San Diego took part in a game that was justifiably billed as a season maker or season breaker on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Whether you believe it was divine intervention or sheer random luck, the Chiefs’ starting quarterback Matt Cassel was ruled out of the contest due to an emergency appendectomy earlier in the week.
course any team going without their starting man under center would be handicapped a bit, but it seemed as if the Chiefs had lost the game with the Bolts before even taking the field. The Chargers had to be expecting a primarily run-based attack regardless of who was throwing the ball for KC. Brodie Croyle’s presence simply made the emphasis on stopping the run even more necessary for success.
For the first time in a long time San Diego’s defense took the field to begin the game with a mission and they were able to force a punt from the Chiefs on their opening possession. This would be a sign of things to come from the Bolts defense as the number differential at the contest’s conclusion was staggering. The Bolts outgained Kansas City by a ridiculous 426 to 67 yard margin showing complete dominance both offensively and defensively for a full sixty minute game.
The thorough beatdown was made possible by the Bolts’ ability to simply pound the Chiefs into submission with a tough, grinding running game to further showcase their versatility as a team. The long awaited return of Ryan Mathews to the Bolts’ backfield made that rushing attack much more successful as he looked impressive with 16 carries for 65 yards while Mike Tolbert was his equal with 16 totes of his own for 66 yards. Whether this game was simply an aberration or a sign of things to come, the Bolts have to be excited about the possibility of what lies ahead with this squad.
The other side of the ball was completely whitewashed by the Oakland Raiders’ punishing rushing attack a week ago surrendering an unspeakable 251 yards on the ground to the league’s number two ranked running game. That took a complete one-eighty this time around as well as the Bolts’ defenders in the trenches held the league’s number one ranked rushing team to a meager 48 yards on 17 carries. Tremendous leverage and gap responsibility propelled this Chargers’ defense to a quick turnaround in just seven days time.
Still the positive vibes don’t come without some negatives as San Diego did turn the ball over twice in their 31-0 rout of the Chiefs. Both of the giveaways were courtesy of their quarterback Philip Rivers who was pressured into some adverse conditions at times. The team’s pass protection has to improve if they want to eliminate these mistakes moving toward the postseason. The offensive line has shown vulnerabilities especially against elite pass rushers and the Chiefs’ Tamba Hali was the culprit yesterday keeping Rivers under duress in most passing situations.
These turnovers were without a reliable check down option in Rivers’ safety blanket Antonio Gates who was forced to miss the game with his chronic foot and toe ailments. That doesn’t excuse those mistakes, but it does give a legitimate reason for their occurring.
Even with those detractions, the Chargers have to be thrilled about how many different players were able to step up and contribute to the victory over the Chiefs. Malcom Floyd had a huge day hauling in both of Rivers’ two touchdown deliveries while the ground game garnered the other two scores for San Diego. Vincent Jackson’s two catches and one rush were both successful as he logged his first significant action of the season in his return from suspension and a calf injury.
Even though they were handicapped a bit by the absence of Gates, the Bolts offense adapted and controlled the clock by out-rushing a run-first team like the Chiefs. This has to be considered the sign of a good and potentially great team by adjusting to the conditions and making the most of what is available.
This victory came courtesy of an intimidating style of play that could really maximize the Bolts’ potential as the final weeks play out. On paper, this game was the toughest remaining tilt for the Chargers with home games against the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals coming up before the season ends with a road game against the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs have a much more difficult road ahead with a road game against the St. Louis Rams looming next week before two home contests with the Tennessee Titans and Raiders to close things out.
Action across the league helped the Bolts out this week as well with a sincere thank you going to the Jacksonville Jaguars for beating the Raiders who are a threat to the Bolts’ AFC West quest. They hold the tiebreaker over the Bolts and San Diego needs them to beat KC if push comes to shove in the season’s final week.
The convoluted playoff scenarios will get more complex before they are simplified, but the only thing the Bolts can control is winning their remaining three games. That task begins on a short week Thursday as they tango with the 49ers.
Now it’s opinion time. Which team is the real Chargers, last week’s version, this week’s installment, or somewhere in the middle? Can the Bolts persevere and win without Rivers having his go-to receiver in Antonio Gates out on the field? Is the Bolts’ running duo of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert one of the best in the league when healthy? San Diego needs to win out and get help just to make the playoffs, but do you think they will make it into the field of the AFC postseason three weeks from now? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Labels: NFL Season 2010 Week 13
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