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Chargers hurt by brownouts in the red zone

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Oct 4, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    TDs tough to score inside 20-yard line

    By Kevin Acee
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    11:40 p.m. October 3, 2009

    PITTSBURGH – This isn't the playground.

    The answer is not to just throw the ball up to the tall kids – Malcom and Vincent and Antonio.

    Truth is, the Chargers have tried that. Philip Rivers threw two fades knocking on the end zone's door last Sunday against Miami, and he was a tad off on both.

    It has been at least 10 years since the Chargers endured red zone futility as bad as their 1-for-11 stretch over the past two games. But it is not just one thing that is dooming them from scoring touchdowns from inside the 20.

    They can't run right now. They have had two inexperienced linemen inside and some breakdowns in protection. There have been penalties. Rivers isn't perfect.

    And maybe they're not quite ready to be good once they get inside their opponents' 20-yard line.

    “There has to be a sense of urgency,” head coach Norv Turner said. “We get a big play, we're on the 8, we have to be ready for that sudden change. It's a mentality – 'We've got to get this damn thing in the end zone.' ”
    Of the 11 times the Chargers have been in the red zone the past two games, during which time they have scored just one touchdown, they have reached that point with help from a play of 30 or more yards six times. That includes three plays that have taken them from around midfield to inside the 10-yard line. (The Chargers, by the way, have scored touchdowns on just three of the nine drives they've had goal-to-go this season.)
    “There has to be (a mentality),” center Scott Mruczkowski said. “ ... It's different down there. Teams tend to mix it up in the red zone. They throw a lot more blitzes.

    There's a little more to it in the red zone. You've got to have that mentality to expect blitzes, expect games. We've got to be ready.”
    Whatever, this big-play offense, tied for the league lead with 14 passes of 20-or-more yards, needs to start making the ultimate play to end drives instead of settling for field goals, as it has seven times this season.

    After the Chargers had scored just one touchdown on six forays inside Miami's 20, Marcus McNeill was already looking ahead to today's game as he sat at his Qualcomm Stadium locker last Sunday.

    “We can't get in the red zone and score three every time,” McNeill said. “We can't score three against Pittsburgh and expect to win.”
    He was speaking from experience.

    In the NFL's first-ever 11-10 game last November here at Heinz Field, the Chargers lost in large part because they scored one touchdown in three red zone appearances.

    In that November game, the Steelers were 0-for-3 in the red zone. And this season, Pittsburgh has three touchdowns in eight red zone appearances. The Steelers were 1-for-3 last week in a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati.

    Turner read some quotes from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin this week and said it “could have been the same interview I've been doing.”
    The fix could be as simple as getting the run game going. The Chargers are averaging just 2.76 yards per carry overall and 2.23 yards in the red zone. Baltimore blitzed on every red zone play against the Chargers, and Miami was close.

    Today could bring relief in the form of one of the league's best-ever red zone runners. LaDainian Tomlinson, whose 111 red zone touchdowns are second-most in NFL history and whose 2.7 rushing average inside the red zone is tops among those with at least 350 career red zone carries, will play today after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle.

    “Definitely the red zone is an area where maybe I can take some of the pressure off,” Tomlinson said, “where teams have to play us a little more honestly.”
    While the Chargers have progressively declined in red zone TD production since leading the NFL with a 67.7 success rate in 2006, Turner looks at the myriad mistakes – not to mention the league's No. 1 (Baltimore) and No. 5 (Miami) red zone defenses over the past 19 games – that have doomed red zone drives so far this season and calls them “correctable.”
    Turner's offense is moving the ball. It ranks eighth overall and tops in passing. It must be noted the last time the Chargers went two games with just one red zone touchdown (in 2007), they had just three chances compared to the 11 chances these past two games.

    Only New Orleans (16) has been in the red zone more than the Chargers this season.

    “I would be a lot more concerned if we had not gotten to the red zone,” Turner said. “We're getting there, and now we've got to finish those drives.”
  2. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    We'll find out how spry and healthy LT is tonight.

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