Playing The Blame Game

There were more than enough side stories leading up to last week’s game with the New York Jets to built up quite the expectations for how the contest would play out. From the idea of LT facing his old team for the first time since they parted ways or the way the Jets dispatched of the Bolts the last time the two met in the postseason two years ago, the verbal jousting between Rex Ryan and Norv Turner merely provided some additional intrigue to the showdown.

Both men got in their fair share of barbs in their war of words, but it seems that in typical Norv fashion, the Bolts man in charge forgot about making a game plan. With their own cast of lanky, athletic wide receivers one would think that the defensive backs for the Chargers would be well-aware of how to cover a player of similar stature. Unfortunately that proved to be their undoing as Plaxico Burress (yes, the convict) hauled in not one, not two, but ALL THREE of the Jets touchdowns on Sunday.

Burress has a knack for getting loose at the line of scrimmage and creating instant separation from coverage especially down on the goal line. Chargers’ corner Antoine Cason appeared all but helpless in denying Burress of position in the red zone as he was in the trailing position nearly every time throughout Sunday’s contest. When lagging behind the receiver, at least a defensive back should be aggressive enough to fight for the ball at the moment of truth and knock it down, but Cason failed in that department as well.

It’s easy to simply blame the players out on the field for not executing and say that is clearly why things didn’t go the Bolts’ way. Where that ceases to be valid is when despite the clear mismatch of Cason versus Plax, the Chargers made ZERO adjustments on defense during the course of the game to attempt to rectify the issue. Instead they let Cason fend for himself and continually be abused by the bigger, stronger Burress allowing the Jets free reign to do as they pleased.

That is where this all comes full circle for the coach of the Chargers as Turner has consistently been the primary reason for the team’s disappointing play during his tenure with the club. His inability to inspire the team early in seasons combined with his complete ineptitude as an in-game adjuster just further solidifies the fact that he isn’t the right man to take this team where it wants to go.

Perhaps the real explanation for any discontentment regarding Turner as the coach of the Bolts was justified by the final one minute, twenty-nine seconds of the game. The team took over at their own 24-yard line with no timeouts left trailing by six points, yet there was absolutely no sense of urgency in the play calling.

After a nice 18-yard completion to begin the drive to Antonio Gates, Rivers followed that up with two short, underneath completions to Patrick Crayton for 3 yards and Ryan Mathews for 4 more. Those short gains on the sidelines would have been just fine, but over the middle they were counter-productive with the clock winding down before a third down incompletion finally stopped the time. That really was too little, too late however as the fourth down effort yielded no results with the ball falling harmlessly to the turf leaving the Jets one kneel down away from the win.

The locker room following any loss is never a fun place to be, but the Chargers were particularly upset after this one as Quentin Jammer blamed the officials while Randy McMichael said the Chargers beat the Chargers. Playing the blame game is always a losing proposition, but McMichael was definitely pointing his finger in the right direction.

It was the Chargers’ coaching staff that beat the Chargers in this game from their lack of adjustments defensively to the complete mismanagement of the game clock in the waning moments. Everyone in the locker room doing the finger-pointing and playing the blame game should turn their fingers around and point at themselves. This team needs to focus more on the game at hand and executing rather than whose fault it is when things don’t go as planned.

Quarterback Philip Rivers turned things upside down a bit with his comments following the game saying: "All I hear for six months was that the regular season didn't matter. Now, everyone wants to know what is the matter? We are 4-2. We've been worse. We had a chance to win this game, but we didn't."

For a team that had started 2-5 for four consecutive seasons, 4-2 should be considered a big step in the right direction. Yet for some reason it feels like a win/loss record in October has much less value than the ways those numbers were compiled in the critical moments of close games.

Now it’s your turn to weigh-in. Do you place the blame on Antoine Cason or the Chargers’ coaching staff for Plaxico’s success against the Bolts’ corner? Is Norv Turner to blame for the mismanagement of the game clock in the final 89 seconds or is that on the players? Will a loss like this linger with the players or do you think they will be able to turn the page quickly and move on to Kansas City? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!

October 26, 2011

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