5 Things We Learned from San Diego's 31-20 Loss to the Bears
Despite some uncharacteristically brilliant game planning by head coach Norv Turner, and even though Rivers did a much better job of protecting the football in Chicago, the Chargers' effort still fell well short of enough to beat the Bears on Sunday.
Their fifth loss in a row, the Chargers fell to 4-6 on the season, and are likely no more than one loss away from elimination in the race for the AFC West crown.
As effective as his game plan on offense was at taking pressure off of the Chargers' ad-hoc offensive line, the team also took one step closer to life without Norv Turner.
It's Official: The Charger's Pass Rush Is Horrible
The Chargers' game plan on defense didn't work so well, either. Greg Manusky's strategy of keying on the run and daring Chicago to throw the football backfired on the Chargers, leading to what was one of Jay Cutler's best games on the season.
San Diego stacked the line of scrimmage and sent plenty of extra bodies on passing plays, playing man to man coverage in the secondary. But the Chargers' defense failed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, even with the extra help, giving Cutler plenty of time to wait for someone to come open when it counted.
Game Plan an Indication of Chargers' Concerns at O-Line
Turner was clearly concerned with the state of his make-shift offensive line, which featured Brandyn Dombrowsi, Scott Mruczkowski, and Stephen Schilling making his first NFL start. He had plenty of reason for concern, too, as the Chargers already had 19 pre-snap penalties in the last five games coming in.
Julius Peppers and the rest of the Bears' defense could smell the blood and circled Rivers like sharks building up to a feeding frenzy. But while it failed to get San Diego the win, Turner's rather creative offensive strategy allowed the offense to find some rhythm despite their issues on the offensive line.
The formation the Chargers ran out of for most of the game was a hybrid which kept two players in to help block while spreading the wide receivers out wide. The formation had Rivers take the snap out of a single-back set with the option of motioning the tight end into the backfield.
While it did demonstrate that Turner still has that knack for drawing up Xs and Os, it also reminded us that great coordinators don't not always make great coaches.
Rivers Still Doesn't Get It
Philip Rivers clearly got the memo on protecting the football this week but picked a critically bad time to forget all about it. In terms of staying within the system and taking what the defense gave him, he stepped up his game big time against Chicago. Rivers did a much better job of sensing the pressure and was a lot smarter with the football, too.
He spread the ball around, hitting Antonio Gates for a couple of clutch plays in the first half, one for a first down, and another for a touchdown.
In fact, Rivers played a near perfect game up until attempting to force a pass into Vincent Jackson in the fourth quarter. Jackson was well covered in the back of the end zone when Rivers lobbed one up and got picked off, pretty much sealing the deal for the Bears.
Chargers fans can only hope that the poorly-timed gaff finally drives the point home and that Rivers doesn't gamble with the football as much from here on out.
Vincent Jackson Can Bring It
Vincent Jackson had something for the critics this week who suggested he took too many plays off to be considered an elite NFL wide receiver. He put on a show for the fans in Chicago and certainly held his own end for the Chargers in the loss with seven catches for 165 yards and one touchdown.
With the exception of one dropped pass, which bounced off his shoulder pads when he attempted to catch the ball with his body instead of his hands, it was a fantastic performance.
If Jackson can string a few more performances together like this one, he might just get the $100 million, long-term deal he's seeking at the end of the season.
Chargers Special Teams Still Struggling
Those who suggested that the wrong coach got fired when former assistant Steve Crosby took the fall for last year's special teams fiasco have a little more fuel to feed their argument after this week's loss.
The Chargers special teams coverage units had as much to do with the outcome of this game as did anything else, by setting up the Bears with great field position on multiple occasions.
Although they managed not to give up any touchdowns, San Diego's coverage units gave up 112 combined return yards and a 37-yard average on two Devin Hester punt returns.