Week after week there have been two common themes with this 2016 San Diego Chargers team. They have continuously made mistakes (minus the Jacksonville Jaguars game) in virtually every facet of the game, and they have also been riddled with constant injuries.
The team lost Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman this week to injuries and yes, once again they made mistakes. Both LBs are being evaluated today, as is Travis Benjamin, who is dealing with knee discomfort. This could get ugly once again as the Chargers have dealt with injury woes all season long.
The team had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth after riding Melvin Gordon all the way to the two-yard line. For some odd reason, the Chargers’ coaching staff decided to throw the ball on all four downs resulting in no touchdown. Really, it was a mind-boggling decision not to just punch in it with Gordon who had been running tough all day long. Perhaps the team is afraid of Gordon’s fumbling issue that has surfaced in the past. Still not an excuse. You have to just play hard, smash-mouth football right there, not try to get cute.
It doesn’t really matter what a player has done in their past. Gordon is the team’s stud running back and should have been given the rock. After the game, Mike McCoy basically admitted they made a mistake. They chose to call the plays they did, and they failed. That is about all you got out of the man, but you could tell he was dejected by the questioning. He had to know he was going to be scrutinized. Even though most of the play calling comes down to Ken Whisenhunt.
The whole day, the offense was pressured by the Broncos. In fact, Rivers was pressured 61% of the time he dropped back. According to ESPN Stats, in 31 out of the 51 times he dropped back to throw, the Chargers QB was harassed by the Broncos defense. With pressure like that constantly in his face, it is no wonder that Rivers was picked three times, although the picks were not entirely his fault as the receivers allowed some balls to get knocked up in the air. The Broncos defense is a tough unit to play.
That brings me to the fact that the Chargers coach decided to go for two after a bogus offensive pass-interference penalty against Antonio Gates that would have resulted in a Melvin Gordon two-point conversion. Gates did set a pick and could have been less blatant about it, but the call was purely a judgement call. Usually at an important juncture of the game, players are allowed to play the game and officiating is not to interfere. That did not happen in this instance.
Penalties like that can be disappointing, on top of the fact it also pushed their offense further away from their goal. Naturally, most coaches would have just kicked the extra point making it an 24-20 game, but McCoy did not. The Broncos stopped the Chargers and the score was now 24-19. A five point game. Battling a tough Broncos defense all day, it was obvious that attempting a two-point conversion at that point in the game was just foolish. Yes, you want to make it a three point game, but there was still plenty of time left on the clock. Play the momentum of the game. The defense for Denver was riding high after the penalty and being further back from the end zone dictates kicking the extra point is best. I realize Lambo missed an extra point earlier in the game, but come on. You can’t play scared. Sure enough, the Broncos kicked a field goal on their next possession making it a 27-19 score. An eight point deficit. Little things like this are huge. Clock management and handling the two-point dilemma is something McCoy and his regime have suffered at continually.
Playing football at the level the Chargers presently are can be demoralizing. The team has suffered numerous loses this year, and on top of their errors while playing the game, they have also witnessed their teammates succumbing to constant injuries. Losing key players like Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Steven Johnson, and Branden Oliver on offense has definitely slowed the productivity of the Chargers while they have the ball. Amazingly, Philip Rivers, despite having a patchwork wide receiver group, has found the open man time and time again. The offense has not been an issue, as the Chargers have scored the most points (225) in the AFC and are second only to the Atlanta Falcons (261) in all of football.
Surprisingly at 3-5 on the year, the season is not over. This team is very dangerous and if they can stop shooting themselves in the head, they could be a team to be reckoned with. With eight more games on the season, the team has a favorable schedule ahead of them. Not that any NFL game is an easy win (especially with how the Chargers have been playing), but with only one game viewed as a “difficult” game (at Carolina), they could go on a winning streak. Anything can happen with this team. That you can be sure of.
One thing I can guarantee is that this team will battle to the end. I can very easily see them getting back into contention for the playoffs, but whether or not they can get over the hump depends on the coaching staff and their willingness to improve. The team and its play comes down to their coaches efforts in crunch time. If a team continually makes mental errors then it is the coaching staff that needs to be held responsible. Listening to coach McCoy’s press conference today, he continues to take zero responsibility for the team’s play. In fact, he throws the players under the bus and tells the media they need to get better, with no mention of his play calling and the obvious errors in judgement he and his staff made. It really boggles the mind. #FireMcCoy