Although the San Diego Chargers did not have their best showing in Kansas City, they played competitively and almost turned things around. A loss against a division rival to open the season is not a good first impression, and expectations are indeed high. But the Bolts are a young team who will need to learn from their mistakes and not compound them in the future.
Your alarm clock doesn’t go off and you wake up late. You hop in the shower, throw on some clothes, and rush out the door so you aren’t late for a meeting with your boss. While driving, you remember the leftovers you intended to eat for lunch are still in the fridge. Moments later you roll through a STOP sign only to realize a police officer is behind you. He just gives you a warning, but now you’re definitely going to be late for that meeting with your boss. You get to the meeting and your boss is late too. You think, “Okay, maybe this day isn’t going to be so bad after all.” You grab some coffee and walk toward his office. While rounding the corner, someone in a hurry hits your elbow and you spill coffee all over your pants. You make it through the meeting unscathed and decide to head back home to change pants. Only, while driving home you get a flat tire. And it’s pouring down rain. Although nothing catastrophic happened, to you it felt like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
That’s what it felt like watching our beloved Chargers slop around with the Chiefs on Monday night in Kansas City. The New Arrowhead was rocking, the crowd as raucous as any regular season crowd I can remember. There were the delay of game penalties, the caught then dropped passes, the poor positioning on Special Teams coverage resulting in huge returns for the Chiefs’ returners, namely Dexter McCluster. There was the poor communication getting the plays in on offense, the poor field position, the slipping all over the place, the bobbled snaps, and the Ryan Mathews fumble on what looked like a play that had potential to go the distance. There was the fact that the Chiefs only ran 3 plays in Chargers territory through 3 quarters. There was that 1st and goal from the 4 yard line situation at the end of the game – and who am I to question play calling, but there was that lack of Mike Tolbert appearance in any of those plays. And there was a final score of Chiefs 21 Chargers 14.
The same facts that make it painful, dull the pain. Sure, it was a bad game. But as team Captain Nick Hardwick said on XX 1090am Tuesday, “It’s nothing (they) can’t correct.” The game just felt like what I call The Rule Of Compounding Mistakes. In sports, and in life, things go wrong in bunches. It’s part phenomena, part explainable. Mistakes are distracting. Mistakes make you second guess your original ideas. Mistakes beget mistakes. The crowd is loud early and suddenly everything the Chargers have executed on historically, around getting an offensive play call in and getting the ball snapped changes. They feel like they have to do things differently. Ryan Mathews gets the ball stripped from his grasp and, according to Norv, feels like he has to press. Mathews felt like he had to make up for one play by playing football differently than he had up to that point. Down by two touchdowns, the Chargers players knew they had to make plays. The field got slippery, a few players slipped, and then it got in their heads. The more they thought about slipping, the more they slipped.
One of the reasons superior athletes are superior athletes is because they can ignore the part of their brain that reacts like this. That’s why Trent Dilfer said on the last drive, “There are a lot of good quarterbacks in this league. I don’t know if there’s anyone I’d want more in this position than Philip Rivers.” Philip’s mistakes don’t come in bunches. The son of a coach has been there, done that so much it doesn’t faze him. The new, different guys who were asked to step up and make plays, be it the running backs, wide receivers, linemen, or special teamers, weren’t as familiar with this feeling.
But now the new guys do know this feeling. Now they know the mental preparation it takes to capitalize on their physical preparation. That’s why I’m still excited about this team and this season. That’s why I couldn’t be more excited for December 12, the day of the Chargers Week 14 rematch with the Chiefs in a presumably dry Qualcomm Stadium.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see a team that was physically beaten on either side of the ball (Let’s just not mention Special Teams anymore). I’m not ready to start screaming for the Chargers’ front office to bring back Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson. I’m not ready to say it’s the same, slow-start Chargers. And I’m definitely not ready to write off the season. I’m just chalking it up to one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game.
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