Jackson had inside position on Revis and Rivers tried to lob the ball over his shoulder and over threw his 6' 5" star receiver.
The last drive of the game was the one that completed the job of removing Rivers from anyone's "Elite Quarterbacks Club." Rivers had a minute and a half, with no timeouts. The first play was a nice first down pass to Gates, but the clock kept ticking.
He followed that with a couple of three yard check downs that ran nearly a minute off of the clock and didn't stop it. Never did Rivers spike the ball to stop the clock. He just kept strolling up to the line and taking an eternity to run a feeble play.
The drive was complete when his fourth and three pass with 11 seconds on the clock sailed out of bounds with the appearance of being thrown away. No chance for a touchdown. No chance for a first down and getting out of bounds for one last chance. No chance for a pass interference penalty. No chance to win.
The other obvious fact that came out of this loss was that Norv Turner haters are right. He had a terrible game plan to start with. The Chargers bread and butter this year has been screen passes and short passes to the running backs. Almost none of that happened today. Perhaps since Gates returned, Turner thought he could return to the ultra aggressive offense of the last few years. What he didn't consider was the fact that he was playing a defense who could cover his deep threats.
Turner did not challenge a very questionable spot late in the fourth quarter that gave the Jets a first down and allowed them to run several seconds off of the clock before kicking their last field goal. Conserving timeouts is nice, but if the call was reversed, the Jets would have kicked the field goal on the very next play and the Bolts would have had quite a full two minutes left with the ball.
Turner also has to share the blame for the last drive. He has the ability to tell Rivers to get to the line and spike the ball, but he apparently did not. Also, on the last play, he could either call a short out and hope for the first down, or call deep routes and say a Hail Mary. He did neither. Deep our routes and mid-range crossing patterns was what he came up with. I just don't get it.
Before I make this final comment, I must start with the fact that I believe the Chargers deserved to lose this game. The Jets out played them in the second half and that is all that matters.
Okay, here it goes. The refs were horrible!!!! Key calls during the game, especially the last pass interference call against Jammer just made it very difficult on the visiting Chargers. This appeared to be the epitome of being "homered."
There were some questionable calls that went against the Jets, but none of them hurt the Jets chances of winning like the calls against the Chargers did.
I hate venting about the refs after a loss, but in this case I feel the need. It's sad when I start to miss Ed Hochuli.