By Dave Thomas

Remember earlier in the season when the San Diego Chargers had a defense that was essentially on lockdown for opposing offenses?

Well, seems like that was ages ago, as the Bolts have found their defense battered and bruised in recent weeks.
 
In the latest thrashing, the Chargers gave up 37 points to the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday in a 37-0 blowout in Miami. Keep in mind, that the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill are not exactly the equivalent of Peyton Manning and the Broncos or Drew Brees and the Saints when it comes to offensive firepower.

So, where is this San Diego defense that was rather dominant to start the season, allowing the Chargers to win five straight at one point?

Points Keep Piling Up

After holding 7-1 Arizona to a mere six points through three quarters in the season opener (Arizona would rally for an 18-17 victory), the Chargers would go on the following week to limit Russell Wilson and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks to 21 points in a 30-21 victory.

From there, the Chargers put the clamps on Buffalo (10 points), Jacksonville (14 points), and the New York Jets (0 points). Granted, these three teams are not exactly going to finish at season’s end with the top offenses in the NFL, but it was still an impressive stretch for the Chargers’ defensive unit.

From then on, the wheels seem to have come off the defense. While the Chargers did see an uptick in their strength of schedule starting with Kansas City (Chiefs won 23-20), giving up 28 points to the winless Oakland Raiders (San Diego won 31-28) may have been a sign of negative things to come. In just their last two games (losses to Denver and Miami), San Diego’s ‘D’ has been throttled for a 72 points.

While the Chargers have had some bumps and bruises on the defensive side of the ball in recent weeks, that is simply no excuse for their play. Good teams find a way to fight through the injuries and get the job done no matter who is lining up to play.

When you take a look at San Diego’s defensive statistics to date, you find the following:

* Ranked 11th overall (Giving up 20.7 points per game)
* Ranked 11th against the pass
* Ranked 16th against the run

Yes, those statistics are not the worst in the league by any means, but they are not numbers that are the making of a championship team by any means. In order to solidify themselves as a major playoff contender in the second half of the season, the Bolts will need to return to the defensive form of play they demonstrated during that opener and following five-game winning streak.

To no one’s surprise, Pro-Bowler Eric Weddle leads the Chargers in total tackles after eight games with 64, while Donald Butler has recorded 57. After that, there is a rather substantial drop-off, as Shareece Wright comes in with 38 total tackles. As a team, the Bolts have tallied 15 sacks through eight games.

With a three-game losing streak in hand, San Diego needs to get back to play defensively as it was earlier in the season.

If the Chargers do not find that winning defensive mentality over these remaining eight games, hopes of making the playoffs for the second straight year very well may get sacked.

For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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