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Chargers, Turner hoping for playoff payoff...

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by SanDiegoRon, Dec 26, 2007.

  1. SanDiegoRon

    SanDiegoRon BoltTalker

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    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=sando_mike&id=3168541

    Updated: December 26, 2007

    SAN DIEGO -- New England stands near perfection in part because the Patriots acquired Randy Moss when some said the receiver might wreck their locker room.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars, owners of a disappointing 8-8 record last season, find themselves 11-4 and surging largely because coach Jack Del Rio handed over the offense to backup quarterback David Garrard nine days before the season began.

    Two of the NFL's hottest teams already have parlayed bold offseason moves into significant gains, evidence that playing it safe sometimes takes teams only so far.

    And yet, for sheer audacity, neither move could touch the one Chargers general manager A.J. Smith pulled in San Diego: firing coach Marty Schottenheimer following a 14-2 regular season.

    The Chargers' postseason fate under new coach Norv Turner provides the NFL with a dramatic subplot to the Patriots' quest for an unbeaten season. Unlike the Patriots and Jaguars, who realized immediate results, the Chargers do not yet know whether their big move will pay off.

    "Jimmy Johnson told me this years ago, and it is my philosophy," Smith said. "You can be safe and good, or you can take some chances to be great. Those are powerful words, but I know what they mean and I believe in that."

    Although a contentious relationship between Smith and Schottenheimer played into the improbable coaching change, the team's one-and-done performance in the playoffs made it feasible.

    Turner's Chargers have won five consecutive games following a 5-5 start, but that doesn't mean much. Schottenheimer was nine games into a 10-game winning streak at this point last season. The only way the Chargers come out of this one ahead is if they realize postseason success for the first time since Bobby Ross led the 1994 team to Super Bowl XXIX. And Smith knows it.

    "I want us to go to the playoffs, bounce around, bounce around and one of those times it's a magical year and you win a championship," Smith said.

    "We've had two opportunities and both were defeats at home. Last year we're six points from an undefeated season and we get it at home again. What can we do to advance? We're trying something different."

    Despite the 10-game winning streak to end last season, Chargers players and coaches say the current team is playing better offensively. The statistics indicate they're right.

    Consider: The Chargers have converted 44 percent of their third-down opportunities during their current five-game winning streak, up from 30 percent over the same five-game period last season. They have also scored more points.

    "When you just look at the games, the way they went, we were struggling a little bit on offense last year late in the year," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We just weren't really clicking. We were winning games, but it wasn't smooth. And now these past three, four or five games, we've been pretty consistent and hopefully we can carry that over."

    LaDainian Tomlinson has 546 yards rushing over the Chargers' four most recent games.

    Chris Chambers, acquired from Miami in October, has 14 catches for 280 yards over the same stretch. If that keeps up, tight end Antonio Gates should face more favorable matchups. "[Chambers] gives us a vertical threat and also big-play capability to be able to go to him when we need him," Tomlinson said.

    The Chargers could have used Chambers early in the season, but their struggles in September might not hurt them in the playoffs. At 10-5, San Diego can secure no better than the AFC's third seed, meaning the Chargers will play in the wild-card round, probably against another team without playoff moxie. They drew New England in the divisional round last season.

    Instead of waiting through a bye week to face a proven playoff winner, San Diego will likely open postseason play against Tennessee or Cleveland. The Chargers defeated the Titans on the road in overtime this month. They feel reasonably familiar with the Browns because Cleveland's offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, was a Chargers assistant in 2005 and 2006.

    "Last year it was a bit awkward to be sitting the first week and watching other games in the playoffs and then having to see a team like New England," linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "This year I think we're a little better prepared for it and we'll be ready."

    Rivers and Merriman could be right, or they could be engaged in wishful thinking -- anything to convince themselves this postseason will somehow be different. Either way, the Chargers are fortunate to be competing for the AFC's third seed after losing three of their first four games.

    "We were very, very lucky when we were at the bottom looking up that there was no team in our division that was 4-0 or 3-1 and riding high," said Smith, in his fifth season as GM. "Had there been, we might not have made it."

    The ride from 1-3 to 4-3 to 5-5 to 10-5 drove some players to question the team's direction along the way. Fans were more blunt, chanting Schottenheimer's name during a 30-16 home loss to Kansas City. Every game was becoming a referendum on Smith's decision and Turner's viability as a head coach. Winning has postponed that conversation until the postseason.

    "One of the mistakes we made coming into this season is we kept preaching [how] everything is going to be the same as last year," defensive end Luis Castillo said. "Regardless if you are running the same plays or not, whenever you have a new coaching staff, things change. And that's when we started to figure it out."

    The coaching staff has figured out a few things, too.

    Tomlinson leads the league with 1,418 yards rushing, but he had only 329 through five games and 872 through 11.

    "We have gotten back to doing things that we have done to make us good," Tomlinson said. "Early in the year, we were running a lot of counters and different things like that. That was hard to run against eight men in the box because that eighth man runs right through the gap and made it tough on the blocking scheme.

    "But a lot of zone stuff that we are doing has allowed us to block everybody up until the back side, so you just block everybody up on the front side and let me pick and choose where I want to go."

    The Chargers close the regular season Sunday in Oakland. A victory over the Raiders would lock up the third seed for San Diego, averting a first-round matchup with Jacksonville. The Jaguars defeated the Chargers 24-17 in Jacksonville last month. San Diego has won every game since, outscoring opponents 153-58.

    "The perseverance we have as a team is something I'm really proud of," Tomlinson said. "The way we started and the point we were 5-5, we could have went either way.


    "We could have folded and said, 'You know what, guys, it's not going the way we want it to go, it's not our year.' But we didn't. We kept playing and that's how good teams get it done."

    Mike Sando covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

    see siggie for comment...:tup:
     
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  2. BFISA

    BFISA Well-Known Member

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    Good ****, Ron!! :yes: :tup:
     
  3. PhillyChargerFan

    PhillyChargerFan Well-Known Member

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    This is what I have been looking for and noone could tell me, We did change to more of a zone scheme. This is why McNeil doesn't look like he did last year:yes: As a matter of fact this is why the entire Oline doesn't look as dominate as last year.

    Our Oline guys aren't really zone type of guys they're more of a man to man type line.

    edit:

    Thanks SDR!!!
     
  4. maestro876

    maestro876 BoltTalker

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    I think what he means is that since the early part of the season they have changed to a zone-blocking scheme and it works better. If you read the first part of the quote, LT was basically saying they were trying to man-up against 8-man fronts, and it wasn't working because the unblocked guy would just come straight through the gap and blow up the play. Now, though, they are using zone-blocks which allows them to seal off the front and only lets guys in through the outside, and that lets LT use his field vision, locate the hole, and blow through it.

    If you go back to the articles after the Tennessee game, they say that one of the reasons the O-line was having such a hard time blocking Haynesworth and Vandenbosch was because they were trying to use a man-to-man blocking scheme. Then in the 4th quarter they switched to zone-blocking, and the difference was night and day. LT and Rivers both took off.
     
  5. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

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    Good stuff. Thanks, Ron! :tup:

    Let's roll, Bolts!! :bolt:
     
  6. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

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    Thanks dude. An entertaining and informative read.
     
  7. cranberry

    cranberry BoltTalker

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    Fine story thanks:tup:
     
  8. HEXEDBOLT

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

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    Zone blocking fits LT to a tee, he's got great vision and the best cutting ability in the league.
     
  9. PhillyChargerFan

    PhillyChargerFan Well-Known Member

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    Then how do you explain last year, Last year we faced the same 8 man fronts and still were successful. To my knowledge we didn't use zone last year.
     
  10. PhillyChargerFan

    PhillyChargerFan Well-Known Member

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    I agree that a zone blocking scheme would be better for LT, but he is just so dam good not only can he cut he can also use his power to move the pile. :yes:
     
  11. maestro876

    maestro876 BoltTalker

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    I have no idea. But pretty much all the articles on point say that we weren't using zone blocking at the beginning of the year, and now we are, with better results. I'm not trying to say that man-blocking doesn't work, but apparently our guys have been struggling with it this year.

    A guy on the UT forum said that using zone-blocking has a rather large risk-reward ratio. If you do it right, it works extremely well and is very hard to beat. But if you do it wrong, then you get screwed multiple times.

    Remember articles during the off-season saying that the Patriots were switching to zone-blocking? Apparently it took them a long time to get it to work. They needed the entire off-season, and the pre-season. Apparently during pre-season games, Brady was getting sacked 3-4 times per game, despite limited playing time, because o-linemen were missing their assignments and messing up the scheme. But they finally did get it to work, and now their protection is top-notch.
     
  12. HEXEDBOLT

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

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    Zone blocking is a part of the Coryell offensive scheme, I believe it was used primarily in the run aspect of the game. The running back chooses his hole rather than follow a particular player into a specific hole.

    I have a feeling it's what was going on early in the season with our running game. Looks like they got it straightened out now.
     

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