By Curtis M. Egan
BoltTalk Staff Writer
You line these two teams up and it should be clear that the San Diego Chargers, who after five weeks sit at 2-3 for the fourth straight season in a row, should beat the St. Louis Rams who are also at 2-3. However, the Chargers have lost to three teams they should have beaten, and all of those losses came on the road. Did I mention that the Chargers are traveling to the ‘gateway to the west’ to play the game? I doubt the famous Arch of St. Louis will be a beacon of hope for this beleaguered team that can’t find a way to win on the road.
I will say this right at the beginning and not apologize for it. I am not confident that this Chargers team will be able to win on the road in St. Louis! The Chargers have played well for the most part on Offense and Defense, but have been inconsistent, and shoddy on special teams. The special teams breakdowns have been different every time, one week it is the kick off coverage, the next the punt coverage, then finally the punt protection that suffers a breakdown. The Chargers have allowed a league high 269 return yards on punts. The Special Teams have allowed 30 points in four games, by my reckoning to be scored by the opposition… 1 kick off return to the Chiefs, 2 punt returns to the Seahawks, a safety and touchdown on blocked punts… You can’t win games giving those away. Nor is that a mark of a championship team.
Let’s not give the offense a free ride though. At times Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers throws the ball as if his receivers are Oompa Loompa’s straight from Willy Wonka’s factory. Further the offense has not protected the ball. The team is currently -2 in the take-away, give-away category, and several possible scoring drives have ended with red zone turn overs; and no, that is not the latest pasty at the local fast food joint... Yes my friends, the Chargers pains have been largely self-inflicted.
The Chargers are not playing consistent Championship caliber football. Further, this team used to be able to take the ball with minutes or seconds left and go down the field and score for the win. That is not the case this season. All three road losses have come with the Chargers holding the ball on offense and being incapable of punching it in to the end zone for the winning score or overtime.
The Chargers, thus far are not the AFC West Champions of resent years. Do not think that I am providing the team a eulogy, and will end with ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’. That is not what is happening here. As a fan I am frustrated. Not that we lost 3 games. Not even that we lost to the Raiders. I am frustrated that the Chargers found ways to lose those games, instead of ways to win them.
The season is a marathon though, and it is not how you start but how you end. So let me send this message straight to our boys in lightning bolts… You need to start ending right now! If you do not protect the ball, shore up special teams and keep Rivers from rushing his passes, you will find more and more losses accumulating. You have four more road games after this weekend’s game. Will you drop them all, or man up and say “NO MORE!” Time will provide that answer.
Bring on the St. Louis Rams. This is a team that is playing better than the show on paper. They have a young Quarterback in Sam Bradford who has shown the ability to stand in the pocket and get the ball to an open receiver.
On paper, where the game is not played, the Chargers should dominate the Rams, even at home in front of a very vocal crowd. The teams break down in this manner:
Over all Offense:
Chargers rank 1st. Chargers are averaging an eye popping 461.8 yards per game.
Rams rank 20th. The Rams are averaging 318 yards per game.
Chargers rank 1st with 9.6 yards per completion.
Rams rank 17th with 5.76 yards per completion.
Chargers rank 12th with 4.3 yards per carry.
Rams rank 21st with 3.73 yards per carry.
Chargers rank 2nd allowing only 246.2 yards per game.
Rams rank 20th with 342 yards per game.
Chargers rank 3rd accumulating 18 sacks on opposing QBs.
Rams rank 22nd accumulating 10 sacks on opposing QBs.
Chargers rank 7th allowing 3.8 yards per carry.
Rams rank 16th allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
Defense, points per game:
Chargers rank 20th allowing 21.2 points per game.
Rams rank 11th allowing 19.2 points per game.
Chargers rank 24th allowing 15 QB hits and 7 sacks.
Rams rank 16th allowing 14 QB hits and 6 sacks.
As I mentioned the game will not be played on paper. The Defense has played it’s hart out, but against the Raiders last week appeared to wear down in the late portions of the game. If they are on the field too much, and the Rams go with a heavy does of running the ball with Steven Jackson the defense could wear down late in the game again.
The real key is how will the special teams respond? The Chargers cut CJ Spillman from their roster, due in large part to poor special teams play. Will this be the wake up call the young Chargers special teams players will need? Further will the Chargers hold on to the ball. As mentioned before the Chargers are now -2 in turnovers, the Rams are -1. They are evenly matched. But on special teams, the Rams, as well as most of the league have performed better. The Chargers have shown this season that they cannot overcome the points given to the opposition by the special teams.
If special teams struggle again, on the road, in front of a vocal and hostile crowd, you can expect the fourth road loss of the season. The Boltvision glasses are off, until the Chargers prove to me that they are the team I expected them to be, I will not give them the benefit of being ‘cautiously optimistic’. I understand the team starts late, and finishes fast, but the problems I am seeing make me question the team’s ability to get up to speed for that fast finish…
Head to Head Match-up:
Pass offense: Chargers
Rush Offense: Chargers
Pass Defense: Chargers
Rush Defense: Chargers
Defense, Points Allowed: Rams
Offensive Line: Rams
Special Teams: Rams
Chargers by 8.5
Match-ups To Watch:
CB Bradley Fletcher vs. WR Malcom Floyd
Many might be surprised to hear that Floyd currently ranks 3rd amongst active receivers with 498 passing yards, right ahead of Antonio Gates who at number 4 has 478. Floyd had a career day last week against the Raiders with 8 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown. He is quickly becoming the deep threat for the Chargers that holdout Vincent Jackson was last season.
Fletcher is starting for an injured Kevin Dockery, and on the season has 2 interceptions and 23 tackles, 18 of which are solo. It will be up to Fletcher to try and shut down the deep threat Floyd presents.
TE Antonio Gates vs. St. Louis Rams
Perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, but the Rams and other teams do have to plan for Gates. Gates is the best tight end in football right now, and arguably one of the best players in the league. He continues to get open regardless of if he is being covered by a linebacker or a corner or safety. Gates presence and the respect he demands will open up lanes for Floyd and Patrick Crayton. If he can play, Legedu Naanee will also benefit greatly from Gate’s presence.
WR Danny Amendola vs. CB Quentin Jammer
Amendola was thrown to 19 times after Mark Clayton went down with a season ending knee injury last week. He caught 12 passes for 95 yards. Amendola is an effective slot receiver who can find the gaps in the coverage, doing so he has accumulated a 9.2 yards per catch average.
Jammer has 1 interception on the season and 12 solo tackles. He has been steady in pass coverage but seems to be playing off the receiver more this season. The Rams running game behind the powerful back Steven Jackson could open up some opportunities for Amendola.
QB Sam Bradford vs. Charges Secondary
Bradford has played well through the first four games. His line has protected him adequately well and completed 23 of 45 for 215 yards and 2 interception last week vs. lions. Perhaps that was just a one week deal, but the Chargers field a much better secondary that the Lions do. The Lions rank 24th in the league in pass defense compared to the Chargers 3rd ranked pass defense.
Bradford has a 66.5 passer rating on the season, and it will take a good running attack to allow him to improve upon that number.
RB Steven. Jackson vs. Chargers LBs
Jackson has a 4.06 yard per carry average so far, he managed to get on track against the lions getting his first 100 yard game of the season. Jackson has not fumbled the ball this season. He faces a better defense this week, one that should be angry and wanting to assert its will over the Rams. However if Jackson can get to the second level of the defense he will be able to demand the attention that will help open some passing lanes for Bradford.
I hate to do this, but as I said I have no confidence that the Chargers will suddenly fix all their road woes, and overcome all of their mistakes.
I am taking the Rams in a close victory at home.
If I am wrong, I will sport a chicken little avatar for a week.