The Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde journey of the 2012 San Diego Chargers continued at Arrowhead Stadium this past weekend with a beatdown of the Kansas City Chiefs. Up and down doesn’t even begin to describe the massive differences shown by the Bolts on a week-to-week basis thus far this season. Consistency really is the primary concern for this team moving forward and even with a lead in the division, can the club find some way to put forward solid performances in back-to-back games?
Traveling to New Orleans to face the Saints in week five will be a great evaluation tool for the Chargers’ ability to back up a dominating victory with another solid win. Even though the team did beat the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans in weeks one and two, the first game with the Raiders was not terribly convincing.
This past Sunday however, the Bolts came out guns blazing after their stinker the week before against the Atlanta Falcons. San Diego was up on the Chiefs by a 17-0 margin midway through the first quarter and they just built on that lead as the game moved along. Turnovers helped to aid the cause as the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles fumbled twice while quarterback Matt Cassel threw three picks before the game concluded.
It’s highly doubtful that the Saints will beat themselves in the manner that the Chiefs did. Given the fact that two Chargers cast-offs in Drew Brees and Darren Sproles will be playing against the Bolts in this contest, one could expect a little extra motivation from those two when the Bolts come to town. Add in the fact that the Saints are a desperate 0-4 team and the intrigue only heightens further for this one.
The area that is most alluring for the Bolts heading into this game is the Saints’ secondary where they are extremely vulnerable. Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers illustrated that quite well this past weekend throwing for over 300 yards. Philip Rivers and the Chargers should have a gameplan in place to expose that porous Saints’ pass defense and given the extra time that Rivers was afforded this past week, perhaps the offensive line is beginning to improve.
Two players to keep an eye on in the upcoming Saints game will be wideout Robert Meachem and tight end Antonio Gates. While Gates hasn’t been all that disappointing this season, he really hasn’t had that breakout performance that many were anticipating. He has just ten catches and barely over 100 yards receiving at the quarter pole of the season. What is most surprising is his zero touchdowns as he has been a staple of the Bolts’ red zone attack for the majority of the past decade. Look for him to see some open space this week as the Saints have surrendered some yardage to opposing tight ends this year and hopefully Gates can finally find the end zone.
As for Meachem, he has not yet gotten to 100 yards receiving and unlike Gates, he hasn’t missed a game due to injury. His inability to get open is concerning for the Bolts who spent a nice chunk of change to bring him in this offseason. Getting the underneath passing game going a bit more should open up some real estate for Meachem to work in forcing the safeties to play up nearer to the line of scrimmage and giving the slot routes a better chance of success. It seems that Gates and Meachem are linked this season and I am convinced that once one of them gets going, the other is sure to follow.
The final area to focus on moving forward is of course the backfield drama that has developed for the Bolts. Ryan Mathews was shown to a seat on the bench in the win over the Chiefs as Jackie Battle shared the workload with him on Sunday. Mathews’ 14 totes for 61 yards outdid Battle’s 15 carries for 39 yards, but ball security was the reason for the demotion. Earlier in the week, General Manager A.J. Smith had some strong words for Mathews saying: "What happens to fumblers is, first, they play less. Second, if it continues while they're playing on a limited basis, then you don't play for a while and you get to sit and think about it. Third, when you get the call to go back on the field and the fumbling continues, then you will be somebody else's fumbler."
Smith was the guy who gave up an enormous ransom back in 2010 to move up and get Mathews, but it’s nice to see that he is willing to hold him accountable for his mishaps. His 11 fumbles in the 27 games that he has played with the team is just an abominable stat and as Smith said, if it continues, his playing time is sure to decrease. Hopefully sitting him down made him realize that he needs to pay more attention to the little things if he wants to remain the number one guy. If it didn’t, surely he will get a bit more comfortable on the bench.
As we look ahead to the tilt with the Saints, offense seems like the main area of focus for the Chargers. Nobody thought that a team primarily concerned with defense coming into the year would say that after four weeks, but the defense has been solid. The playmakers need to show up when the Bolts visit New Orleans and if that happens, this team could begin to make believers out of many people around the league.
Now it’s your turn. Do you see the Chargers’ passing game finally taking off this week when the team faces the Saints? Is the success of Robert Meachem and Antonio Gates linked or will they each find paydirt on their own timetable? What do you make of GM A.J. Smith’s comments about Ryan Mathews? Will Mathews remain the Bolts number one ball carrier or will Jackie Battle continue to steal his touches? Can this Bolts team finally be consistent and put up a second straight solid performance against the Saints this week? Please fill up that comments with your thoughts!
Follow Anthony on Twitter: @AnthonyMBlake
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