We are now a handful of games deep into the NFL season and the Bolts have started the year with their fourth consecutive 2-3 record with Norv Turner at the helm. This time around has actually been a bit different than the previous years where the Bolts simply didn’t play up to expectations. Some could argue that both offensively and defensively this Chargers team has outperformed any Bolts squad in the history of the franchise. In fact, up until this past weekend San Diego was ranked first in both total offense and total defense among the entire league.
Still ranked first in total offense by more than 30 yards per game on average over the nearest team and now second in total defense by a measly 1.6 yards per game average, the Chargers have no reason for being below .500 and looking up at a number of teams in the AFC. The one glaring weakness on this club has been in the special teams department and that particular flaw was again exposed this past weekend by the Oakland Raiders.
As if the special teams unit hadn’t been atrocious enough allowing three kick returns for touchdowns in the team’s two losses earlier in the year, the Bolts disorganized third phase of the game continued their misguided ways allowing not one, but TWO blocked punts in the first five minutes of the 35-27 loss to the Raiders on Sunday. Blocked punts are commonplace in college football, but an absolute rarity in the NFL and to see two within five minutes of one another is simply inexcusable for a team of so-called professionals.
The Miami Dolphins axed their special teams coach John Bonamego after his unit allowed both a kickoff return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal for a score by the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football two weeks ago. That sort of embarrassment and lack of preparation apparently isn’t enough to spark a change in San Diego as the always oblivious Bolts Head Coach Turner turned a blind eye to the situation. On whether Chargers special teams coach Steve Crosby should be fired, Turner said matter-of-factly: "Don't be silly." He would later backpedal a bit from that original statement, but still stand by Crosby saying: "Maybe I misspoke when I said 'silly.' When you're talking about Steve Crosby, I would say it's inappropriate. I have great respect for what he's done and what he does. Steve Crosby's our special teams coach and will be.”
Even though this Bolts team should be 5-0 rather than 2-3 had it not been for three absolutely insufferably horrific games on special teams, the players are behind Turner’s opinion of Crosby as well. Linebacker Stephen Cooper offered his take on the situation saying: "He keeps coaching the same way he has in the past but players aren't getting the job done on the field. I talked to him on the plane. I told him, 'I'm ready to go on punt, kickoff, whatever you need, even if I have to take a play or two off on defense.’"
Putting starting defensive players on special teams wouldn’t be a revolutionary idea by any means as plenty of teams already utilize this strategy. Cooper’s willingness to sacrifice for the team just shows how group oriented this Bolts squad is and what they are willing to do to make their collective goals come true.
The mistakes aren’t limited to the Chargers special teams group as the offense saw plenty of positive moments, but also had its fair share of mishaps on Sunday. Mike Tolbert had a costly fumble at the 1 yard line late in the 1st quarter and quarterback Philip Rivers also committed two costly turnovers of his own. A fumble early in the 2nd quarter stopped a Bolts drive in the red zone and of course the devastating turnover on the final drive of the game was a sack fumble recovered and returned for a score by Oakland to finish off the Bolts.
As evidenced by the outstanding compilation of stats that the Bolts have accumulated, they aren’t exactly having any difficulties executing for the majority of the game. Just a few select mistakes however can cost the team as this squad has discovered all too often in this still young 2010 campaign. Perhaps Rivers summed up the state of the franchise best when commenting on what’s wrong with the team as he said: "It's not a struggling 2-3 like we can't find the rhythm on offense and they're running up and down the field on defense. We can say we're not that far off, and if we keep saying that and we don't start winning, then it's not going to matter."
As simple as it sounds, it’s one hundred percent accurate. It’s the smallest details that have prevented this team from getting off to a roaring start and those most minute aspects need to be corrected or this team will continue to lose in a heartbreaking fashion.
Here’s the handoff to the fans, should the Bolts fire special teams coordinator Steve Crosby or is the absence of coverage juggernaut Kassim Osgood and a few minor details preventing this unit from clicking? Would it help the team on special teams to consider putting defense starters on that unit or would that just open up another can of worms in terms of injuries and more question marks? Are these crucial mistakes at the most inopportune times just the case of a team taking on the personality of its coaches or are there real problems with this squad performing in the clutch? Is this Bolts team really as bad as their 2-3 record indicates or do they have the potential to go on yet another late season run? Give your opinions below!
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