By Dave Thomas
Remember the very end of September when the San Diego Chargers were sitting at 3-1 and in first place in the AFC West? Yes, seems like an eternity ago.
In yet another disappointing display of professional football Sunday afternoon, the Chargers essentially said goodbye to any hopes of winning the division title, dropping a 30-23 contest to the rival Denver Broncos in the Mile High City. With the loss, the Bolts have now dropped five of their last six games, with 8-2 Baltimore looming on the schedule Thanksgiving weekend.
For those that had the stamina to watch Sunday’s tilt in Denver, the same old problems came back to bite the Chargers when all was said and done. Quite simply, the Chargers had little or no:
- Offensive line support – Grade: D+
- Running attack – Grade: C-
- Effective QB play – Grade: C+
- A good special teams effort – Grade: C- and
- Pressure on the opposing QB – Grade: C – (Hats off, however, to getting an early interception for a TD and a safety on Manning).
Mind you, those grades may have been a bit too generous in the scheme of things.
Whether it was a lack of preparation on the part of head coach Norv Turner and his staff, poor execution by those on the field or a combination of the two, this loss was especially frustrating for Charger fans on a day when Peyton Manning was not at his most effective. Coming into the game with the NFL’s highest QB passer rating on the season, Manning (25-of-42, 270 yards, 3 TDs, one interception) did just enough to put the Broncos in position to win, with certainly a little help from an almost non-existent San Diego pass rush.
Meantime, counterpart Philip Rivers finished his day going 24-of-40 for 258 yards, with a pair of TDs and two interceptions. A more noted stat, Rivers was sacked four times, while being hurried countless other times. Again, where was San Diego’s offensive line on this fall afternoon in the Rocky Mountains?
As for San Diego’s running game, it may have been left at the airport trying to catch the flight to Denver. The Chargers netted a paltry 53 net rushing yards on the day, with Ryan Mathews looking like he was stuck in quicksand much of the day, as Denver’s defense was in the backfield almost at the point where Mathews was getting the ball.
Lastly, San Diego’s special teams unit for the second weekend in a row allowed punter Mike Scifres to nearly get carted off the field after having a punt blocked. Unless this unit cleans things up over the next six games, they will be lucky to see Scifres make it to the end of the season.
In all, most Charger fans realistically probably knew the day would come when the better team in the division would assert itself, that right now being Denver. While San Diego is not mathematically eliminated from the wild card hunt, it would take a major winning streak, plus some help from other teams getting picked off, for the Bolts to have any chance of playing past the regular season finale against Oakland (Dec. 30).
As for Turner and potentially general manager AJ Smith, it may not be a bad idea to make sure those GPS units in their vehicles are working. By all accounts, one or both men will be driving out of San Diego if they want jobs in the NFL come next season.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.