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Chargers Team Report - 01/21/10

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/notes.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>
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    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://prod.static.chargers.clubs.nfl.com/assets/images/imported/zip/2010/01-January/wk19-NYJvSDC/10_NYJvsSD_MN_735--nfl_medium_540_360.jpg"><img title="Norv Turner and Philip Rivers - Chargers.com Photo" src="http://prod.static.chargers.clubs.nfl.com/assets/images/imported/zip/2010/01-January/wk19-NYJvSDC/10_NYJvsSD_MN_735--nfl_medium_540_360.jpg" alt="" width="180" height="161" /></a></div>

    The Chargers are gone and coach Norv Turner is coming back.</div>
    Just like a squad that felt confident about reaching the Super Bowl - or at least winning a home playoff game - is history.

    Turner, who has lost two of his last three playoff games directing the Chargers, will be retained through the 2013 season.

    But the buzz around San Diego remains the Chargers' shocking car-wreck of a loss to the underdog New York Jets.

    As much as the team wants to be proud of its fourth straight AFC West title and an 11-game winning streak when compiling a 13-3 record, there is that heartbreaking loss.

    "The thing about playing football and the thing that makes it tough when you do lose is it sticks with you a little longer, and we won 11 in a row and that's hard to do," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Nobody in our locker room is excited or thrilled about that because the 12th one we didn't win because of the way we came to play.

    "It'll be a long offseason and we'll gear up to go at it again."

    But once again, the Chargers lost a playoff game - that's four of their past six - to miss a showdown with the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC title.

    If the Chargers are to ever win a Super Bowl, it won't come this season in Miami.

    "We all want to go to the Super Bowl and we want to go win a Super Bowl," said Turner, who has a 3-3 playoff record with the Chargers. "That's what's going to determine it as a success. From a standpoint of the ultimate goal, I'm disappointed like everyone else is."

    Still, Turner points out the season was stellar, if not spectacular.

    "From a standpoint of what this group accomplished ... I'm not going to do it but I could stand here and name 10 or 12 guys that had their best year ever," he said. "I could name 20 guys that weren't expected to play that contributed to what we're doing and allowed us to win 11 straight games and go 7-1 on the road and do all those things. For those guys, growing as football players, that's a success.

    "If you continue to grow, then the ultimate success of going and winning a Super Bowl, that's what we want to do and that's how I think we'll determine our success."

    But the Chargers know they let a golden opportunity slip away as the AFC's No. 2 seed in their 50th anniversary season. Sloppy play and an undisciplined play got the Chargers' vacation started much too early.

    "It's just a big letdown," linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "After the game I was real disappointed but after sleeping on it and waking up, the Jets were a real good team and you have to give them credit. When it's playoff time, you've got to step up and show up to work and we didn't do that."

    It's a playoff pattern the Chargers just can't shake, even with everything all lined up.

    "It's going to hurt for a while because the opportunity was there for us to go win a Super Bowl," Cooper said. "We had the guys intact, we had the coaching staff intact and we're just disappointed to sit home and watch somebody else play for a Super Bowl when we thought it was going to be ours."

    So the Chargers will regroup, but the healing will take some time.

    Off the field, the contracts of linebacker Shawne Merriman, left tackle Marcus McNeill, wide receiver Vincent Jackson are among those coming up. All of them can't come back - some wonder how long it will take the team after the last playoff face-plant.

    "It's devastating knowing guys, myself included, to me I had the best year so far in my career and guys just stepping into the zone - Vincent Jackson, Philip Rivers, I can go on and on and name guys ... our offensive line with Marcus McNeil and Kris Dielman," tight end Antonio Gates said.

    "But those are all individual accomplishments which we talked about earlier in the season. You set individual accomplishments and you set goals for a team. The team goal was to win a Super Bowl, but we just quite couldn't get that done this year."

    <strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong>

    -QB Philip Rivers, who fell to 3-4 as a starter in the playoffs, admits the recent pratfall is tough to swallow.

    "It's tough; I hate losing as much as anybody," he said. "I know we all feel this loss and hurt in this locker room and in this building. As an organization and as I know the fans do. It doesn't get better over night. In fact it'll probably get worse these next two weeks until nobody's playing and you can feel better, but we'll gear back up and be back at it."

    -RB LaDainian Tomlinson likely won't be back with the Chargers but the future Hall of Famer still wants to play.

    "I feel like I've got a lot of football left," he said, after setting career lows in rushing yardage, rushing average and carries. "Physically I feel like I can hold up to the pounding still. Obviously I know I had the least carries in my career, but other than the ankle injury early in the year I was pretty healthy all year long."

    -ILB Stephen Cooper, while disappointed with the early playoff exit, thinks the Chargers will remain contenders for a Super Bowl.

    "We've still got 17 (Rivers) at quarterback," he said. "We've still got a lot of guys coming back. We know a lot of contracts are up and some guys are going to be restricted (free agents) but I expect we'll have a lot of the same faces back here next year and we're going to keep pushing for the Super Bowl. That's our goal and that's my goal as an individual, to try to get that ring, because when you put on this uniform, at the end of the day you want to win a Super Bowl. It doesn't matter about the money, it doesn't matter about the individual accolades, it's about going out there and winning a football game, and that's the Super Bowl."

    -TE Antonio Gates said the Chargers' dreadful playoff showing was like a dream - or is a nightmare?

    "Personally, I just think we went out and we just didn't play our best game," Gates said. "It happens. That's the nature of the business. You just are not immune to absolutely nothing as a human being. When you watch the film, you look at several things that are happening in the game and you just can't believe they were actually happening. I remember there was a point in the game where it felt like it was a dream with some of the penalties we were committing. It felt like that in the New England game and the Jets game in '06 ... it felt like it was happening to you kind of like a deja vu feeling. It was just unfortunate that we weren't able to take care of our business and move forward."

    -OLB Shawne Merriman - depending on the labor situation - may have played his last game as a Charger. There have been no signs the team will seek his return. Merriman said he's not sure what the future will bring after he recorded four sacks this season, a year after missing most of a season because of a knee injury.

    "I really don't know," he said. "Nothing has really been set in stone just yet. Like I said before, I love our fans and I love my teammates. I love being here, but it's not up to me. I'm more disappointed about the way that our season has ended that I haven't really paid too much thought about it."

    -Coach Norv Turner explains just how close the Chargers were to doing something special.

    "The disappointing thing, we were one of eight and there are going to be six teams that are very disappointed and aren't in the Super Bowl. When you get into that point where you're one of eight, you know that you're two games away from it. That's a disappointing thing for me."

    <strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "That's our intention and that's our goal. I believe this team is capable of coming back and putting ourselves in position to make a run at it over the next period of time." - Coach Norv Turner on the team someday winning a Super Bowl.

    <strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong>

    The Chargers coaches dominated the news in the wake of the playoff meltdown.

    Head coach Norv Turner was given a three-year extension about 24 hours after the team was eliminated and a year before his original contract was to expire.

    Rob Chudzinski, the team's tight ends and assistant head coach, is expected to draw interest from the Chicago Bears.

    Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was thought to get a sniff from Buffalo for its head coaching position, but the Chargers said the Bills never asked permission to speak with Rivera.

    UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

    QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst.

    Rivers was sensational as he continues to prove he is among the NFL's top players at his position - he finished third in the MVP voting. Rivers eclipsed 4,000 yards passing for the second straight season and threw for 28 touchdowns against only nine interceptions. Volek proved he's still got it when he directed the backups to a last-minute win over the Redskins.

    RUNNING BACKS: Starters - RB LaDainian Tomlinson, FB Jacob Hester. Backups - RB Darren Sproles, RB Michael Bennett, FB Mike Tolbert.

    Tough sledding here as the Chargers were consistently ranked at the bottom in rushing categories. Tomlinson was a shadow of the great back he once was - he's lost a step plus the run-blocking was shoddy. Sproles was a speedy change-of-pace and made the most of his noise as a receiver coming out of the backfield. The fullbacks were so-so; Bennett seldom played.

    TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Antonio Gates. Backups - Brandon Manumaleuna, Kris Wilson.

    Gates had a career year and that is saying something considering the string of success he's had. He was healthy this year and it was evident.

    WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd. Backups - Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis. Injured reserved - Demetrius Byrd.

    Jackson produced his second-straight 1,000-yard season and added nine touchdowns as Rivers' favorite target downfield. Floyd and Naanee stepped up after Chris Chambers was released, Floyd more so than the versatile Naanee. Davis looked good in the one game he play, but he might have to battle for a roster spot next summer.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Marcus McNeill, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Louis Vasquez, RT Brandyn Dombrowski. Backups - T Jon Runyan, C Dennis Norman, LG C/G Tyronne Green, C Eric Ghiacuic. Injured reserve - T Jeromey Clary, C Scott Mruczkowski.

    The pass-blocking was keen here as Rivers was able to execute a pass-happy offense while staying out of harm's way. The question is can this unit run-block better? Hardwick missed the majority of the season with a foot injury; Clary went down late in the year. McNeill played at a Pro Bowl level; Vasquez, a rookie held his own. Don't overlook the job Mruczkowski did filling in for Hardwick - impressive. Dielman earned another Pro Bowl selection.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LDE Jacques Cesaire, DT Ian Scott, RDE Luis Castillo. Backups - DE Alfonso Boone, Travis Johnson, DT Vaughn Martin, Antonio Garay. Injured reserve - DT Jamal Williams, DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo, DE Ryon Bingham.

    Injuries here wrecked the line, none being bigger than Williams going down in the opener to IR. Cesaire and Castillo were OK; as it ended up they would have to carry a patch-work line consisting mostly of free agents and rookies. Leaning on the injury card is weak, but the reality is the line was decimated and the results were a unit which was easy to run on.

    LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Shaun Phillips, WILB Stephen Cooper, SILB Brandon Siler, OLB Shawne Merriman. Backups - OLB Larry English, ILB Tim Dobbins, ILB Kevin Burnett, OLB Dontarrious Thomas. Injured reserve - OLB Antwan Applewhite, LB James Holt, OLB Jyles Tucker.

    Phillips had a solid season, leading the NFL with a franchise-best seven forced fumbles; he paced the Charger with seven sacks as well. Merriman seldom showed the burst and moves which got him selected to three Pro Bowls in his return from serious knee surgery. The inside play was challenged to stop the run with the easy passage runners had getting through the first line of defense. Cooper led the team with tackles; team was encouraged with the improved play from Siler, who wrestled a starting job away from Burnett.

    DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Antonio Cromartie, SS Eric Weddle, FS Kevin Ellison. Backups - CB Antoine Cason, CB Dante Hughes, SS Steve Gregory, FS Paul Oliver, FS C.J. Spillman. Injured reserve - CB Brandon Hughes.

    Jammer might have had his best season as his sure-tackling and strong mental game - he's seldom out of place - helped the defensive backend. Cromartie proved time and again he isn't interested in contact, and while displaying decent coverage skills, his lack of physical play could be his downfall sooner rather than later. Ellison showed well as a rookie and Weddle, while smart, is often held back by his size. Cason's stock fell during the season after losing his nickel position.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, KR/PR Darren Sproles.

    Kaeding will long be remembered for missing three field-goal attempts - one from 57 yards - in the loss to the Jets. Before that, he had a Pro Bowl season and became the NFL's most accurate kicker, percentage-wise. Scifres continues to be the best punter not making the Pro Bowl. Sproles gave the high-powered offense attractive field position time and again.
     

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