Despite some tenuous early moments in Monday night’s affair with the Denver Broncos, the Bolts handled their division rivals with relative ease pulling away by a 35-14 margin in the end. Although the scoreboard ultimately looked positive when the clock hit zeros, the Chargers still have some relevant concerns in several areas of their football team.
Those question marks begin along the defensive line where the linemen were continually losing the gap assignments allowing gaping running holes for Knowshon Moreno in the early going. When the guys up front would lose the battle in the trenches, the linebackers struggled to fill the holes quickly enough to corral the ball carrier forcing the nickel corner or safety to make several tackles defending the run.
Against a pass dominant team like the Broncos in good weather, those issues weren’t really fully exposed in the game Monday evening. In the colder playoff months of January and February however, those deficiencies could be exposed by a team more adept at running the ball. Keep in mind that Denver was ranked last in the league in rushing coming into the game with San Diego.
It seemed like the one play that allowed the entire Bolts team to settle into a rhythm was the fake punt call which punter Mike Scifres executed perfectly. That was a new wrinkle from oft criticized special teams coach Steve Crosby and made it impossible for the Bolts to have a blocked kick if they weren’t even booting the pigskin. The gutsy call proved to be pivotal as Philip Rivers would lead the team down the field to a touchdown following that fourth down conversion and started the onslaught from there.
Another area of this Chargers team that could be considered somewhat questionable is their passive play calling defensively early in games. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera began the game with tentative shells in coverage dropping six and sometimes seven into the secondary giving Kyle Orton time to survey the field and pick out an open receiver.
Blitzing is a key to the 3-4 scheme and although it does leave a team vulnerable in the back half if they fail to get home, the risk is well worth it considering the reward payoff. Shaun Phillips has been a man on a mission in recent weeks after Shawne Merriman’s departure as both he and second-year man Larry English looked great in bringing the heat on Orton.
It seemed like the guys in the trenches weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders against the Broncos either as several free rushers up the middle were able to get hits on Rivers throughout the game. The interior line also failed to get any real push for the running game forcing Mike Tolbert to run over people in order to accumulate yardage. Tolbert was able to do just that eclipsing the 100-yard plateau for just the second time in his career, but better blocking is needed from the line moving forward.
Of course the final area of concern with the Chargers team always ends up being the coaching aspect as Head Coach Norv Turner’s suspect decisions are no real surprise. It may not have come back to haunt them, but Turner sent kicker Nate Kaeding in his first game back from a groin injury out to attempt a 52-yard field goal which was on line, but fell predictably short in the end. Thankfully he thought better of sending Kaeding out in a similar situation after using a timeout to think about it later in the game, but these judgment calls could end up costing the Bolts a game this year at a crucial juncture.
In the end, the innovative play design from Turner’s offense brought new formations and motions to confuse the Broncos’ defense all night long. The other side of the ball looked just as impressive after the game’s opening drive getting up in press coverage and banging the Denver receivers around at the line of scrimmage to throw off their timing.
This game was billed as Turner coaching for his job by many and with the guillotine already claiming two head coaches this season that may not have been an outrageous presumption to make. For now Turner has this team beginning the makings of one of those patented late season runs to the playoffs. Let’s hope that continues and this Bolts squad can get healthy quickly with some key divisional match-ups looming on the horizon.
Let’s hear from the fans. Which area of the Chargers is most concerning moving forward, the defensive side of the ball or the offensive injuries? Just how safe do you think Turner’s job is at this time? Can Mike Tolbert really hold up as the number one running back for the Bolts or do they need Ryan Mathews back ASAP to give them a two-headed attack? Should the Bolts consider more gadget plays on special teams to avoid big returns and blocked kicks or is this just a passing phase? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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