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Blues and Golds - Game 8, Chargers at Saints

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 30, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    By BlueandGold
    <em>BoltTalk Contributor</em>

    <a href="http://assets.espn.go.com/media/apphoto/b1b6945d-746e-49f5-a540-82d8d70d4e86.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="San Diego Chargers Philip Rivers passes the ball during the NFL football match between San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)" src="http://assets.espn.go.com/media/apphoto/b1b6945d-746e-49f5-a540-82d8d70d4e86.jpg" alt="" width="157" height="243" /></a>Teddy's gone.

    For many Charger fans, some much more than others, those words come as mana from heaven. For myself, it's "sweet-bitter".

    I didn't say "bittersweet" for a reason - that reason being, it's more "sweet" than "bitter", at least from my perspective. Still, the bitter has to be mentioned. For one, I never want to see a coach get canned from my favorite team. It usually means that the team is not playing well, and it especially means that the team is not playing well in the face of higher expectations for it's play. No team exemplifies that more than our Chargers, and no unit exemplifies that more than Teddy's Charger defense.

    Secondly, Teddy might have had the largest hand in the "D" standing for Disappointment - rather than Defense - but he was, by far, not the only hand. There are 11 players on that football field, more including the backups and role-players, that have to perform every Sunday. It is plainly obvious that Ted's scheme was not right for this football team, but even when the scheme had them in the right places, they failed to do their jobs. These men are professionals, the best of the best in the world at American Football, and yet we saw them blow routine assignments, make fundamental mistakes, miss tackles that high-school players would get lambasted for, and incur bonehead penalties that would make ANY coach livid. These things are not Teddy, and in many ways, these players let their coach down.

    I'm looking right at you, Mike Wilhelm, who played maybe the WORST inside linebacker eight-game stretch in history (twelve if you include preseason) - in a 3-4 to boot. You too, Clinton Hart, who had an awful game Sunday. And at you, Antonio Cromartie, who relied on the counsel of fools (Deion Sanders) rather than probably the best corner in the game today, much less on your team, in Quentin Jammer. And yes, you too, Igor Olshansky, who played with all the enthusiasm of a dead moth under Teddy.

    All those guys can't be fired, and someone had to be held accountable. So, as I said before, Teddy's gone, and he's the right man to be gone. This defense will improve under new Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera - perhaps because of a better scheme, perhaps because of better utilization of talent, but hopefully just as much because these players realize, deep inside, that Ted Cottrell took the bullet for all of them.

    If they do not, then this season's already a lost cause.

    <span style="font-size: medium;"><strong>BLUES</strong></span>

    <strong>1. PENALTIES/REFEREES</strong>

    As has been bantered about already, Sunday in London was a banner day for penalties when it comes to the Chargers. They had 14 penalties for 134 yards, in London - the highest in both categories in very nearly a full decade (November 15, 1998).

    There were a number of incredibly painful ones. Kris Dielman's full tackle of a Saints defensive lineman that negated a Rivers-to-Manumaleuna touchdown, which may have changed the game. A strange sideline-to-QB communication issue that led to an awful Delay of Game penalty that gave Philip Rivers the fateful 3rd and 15 on the final drive. Multiple frustrating penalties in the Red Zone. And not at the very least, the Eric Weddle celebration penalty for an interception he didn't even make.

    But that's not to say that all those penalty yards are earned. Most certainly, the referees took some sucker punches at the Chargers.

    Most specifically, two pass-interference penalties- one questionable, and one horrible - both on the same drive, that wound up being the balance of the game.

    One was in the third quarter, on a 3rd and 3 from the New Orleans 47 yard line, on Quentin Jammer that gave the Saints a free first down.

    The second one was four plays later, on a 3rd and 5 from the San Diego 20, on Cletis Gordon, and this one was the dagger. It was as fine a play as a San Diego cornerback had made all season, a textbook pass-defensed, and even the referees had to conference to ensure that the right call was made. But all you've got in that sense is the word of the ref that threw the flag, and he was apparently positive that he made the right call. Since you can't challenge PI's, the Saints wound up on the Charger 1 yard line, from where Mike Karney would score one play later, putting the Saints up 37-20 on the Chargers.

    Those ill-begotten points would be the last points the New Orleans Saints would score for the rest of the game, as the Chargers would mount a 12-point comeback in the last quarter of play, elevating their total to 32.

    A 32-30 Chargers final to 37-32 Saints final, all other things being equal - with the difference being two irreversible, completely subjective - and, replay showed in the latter case, incorrect - calls on the same drive to keep a Saint drive alive.

    This has to be the worst year for NFL officialdom I've ever seen, especially in relation to the Chargers.

    <strong>2. PASS DEFENSE</strong>

    On a day that most Charger fans knew would be the absolute WORST day in the whole season to play a soft zone defense, Ted Cottrell and the defense did just that; with predictable, yet none-the-less depressing results.

    Drew Brees, zone-beater extraordinaire (especially with zero pressure), threw for 339 yards, completing 30 out of 41, and 3 touchdowns to boot. And yet, no Saints WR went over 100 yards, the closest to that number being Lance Moore with 90 on six receptions. Eight different Saints caught a pass. Three different Saints caught touchdowns.

    It was an absolutely pathetic display of defensive planning, the crowning moment of the failure that is soft zone, bend-don't-break defense as a philosophy.

    <strong>3. RED ZONE PERFORMANCE</strong>

    It is perhaps here, the "Gold Zone" of the Marty days, that revealed the most sobering numbers of Sunday's game. And the worst thing of all was the fact that the Chargers were nearly equally as bad on both sides of the coin in this critical area.

    Let's talk a little bit about Red Zone efficiency. As the NFL measures it, Red Zone Efficiency is the ratio of Red Zone trips to Touchdowns - in other words, how often do you punch it in as opposed to settling for the field goal (or, not scoring at all). I must warn you, the numbers I dug up in this regard are a little disturbing - in particular, because history has proven that, more often than not, the Red Zone Efficiency stat is hand-in-hand with winning football. Simply put, touchdowns win games.

    Comparatively speaking - heck, by any speaking - the Marty Chargers were a dominating team in the Red Zone. In the last three years of Marty's tenure (2004, 2005, 2006), his team was never below 67%, ranking 1st, 2nd, and 1st, respectively. In 2005 (the "best team to not make the playoffs" year, and Brees' last year), the Chargers were an incredible 70% in Red Zone Efficiency, which is telling of how unlucky that was of a year for us.

    Against the Saints, we had a RZE of 50%, scoring 3 TDs in 6 attempts. This is also our percentage for the full half-season, sixteenth in the league. Last year, we were at 56%, 11th in football.

    Goal-to-go against the Saints was even worse. The Chargers were 1/3 in Goal-to-Go situations, 33 percent with less than ten yards for a TD. That is not an encouraging stat.

    It didn't get any better defensively on Sunday. The Saints were 80% in RZE for the game, up from their half-season average of 58 percent. They were fully 75% in Goal-to-Go situations. Just terrible Red Zone defense.

    If the Chargers hope to salvage this season, this is one area that absolutely has to improve.

    <strong>GOAT OF THE GAME:</strong> Ted Cottrell. His worst failure as our Defensive Coordinator was also his last.

    <span style="font-size: medium;"><strong>GOLDS</strong></span>

    <strong>1. LT</strong>

    In the midst of this dark time, one of our brightest lights is only beginning to glow.

    It isn't gaudy yardage - 105 to be precise - but it was gained on only 19 attempts, a 5.5 yard average. Throw in 65 yards recieving and a TD to boot, and LT had one of his best games of the year.

    But the best thing about Sunday's game was the fact that LT was noticeably LT once more. If the defense had played even a decent game, LT may have ran wild in London.

    Still, it bodes well for the future.

    <strong>2. PHILIP RIVERS</strong>

    It is easy to point at his fourth-quarter third down interception and discredit Philip's amazing performance in this game. Certainly Philip Rivers himself would surely point to that moment as one he'd like to have back.

    still, Philip Rivers was the only reason the Chargers were in that game at all - once again.

    He was 25/40 for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and that interception. But the most amazing thing about PR's performance on Sunday was the fact that 185 yards and 1 touchdown came in the fourth quarter.

    It's typical Rivers, and if he had completed the night by throwing another touchdown pass, it wouldn't have been a surprise to Charger fans that he had his best moment in the fourth quarter. It would have been an astounding victory among many, but I don't doubt that most Charger fans were fully confident that he would have gone down the field that final drive. Even the announcers expected it.

    He has been that kind of QB for us - almost a symbol of this team's never-say-die demeanor. They're never out of it until the final gun, always a threat to steamroll you, always a threat to pull victory out of defeat.

    Alas, it was not to be, and Jonathan Vilma snagged a third down and 15 pass that ended the game. Philip Rivers regretted later that he hadn't thrown shorter on third down, giving the team a chance on 4th down. But what musn't be lost in that ending is the fact that, in his true style, trying his best to make a play and lead his team back from 17 down, once more; and that we all have that expectation of him in only his third year starting.

    He's not the reason the Chargers lost. He's the reason the Chargers could have won at all, and I can't bring myself to feel anything but lucky to have him as our QB - even with Drew Brees on the same field. Nothing from that game makes me feel anything but thankful with our choice of QBs (despite the media's insistence to make it a referendum on that decision), because if the uniforms on the QBs were reversed, it would have been over in the third quarter.

    <strong>3. THE NAIL IN THE COFFIN.</strong>

    Ted Cottrell is gone. As I said in my opener, it's sweet-bitter. If there is one slim silver lining at all to this game, it's that it forced AJ to make a uncharacteristic regular-season coaching change that may breathe life into a stagnant defense.

    He wasn't the only problem, but his scheme certainly was the biggest, and now that Ron Rivera has taken the reins, it can't get any worse. That's a Gold in my book.

    <strong>PLAYER OF THE GAME:</strong> Philip Rivers

    <strong>THE GAME IN ONE SENTENCE:</strong> Air Coryell II comes to London, and loses like Air Coryell I used to - for want of a defense.

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