By Dave Thomas
Give the San Diego Chargers credit; they did not fold when the going got tough last weekend against the visiting Cleveland Browns.
Losers of two straight and potentially looking at an upset at the hands of the Browns, San Diego (2-2) managed to get a late-game break and convert (Cleveland penalty on the first field goal try which missed) a second field goal attempt in a wild 30-27 win over Cleveland. In doing so, the Chargers got back on the winning track after it looked like things might head a tad south going into October.
So, with the win in hand and ready to host Pittsburgh this coming Monday evening in front of a nationwide audience (ESPN), what will the Chargers need to do in order to get above .500 at 3-2 heading into a monumental task the following Sunday at Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and the currently 4-0 Green Bay Packers?
Where Is That 60-Minute Game?
Even in topping Cleveland and halting a short two-game skid, the Chargers could not have been happy about some of the stats which emerged from the game. They include:
- Cleveland tallied 432 yards of total offense;
- San Diego allowed Cleveland QB Josh McCown to throw for 356 yards. Keep in mind, McCown is not exactly the second-coming of Rodgers or Drew Brees. The Chargers did put McCown on the ground with four sacks;
- San Diego was a meager 3-of-11 on third downs with the ball;
- Philip Rivers was sacked twice, bringing to 12 times this season he has been taken down by opposing defenses.
Just like any head coach around the league, San Diego’s Mike McCoy wants to see a total team-effort from his troops, an effort that starts on the opening play and ends when the clock hits zero in the fourth quarter.
Whether it has been inconsistent play (some of which has been due to injuries) on the offensive line (which has certainly led to Rivers being under duress at times, missed scoring opportunities, or allowing opposing quarterbacks to slice and dice San Diego’s secondary, the Chargers have certainly not put together “the perfect game” through four contests to date this season.
McCoy Wants Better Tackling
As McCoy and the Bolts prepare for a Pittsburgh squad that is struggling at 2-2, especially with starting quarterback and team leader Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf for a few weeks as the result of a knee injury, the intensity level both in practice and on game-day needs to be ratcheted up for San Diego. According to comments recently from McCoy on Chargers.com, the win over the Browns could be something to build on as the season moves along, starting on Monday evening when head Mike Tomlin and the Black and Gold take the field.
McCoy also noted about the win last Sunday that the toughness and grit shown by Rivers (1,248 yards passing, eight TD’s through four games) can rub off on other players on the squad, though toughness and grit can’t always carry the day. The third-year head coach added that fundamental things like tackling the opposing backs/receivers with the ball can’t be taken for granted. In the win over Cleveland, McCoy was not pleased that the Chargers missed a number of tackles on open ball carriers. Wrapping up and limiting the other team’s gains each carry or pass is crucial, according to McCoy.
Once again, fundamentals are another key component of playing a full 60-minute game and coming out with a win instead of a loss.
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.