Where Do The 3-5 Bolts Go From Here?

The Chargers may have finally broken their stretch of underachieving with a victory over the Tennessee Titans in week 8, but the team still has a tremendous amount of work to do if they want to become contenders. Two personnel moves that everyone knew were on the horizon took place over the past week with Vincent Jackson reporting to the team and signing his tender passing Shawne Merriman on his way out the door after he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Buffalo Bills.

Neither of these moves will have an immediate impact with the Chargers on the field, but what this does immediately accomplish is almost a breaking of the clouds overhead of this team. In a cartoon type fashion, the Bolts have been plagued by this ominous black cloud through the first half of the season with rain only falling on their heads. Each of these transactions suggests that perhaps that cloud is moving in another direction and will allow the Bolts to be free from suggestive ‘what ifs’.

Clearly this team has enough to worry about on the field as despite ending up on the better side of a 33-25 score this past weekend, the Bolts still had plenty of correctable mistakes take place.

It seems as if that litany of issues always begins on special teams, but yet another inexcusable error early in the game from Randy McMichael allowed Nick Schommer to fly by him untouched to block a Mike Scifes punt out of the end zone for a safety. San Diego has spotted their opponents points on SO many occasions thus far in 2010 that many have just come to expect that sort of issue with the team. A botched extra point after the team’s final touchdown didn’t ultimately come back to cost them, but that one point taken off of the board kept Tennessee alive within one possession as the time was winding down.

One really bad sign from the Bolts defense was the fact that Eric Weddle and company in the Bolts secondary led the team in tackles. That doesn’t say much for the team’s front seven as they have failed to pull their weight for the most part this year forcing the back third to do the dirty work. That was on display in the fourth quarter when the Chargers secondary allowed Titans receiver Nate Washington to stroll wide open 50 yards from the line of scrimmage without a defender in sight. These inexplicable lapses in coverage are what really could eventually come back to hurt this team somewhere down the line.

The negative news doesn’t end on the defensive side of the ball for the Bolts as they have one more contest this weekend before a much needed bye week. According to Dr. Phillip Kwong, a foot specialist from Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic, Antonio Gates is going to have a difficult time hitting the field this Sunday against the Houston Texans. Reports say that Gates has “popped” the plantar fascia in his right foot and has been present at practice this week on a motorized scooter to get around. Of the injury, Kwong said: “I think it’s going to be really tough to play with any proficiency this Sunday, unless they do a remarkable job anesthetizing him.”

Even hampered by a painful toe injury over the past two weeks, Gates has been able to maintain his torrid pace en route to a record setting season. Against Tennessee, Gates was on the receiving end of a fantastic 48 yard catch and run for a touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter to give the Bolts the lead. Already lacking some of their main offensive weapons, the Chargers could be in some trouble if Gates is unable to play against Houston this week.

Hanging on for dear life at the end, the way that this Chargers team managed to persevere and get the 33-25 victory against the Titans was just a microcosm of the squad’s season to this point. Overcoming special teams issues and injuries have been just a part of this team’s troubles midway through the 2010 season. Cutting down on some of these mistakes will be critical for this team rising to contender status in the AFC, but with quarterback Philip Rivers still on fire, he is becoming the Peyton Manning of the west just finding the open receivers and delivering the ball on target and in time.

Now it’s your turn, how badly will the Bolts miss Antonio Gates if he is unable to go this week against the Texans? Is this team now better off without Shawne Merriman in the locker room? What kind of adjustments can be made to fix the Bolts issues on special teams? Can the Chargers receiving corps keep their collective heads above water until Vincent Jackson is active in week 12 against the Colts? Just how does Philip Rivers stack up against Peyton Manning as a distributor of the football with neither of them having many big-name targets to make catches? Please give your opinions below!

November 5, 2010

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