Chargers Continue To Dig Themselves Out Of Early Season Hole

As the input from several fans here on BOLTHYPE has shown, many still felt that the Bolts had some work to do in terms of getting to the level of this year’s NFL elites. San Diego may have headed into the Sunday night tilt with the Indianapolis Colts as the owners of a modest 5-5 record, but much like statistics, records can sometimes be misleading.

You heard that right Bill Parcells. Teams are not always what their record says.

It appeared that this Bolts team was intent on proving just that although that couldn’t be said about their opening defensive series. In following the same blueprint as they did against the Denver Broncos on Monday night, San Diego’s defense allowed Peyton Manning and the Colts to carve up their side of the ball en route to a game opening trip to the end zone. Not only was that part of the game very similar to the Bolts’ previous outing, but the team’s inspired play through the remainder of the contest also mirrored the game with Denver.

Balance has been something that this pass-heavy Chargers squad has been striving for on offense this season and that was certainly achieved during the game with the Colts. Many times throughout the game the statistics were shown on-screen and the play selection was almost always dead even in terms of run-pass split.

The main thing that this balance will help the Bolts achieve is openings for Philip Rivers to throw through as well as creating running lanes for the bowling ball Mike Tolbert to run through.

Beginning with Tolbert, it appears that this team has found something special in their running back by necessity. Although he began the season as a fullback, Tolbert has been vital since being called upon due to injuries in the backfield to the team’s prized rookie Ryan Mathews. His patented downhill running style has punished opponents on a regular basis and he has also shown the ability to help out in the passing game by providing a check-down outlet for Rivers underneath. Some of the sounds that are made when Tolbert collides with would be tacklers are just indescribable as the audible slaps and pops of pads coming together at full speed are enough to make a fan at home on the couch ache the next morning.

Sunday night also marked the season debut of holdout Vincent Jackson after he served his team-imposed suspension, but he only saw action in a handful of plays before he took a seat due to a calf injury. It can only be assumed that this injury was a result from not yet being in game shape as the number of repetitions for Jackson just isn’t up to the level of his teammates to this point.

Along with V Jack’s mild debut, the Bolts offense also had a few hiccups in the red zone as they were forced to settle for three on those occasions. Nate Kaeding looked the best he has all season converting five-out-of-five on field goal attempts on the night including a long of 50 yards. Fans have to be optimistic that he is finally over the debacle in last year’s postseason and ready to turn the page to a new chapter with his Chargers’ teammates.

Perhaps the brightest spot of all in the 36-14 triumph over Indianapolis on Sunday night was the play of the league’s number one statistical defense. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera drew up some incredible schemes after a tough first drive and really disguised his coverages well. Manning is often considered the best man under center in the NFL, but the Bolts’ defense made him look relatively pedestrian forcing four interceptions (including two pick-sixes) and making the Colts’ signal caller flinch in the face of a non-stop pass rush.

What allowed for the ability to get to the quarterback was the success of the interior defensive line for the Chargers in stopping the Colts’ ground game. According to nose tackle Antonio Garay: “We definitely stopped the run early. We took advantage of that and made them one-dimensional tonight. It definitely worked to our advantage.” Garay’s dominance at the point of attack kept the Indy running game in check all night long holding them to 14 attempts for just 24 yards.

This game could be seen as another nationally televised statement by the Chargers to the rest of the league as ‘Norv’ember is upon us. With the results in the AFC West on Sunday, San Diego still sits one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs of first place, but they have an upcoming home game remaining with Head Coach Todd Haley’s squad and are now finally above .500 for the season. The race is going to be tight as the Chargers are still digging themselves out of an early season hole, but that start is a thing of the past with the team now rolling on a four-game winning streak.

Now it’s your turn. Do you feel that the Chargers’ success running the ball more indicative of their ability to grind out the tough yards on the ground or the Colts struggles to stop it? Will Vincent Jackson find his place as a useful component of this Bolts offense or will he continue to struggle to acclimate with his teammates? Was the Bolts defensive dominance against the run more the Colts inability to move the ball via the ground or San Diego’s stout defensive front taking over? Is it possible that Antonio Garay is the long-term answer at nose tackle that the Bolts have been searching for or is he just a stop-gap until Cam Thomas is groomed and ready? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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November 30, 2010

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