In a game that should be forgotten faster than a Dexter McCluster punt return, the Chargers lost their season opener against the surprisingly stout Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs played exceptionally well in special teams and performed admirably on defense, and with an assist from mother nature, that was enough to win this game.
The question every coach, player, and fan will be asking is "What happened to the AFC West favorites?", followed by "How do they fix it?". Here is a brief summary of what went wrong for the Chargers on Monday night and what needs to be done fix it.
1. Poor blocking
The offensive line has seen better days. But don't blame Brandyn Dombrowski, as he was not the problem. Center Nick Hardwick did not play up to expectations (he has to be better than that) and Jeromey Clary played down to expectations (no one thinks he is better than that), leading to a crowded pocket for rivers and a tough day for Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles.
2. Play calling
Speaking of Ryan Matthews, where the hell was he in the redzone at the end Of the game? Darren Sproles is not a true running threat, especially at the goal line. If Matthews was supposed to help re-energize the offense, why not use him to keep the defense honest? Heck, I was even rooting for some more Mike Tolbert at that point.
3. Special teams
To praise a great performance by Kansas City on special teams takes some of the attention away from the abysmal performance of the chargers special teams. Bad blocking, missed tackles, and poor punt coverage inside the five yard line erased a strength the Chargers relied on last year.
So what do the Chargers do to fix these problems and avoid dropping to 0-2 this weekend? I would like to say that they should sign Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson, and trade for Kassim Osgood, but that's just not how AJ Smith rolls. And really, I don't think McNeill would have made a difference in this game, other than allowing Brandyn Dombrowski to move to right tackle.
The team played like they weren't ready for a loud stadium on the road, so the first thing to work on is the communication between Quarterback Philip Rivers and his center. The delay of game penalties and blown timeouts really hurt when you are trying to sustain a drive.
The team also needs to look at their playbook circa 2001, when Norv Turner was the Chargers offensive coordinator and the team had almost 1700 yards rushing. The best way to open up the passing game and keep a defense honest is to run the ball with authority using both Matthews and Tolbert to pound on the defense.
Equally important, someone needs to kick the collective asses of the Chargers special teams units (wait, the Chiefs already did that). It's going to be a long season if they continue to give up 30+ yard punt returns. It will be even worse if Darren Sproles doesn't remember how to return the ball himself.
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