Can The Chargers Finish The Season Strong?

“What the hell is going on out there!?” It’s a gloriously cliché Vince Lombardi quote that just so happens to be totally applicable to the first quarters of nearly every Bolts game this season. In a microcosm of their season’s pattern, the Bolts seem to start off slowly each and every contest before righting the ship to make their usual sprint to the finish line in the end.

The last four weeks of the season have perfectly illustrated that trend in San Diego with the Bolts outscoring their opponents 66 to 22 in the second halves of their four previous outings.

It goes without saying, but always getting into that trailing position is an ill-advised strategy for winning games in the long run. Much of the team’s come from behind attitude comes out of necessity as the Bolts have continually dug themselves into a cavernous hole via shoddy special teams efforts. Again that was the case this past weekend when Houston was given an eight yard field on their opening possession following the fifth blocked Mike Scifres punt of the season.

The questions have been asked just how can special teams coach Steve Crosby’s job not be in jeopardy after the debacles in the third phase of the game thus far this season? Perhaps the blocked kicks themselves aren’t the biggest issue, but the lack of adjustments has been the most troubling aspect.

Against the Tennessee Titans, the beaten player was Randy McMichael blocking down rather than out on his edge assignment. This time around against the Texans, Kris Wilson was the culprit in the same position making the EXACT same mistake allowing Stanford Keglar a clear path to Scifres.

Each and every Bolts blocked kick has been due to a missed assignment in that area of the protection team. Certainly the guys in that locker room watch a lot more film than yours truly so it would only be logical that they could correct these errors with the proper coaching adjustments. The leash for Crosby has to be down to a strangle hold at this point.

One other area of concern for fans has to be just how turnover prone this Chargers team is proving to be thus far in 2010. Rookie runner Ryan Mathews in particular seems to have a case of fumble-itis losing three fumbles already this season. A problem like this is one that the team should try to nip in the bud before these bad habits become too engrained in Mathews’ DNA as a back to alter. Of course injuries haven’t helped his cause with a nagging ankle issue aggravated again this past weekend, but hopefully the bye week will give Mathews some time to work on holding the ball high and tight while healing his current ailments.

The runner on the other side this past week didn’t have much difficulty on Sunday as Arian Foster and the Texans’ ground game had their way with the Bolts manhandling the defensive line and easily opening numerous running lanes. San Diego was pushed around in the trenches with 18 carries and 99 yards of Foster’s workload coming in the opening half. He also scored twice in the first thirty minutes of the game to further demoralize the Bolts.

Coaches generally say that sticking with the running game throughout the entire sixty minutes wears a team down, but the opposite seems to be true with the Bolts. After surrendering those huge numbers in the first half, the Bolts run stuffers came to life and smothered Houston’s ground attack in half number two. Perhaps the biggest play of all defensively came with a brilliant backside read by linebacker Shaun Phillips in pursuit around the end to track down and stop Foster on a critical fourth down play with the Texans in the red zone.

Epitomized by the final bounce of the ball off of Texans receiver Andre Johnson’s knee into the waiting arms of safety Paul Oliver, the fortunes of this Chargers team may finally be turning positive. This team played shorthanded on offense for the entire game, yet quarterback Philip Rivers’ steely demeanor led the Bolts on to victory. The win was the first occasion in 2010 that the Chargers collected back-to-back W’s this season. Perhaps that will be a springboard into the bye week and inspire this team to go on their patented late season push to the playoffs once again.

Let’s turn it over to the fans, what kind of adjustments need to be made on the Bolts special teams unit to prevent these breakdowns from being a weekly occurrence? Does this Bolts team have the look of a squad ready to go on a similar tear to the ones of seasons past in San Diego by winning out? Which is of more concern, Ryan Mathews’ fumble issues or the Bolts collective troubles on defense stopping the run? How many wins will it take for the Chargers to claim the AFC West title for the fifth consecutive year? Please leave your opinions in the comments section below!

November 9, 2010

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Kjk said... Nov 10, 2010, 12:08:00 AM

This is the most disjointed team in the 4 years Turner has helmed it, but for some reason with all the injuries, awful special teams and vanilla defense I think there is still a possibility we run the table into the playoffs and win some games. Rivers is the best quarterback in football. Manning & Brady have been the best but Rivers has supplanted them.As long as he is in the equation we have a shot.

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