Would The Chargers Be 5-0 If Not For Their Special Teams?

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!

October 13, 2010

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Anonymous said... Oct 13, 2010, 10:52:00 AM

In my opinion, Crosby is not the issue...sure its his job to coach the ST, but he isn't the one failing to block or stay in your lanes. Considering the massive turn over in the ST each week, I would invest in more key players to fix this thing once and for all. Funny, for the past few years, we were regarded as one of the top Teams in ST, but this year we are ranked near the last spot? The D is seriously improved, Merriman is gone so we still need the front threat, but overall I am impressed so far (wait impressed by a Chargers D hummmm not for years). And the O, well records are being made and Mr. Rivers is off to a awesome start. The run game is improved and improving (sorry LT) and the classic trademark Chargers passing game---well lets say I wouldn't want to be an opposing Team defensive coach each week! We should have our 1st win next week on the road...that should break the "mental" issue. But a lot of play ahead and ST needs to get it together or YES Crosby should be the scapegoat on go. Can you also imagine we are 0-2 in our Division...this could become an issue very soon! What happened to Sproles in a sweep or as a 5th receiver? How about a 3 RB back formation? I have not seen the "trick formation" plays yet? With Merriman out (bad investment was my thoughts before), who can be brought in or will step up and become a threat? Will we ever sell out at home? Now is the time to start our streak of wins...are you ready for some Lightning Strikes!

Anonymous said... Oct 13, 2010, 10:58:00 AM

I believe it Karma! As silly as this sounds the Charger management needs to start providing for their Charger family. AJ has stated "No player is indispensable." I disagree and it is showing on the field. We will turn the corner if this owner and GM start repairing their PR and player relationships. It's embarrassing that Tomlinson should be excelling in another team. He really loved being a Charger we just didn't have the right GM or head coach to fully utilize his talents or light his fire. Instead we alienated him. Same holds true for a couple of ex HOF charger players like Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison. Now days, you see these ex player gloating during interviews. Why? Cause its sweet redemption for them for being treated unfairly. I've said it in the past. If it isn’t broke don't fix it. Cromartie should not have been let go either. Darren Sproles not playing to his full potential, I guess he has nothing to prove.

Throughout Charger history, there is a shift of management. Hopefully, we get a New Head Coach. I have no faith in Norv. He doesn't stand up for his players, makes horrific / predictable plays in crunch time and makes loads of excuses for why we are underachieving. Who puts Sproles to pass protect on a passing play?

I wish chargers would only listen to their fans. "WE WANT GRUDEN" or someone like Rex Ryan. To think this guy was turn away for our head coaching job here in San Diego. Shows that AJ wants full control and all the glory. Well now you have it you get all the blame for single handedly ruining our championship team.

Lighting 72

Anonymous said... Oct 14, 2010, 8:56:00 AM

MERRIMAN IS GONE! YEEEEHAAAAA! Check any of my posts regarding Merriman and they are consistent this dude was milking the system. He never wanted to play this season for the Chargers he just wanted to collect his 3 million and bounce. It took Chargers 5 weeks to finally sniff it out but were doing the right thing. AJ has cleaned house and is getting rid of all the bad apples. We need positive chemistry in the locker room. I can honestly say that the Air feels that much lighter along with the weight on my shoulders to find that merriman is going going GONE! You have tO understand He was a Cancer and cancer spreads fast. You gotta get rid of it at forst notice or it can spread.


BoltFan in NY said... Oct 14, 2010, 9:20:00 AM

Look, it's very clear to me (as well as many many other Chargers fans) that Norv Turner is not the coach to take this talented bunch of guys to the Super Bowl... period. He should've remained an offensive coordinator, he simply is not head coach material. This guy 's passive, touchy-feely, nothing gets me upset attitude is killing this team! Norn has no burning fire in his belly, nothing that shows us fans that he can light a fire underneath these guys and get them ready for a Super Bowl opportunity. This shitty part is, that changing a head-coach mid-season is a recipe for disaster for any team... it's got to be done at the end of the season. Too late for 2010-11... we're stuck with Norv another agonizing year. So who's fault is it that Norv is still here? A.J. Smith and the owners of course! We lost Marty because he and A.J. apparently never saw eye to eye. I agree with Lightning 72 above... a coach like Rex Ryan would be such a boon to this team... I mean this guy not only can coach, but he gets his players FIRED UP. He and Norv are at opposite sides of the spectrum. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jets make it to the Super Bowl this year. Tell me as a Charger fan... that it didn't "sting" to watch LT and Cromartie doing so well last Sunday against the Vikings? It stung like hell to me! Cro was playing like his old self too... and was all over Randy Moss like velcro! Look at what LT's done with the Jets since being sold by Rex Ryan to join his team... wow... nuff said. We need the next Rex Ryan on board!

arnie said... Oct 15, 2010, 3:46:00 PM

Should he be fired? no. Should he be held accountable? absolutely.
But in his defense, he's only as good as the players you give him. Or should i say rerelease?
however, we're not talking rocket science here, this is basic kick coverage 101. As a coach you can't run onto the field and show your players how it's done. But you can help them out when they're in trouble. Like i don't know, stop kicking it to the returner? In some cases when you kick away from a returner, it helps your players get the ball and down it. the return team may compensate and field two players back there. this gives you a free man on the kick off team.

Accountability coaching. he may not have Osgood, but he can still put them in a position to be successful.

peace out

Anonymous said... Oct 17, 2010, 1:52:00 PM

Ah...no. This is not a good team. We are losing to far inferior teams and in every case we deserve to. I would expect a very disappointing year at this point. The Lions crushed that team and they managed to OWN us. And I mean OWN.

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