As the Chargers lick their wounds following the come from ahead loss to the New Orleans Saints, the players are left to wonder what might have been. An opportunity at a two-game cushion in the division is gone, but the game on the horizon against the Denver Broncos makes it impossible to dwell on the past.
What became painfully apparent to most fans in watching the game Sunday night however was that as much as it would be nice to send a message to running back Ryan Mathews and limit his touches, the offense just cannot afford to do so. Mathews clearly has the most talent of anyone in the Bolts’ backfield and when he gets his hands on the football, there is always that feeling that this could be the big one.
It is great that Jackie Battle will continue to share some touches, keep Mathews fresh, and maybe pop in for a few goal line totes now and again given Mathews’ terrible ball security history. Regardless, Mathews needs to be the workhorse and if the team can climb onto his back and just cross their collective fingers that he can keep the ball safe, perhaps the offense won’t sputter so woefully in crunch time.
That really was the team’s undoing in this contest as the offense simply couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm with Mathews’ removal from the gameplan down the stretch. Granted the team was trailing for much of the fourth quarter, but there were a grand total of zero running plays ran in the game’s final chapter.
Even during the Chargers’ final drive in the third quarter which was quite successful because of how the run helped to set up the pass, the team abandoned the running game after a first down and ten at the Saints’ 40-yard line. An incompletion and then a sack led to a predictable draw play before the eventual punt took place.
All of us were worried that the defense would be the primary concern for this Chargers team coming into the 2012 season, but clearly the offense has become just as worrisome. The predictability of Norv Turner’s play-calling has been harped on time after time, yet no changes have been made. Each of us is still expecting 95 percent of the plays that the Bolts run on offense.
If it is possible to be an armchair defensive coordinator against an offense, you have a serious problem.
Now it’s on to the Denver game as promised and there should be plenty of holes for the Chargers’ running game in this one. The Broncos have allowed 120.2 rushing yards per game thus far this season and really lack the personnel to even effectively contain Mathews and the Bolts’ stable of backs. This is the perfect opportunity for the team to show that they can run a ball control offense that bleeds the clock and shortens the game against Peyton Manning.
Yes, it did take that long to mention his name. Still, the Bolts have had some real success against Manning in the past as evidenced by his 4-5 career record against the team. More recently however, Manning is just 1-5 against the Chargers in his last six meetings so this bodes well for the Bolts heading into Monday night.
Clearly the team’s ability to disguise defenses and bring defenders from all different angles gets Manning’s blood boiling. Most remember fondly the game in 2007 where Manning threw six interceptions in San Diego. There was another in 2010 where the Bolts forced him into four picks in just one game. The color of his uniform may have changed, but the Chargers still remember how to rattle number 18.
While much of the Chargers’ fortunes may hinge on coach Turner’s ability to stay out of his own way, his rhetoric still makes a lot of sense. Looking forward to the game, he said: “I love the way our team is preparing; I love the way our team is aggressively playing. We’re playing extremely physical; we’re playing extremely fast. We’ve got to take the next step and overcome the adversity that happens in a game and be able to finish a game.”
What he forgot to add was that he too needs to take the next step and allow this team to continue playing its style of football without intervening. The Chargers seem primed to make Manning miserable again in San Diego, but if they don’t remain balanced on offense and again become predictable, the outcome will be easy to see coming as well.
Now it’s your turn to weigh-in! After the Bolts’ heartbreaker in New Orleans, what improvements do you think the team needs to make moving forward? Do you believe that the offense needs to revolve around Ryan Mathews? Is Norv Turner’s play-calling again the issue with the Chargers’ offense or is there a deeper cause here? Will the team be able to rattle Manning with different defensive looks as they have in the past or will he get his revenge as a divisional foe? Please fill up the comments section with your thoughts on all of this and more!
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