Clearly after a debacle the magnitude of the one the Bolts took part in Monday night against the Chiefs there are plenty of places to point the finger. Instead of doing that this time around, let’s actually attempt to pinpoint some of the crucial issues plaguing this year’s Chargers team and get to the bottom of their causes.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE, or rather a lack of third down defense has been a huge issue for the Bolts this year. Regardless of the fact that statistics say the Chargers are the fifth worst third down defense by conversion percentage, the Bolts have just been inexcusably bad on even third and long situations. In the opening quarter of the game against the Chiefs the team surrendered pass plays of ten or more yards on consecutive third downs giving Kansas City enough room to get points on their first possession. Sometimes it isn’t the quantity of conversions given up, but rather than timing of surrendering those first downs and that has been debilitating for San Diego so far this year.
TURNOVERS have to be considered one of the primary reasons for the team’s struggles as well with the Bolts having a -5 turnover margin through seven games. Perhaps the most unbelievable part of that negative turnover statistic is the fact that Philip Rivers himself has been responsible for 14 giveaways. His league-high 11 interceptions are just unspeakably bad for the quarterback who was second in the league in pass-efficiency just a season ago. For some reason Rivers continues to look unsettled in the pocket on many of his dropbacks and just doesn’t appear to trust himself one hundred percent of the time. His indecisive play is very uncharacteristic of the normally confident quarterback and needs to change quickly if the Chargers want this season to amount to something.
ROAD RAGE is another very apparent concern for the team as they are just 1-3 away from Qualcomm Stadium this year with that lone victory coming in week 5 against the less than remarkable Denver Broncos. Unless this team shows a bit more character over the coming weeks and plays with an edge away from home that hasn’t been there thus far in 2011, their woes on the road could doom them to a disappointing result for the year as a whole.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION has to be questioned for the Bolts who were given plenty of praise for coming out of the gates hot finally starting out 4-1, but those four wins came against teams that now have a combined 8 - 21 record. Although the Chiefs are the one outlier in this statistic that is included in both the wins and the losses for the Bolts, the teams that the Chargers have lost to are a combined 13-8 at this point. If the Bolts can’t beat playoff contenders during the regular season, why should anyone feel that the team is capable of reversing that trend when the playoffs roll around?
SLOPPY LAST SECONDS is in reference to the club’s propensity to simply self-destruct in fourth quarters which was glaringly evident in Monday night’s meltdown. In week 2 against the New England Patriots, San Diego was actually within one score of the Pats midway through the final quarter, but a costly Mike Tolbert fumble set the stage for the Bolts’ demise. In week 6 against the Jets, zero in-game adjustments and a great game from Plaxico Burress led to the team’s downfall. And clearly this past week mental errors and Rivers’ short-arming the snap when setup for the game-winning field goal gift-wrapped the victory for the Chiefs. Composure and resolve are two areas where this team certainly needs to improve if they want to reverse this disturbing trend of fourth quarter collapses.
Each of these areas needs to show some real progress if the Bolts want to avoid sliding down the slippery slope into mediocrity as they ready themselves for the undefeated defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers on a short week this coming Sunday. As if it wasn’t a big enough slap in the face to completely implode in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football, having the NFL’s modern-day juggernaut franchise coming to your home stadium the following week will be a huge test for the Bolts.
Now it’s your chance to be heard. What do you think is the reason for the defense’s struggles to get off of the field on third down? Is it a lack of discipline that has led to the generous number of turnovers by the Bolts this year or is there another cause that you see? Are there any explanations for the team’s difficulties on the road so far? Why do you feel the Chargers always fold against opponents with a higher winning percentage? What can be done to rectify the team’s fourth quarter ineptitude before things spiral out of control? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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