Chargers Ridiculously Predictable On First Down

As the Chargers fall to 1-2 following a heart-breaking loss at Green Bay, a couple of trends seem to be emerging. One of those trends is a poor ability to run the ball, especially on first down. Ladainian Tomlinson carried the ball 22 times and for 62 yards - his highest rushing total on the season thus far.

While Tomlinson has not shown to be the runner fans have come to appreciate, blame cannot fall on LT's shoulders. No, the problem does not lie in Tomlinson's abilities, but rather the culprit is an unimaginative offensive coordination on the part of the Chargers coaching staff.

Tomlinson carried the ball 22 times on Sunday, but what is particularly of concern is that 13 of those 22 carries came on first down. On those 13 first-down carries, LT gained only 26 yards. This choice in playcalling did nothing to catch the Packers defense off guard. The Packers, and just about everyone watching the game, could easily predict a run play when the Chargers were in first down situations.

Making things even easier on the Packers defense was the Chargers' personnel groupings that lined up on first down. Lorenzo Neal and Brandon Manumaleuna lining up on the field at the same time was all but a guarantee the playcall was a run play, and yet even after adding two extra blockers to the play, the Chargers were disgustingly ineffective. When the Packers see the extra blockers the Chargers bring in on first down, its easy for the Pack to dial up a blitz and stuff the run. And thats what they did all game long.

I called for more spread offense, and its astonishingly clear how much more effective the Chargers were when they called pass plays with three receiver sets. Philip Rivers went 27 of 36 for 306 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rivers went for a span of about 13 passes before throwing an incompletion. His interception on the day came under 2 minutes left in the game during a time of desperation.

Six different Chargers caught passes, three of whom contributed a touchdown reception. That is incredible balance in the passing game, but an uncreative gameplan running the ball killed the Chargers today, and have killed them all season long.

Unless the coaching staff can start mixing it up in the run game, opposing defenses are going to continue to be successful at selling out to stop number 21.

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September 23, 2007

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Victor said... Sep 24, 2007, 1:07:00 AM

Really good commentary! I didn't get to watch the game, but nothing I've read has pinpointed the problem to anything but "no rhythm". I don't know what rhythm is, but it doesn't sound like something scientific, or fixable.

This is thoughtful and productive. Now if only Norval reads it...

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