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Chargers defenders start slow, then finish fast

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Kevin Acee
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    September 30, 2009

    SAN DIEGO – The Miami Dolphins tried to surprise the Chargers with a deep pass on their first play from scrimmage Sunday. That didn't work, so the Dolphins just set about embarrassing the Chargers for a while.

    Miami gashed and dashed 94 yards down the Qualcomm Stadium turf on its opening drive, almost as if the Chargers were there only as chaperones.

    A bungled handoff at the 1-yard line is all that kept the Chargers from trailing by a touchdown.

    On the sideline as the offense prepared to take the field, linebacker and defensive captain Stephen Cooper stood in the middle of his assembled teammates and said enough was enough.

    “This isn't going to be like last week,” Cooper told them as he looked up and down the bench.

    Mostly upset about a third-and-7 the Dolphins converted at the beginning of the drive, Cooper took blame for his part and called out others.

    “This is going to be a defensive battle,” he said. “If we're going to win this game we've got to play better and shut them down.”
    They did.

    As has become their habit this season.

    “The first quarter, we're not at our best,” end Jacques Cesaire said. “Once the second, third and fourth quarter come we're like a totally different defense.”
    That's an understatement.

    The Chargers have given up 304 first-quarter scrimmage yards this season and just 684 over the rest of their three games. That's an average of 101.3 yards over three first quarters and 76 yards in the other nine quarters.

    Oakland averaged 6.2 yards on its first 13 rushes and 3.5 on its final 19. Baltimore averaged 6.5 yards on its first 12 rushes and 2.6 on 20 carries thereafter. Miami averaged 6.9 yards on its first eight rushes and 4.1 on 23 carries after that.

    “Crazy, huh?” linebacker Kevin Burnett said. “It just shows when you want to play and when guys do what they're supposed to do, we're fine. When we have guys out of position, not doing what they're supposed to do ”
    Still, it just doesn't make sense – how a team can rank 27th in yards allowed in one quarter and eighth in the other three.

    That's why the question of why it happens is met mostly with a litany of “I don't knows.”
    The change comes like a snap of the finger.

    Right up until Ronnie Brown mishandled Chad Pennington's handoff and the football rolled out of the end zone to end that first drive, the Chargers played largely tentative, did not win one-on-ones and were pushed around.

    On the first play of the next drive, the defensive line created a pile, the linebackers crashed and Ricky Williams was held to a 2-yard gain. On the next play, a blitz, Pennington completed a 6-yard pass. And on third-and-2, Luis Castillo beat a block and was closing in on Pennington, who hurried a short completion for a 1-yard gain.

    The Dolphins would have just 45 more plays and would only really move the ball again and score when it was too late.

    “Us, as defenders, we're hopefully realizing that if we're going 100 miles an hour and just going and understanding what teams are trying to do against us and understanding our teammates to the right and left are going to back us up, you're all right – just go,” safety Eric Weddle said. “I think (Sunday) was the start of that.”
    Now they need to start at the start.

    Because the Dolphins fumbled away their chance for points while eating up nine minutes, 29 seconds on that 17-play drive to start the game, the Chargers have been fortunate enough to allow just 14 points in three first quarters.

    It could be worse, and they know it.

    “You got to play like that the whole game,” Burnett said. “What's going to happen when teams start on us 21-0. That's going to be a problem.”
    In that the offense hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard in the first quarter either, head coach Norv Turner has made a fast start a theme for his team.

    “Hopefully that can carry over this week, especially playing in Pittsburgh, prime time and a hostile environment,” Cooper said. “If we can get out quick and cause some havoc that'll be great.”

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