The Chargers may have gotten the all important “W” to start off the regular season on the right foot in 2011 this past Sunday, but there are still plenty of questions without answers for the team as we look forward. It will take a lot more than one season opening victory to liberate the minds of fans’ of the horrors of last season and in many ways, all week one did was cause those same concerns to resurface for the team.
Obviously the opening play of the year was the collective air going out of the balloon as the supposedly improved special teams unit that had been receiving so much praise during the offseason gave up a 103-yard return for a touchdown to the Minnesota Vikings’ return man Percy Harvin. Of course watching several amped up special teamers lose their lane integrity and give Harvin a direct route to pay dirt was quite difficult to watch, but the injury to kicker Nate Kaeding on the play poured additional salt in the wound.
Mike Scifres was arguably the MVB (most valuable Bolt) in week one as he assumed the place kicking duties as well as kicking the ball off following Kaeding’s injury. As usual the Bolts’ best special teams weapon had a tremendous punt in the first quarter that was inside of the 10-yard line en route to an all-around solid day given his successful 40-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
Although the defense got off to a slow start before righting itself in the second half, the issues seen in the game’s opening thirty minutes have to be concerning for the coaching staff. Donavan McNabb doesn’t have the mobility that he used to, but he proved that he still has enough to hurt a defense prone to over pursuit. The damage done by McNabb with his legs running the ball as well as buying time to throw the ball downfield illustrated just how vulnerable the Chargers could be against a quarterback with lively legs somewhere down the line.
With this information readily available to any team watching film, perhaps a division opponent like the Denver Broncos might even consider trying their luck with Tim Tebow under center when they face the Bolts. A dual threat quarterback is a nightmare for the secondary because they generally have to cover receivers for quite an extended amount of time and is just as frustrating for the other two levels of defenders who have difficulty locating the signal caller when he can use his legs effectively. This is definitely an issue to be aware of down the line and could pose a problem for the team over the coming weeks.
While the offense did nothing spectacular, Philip Rivers still managed to eclipse the 300-yard barrier and the team still outscored its opposition. What really is mystifying however is after watching how potent the Bolts were running a two-minute offense near the end of the first half, just why doesn’t the team operate under a no huddle attack during other parts of the game? Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have illustrated just how important dictating tempo can be in the efficiency of an offense. By moving up to the line quickly and forcing the opposing defense to keep its same personnel on the field, the Chargers could script plays to move the ball against any given defense and keep the chains moving at a rapid pace.
Bryan Walters made the 53-man roster mainly due to his special teams prowess, but a precious roster spot isn’t spent on a one-dimensional player very often. Walters showed just why he earned his spots in other areas during the first game as he was one of Rivers’ main targets during the aforementioned two-minute march. Confidence is a huge factor in the quarterback/receiver relationship and these two should have plenty of belief in one another moving forward given their rapport shown in week one.
What also became apparent in the opening week’s action is that the running game is still a huge question mark for the Bolts offensively. All three of the team’s touchdowns may have come via a running back, but that tells very little about the overall success rate of the running game. Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert had an even split in terms of carries with a dozen each, but neither one had an impressive average yards per tote. Mathews came in at 3.8 YPC while Tolbert managed just 2.9. The average for Mathews was greatly helped by his one lengthy gallop of 23 yards in quarter number one as he had just 22 yards on his 11 other carries throughout the game.
It’s tough to be the sad sack that rains on the week one victory parade, but it really is necessary to remain grounded given the high expectations for this football team. If the Bolts truly have Super Bowl aspirations for February of 2012, they need to develop more discipline defensively (especially early in games) and somehow find a more balanced attack on offense.
Now it’s time for you to chime in. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the Chargers’ special teams unit as a whole in week 1? Do you think that Rich Bisaccia is the man to turn things in the right direction or does the personnel need an overhaul to change the team’s fortunes covering kicks? Will the vulnerability against mobile quarterbacks come back to haunt the Chargers at some point this year? Do you blame the running game’s inability to get started on play calling, the backs, or the offensive line and why? What are your keys for the Bolts still being a viable candidate to play in Super Bowl XLVI this February? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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