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Chargers will feel this bitter loss on the morning after

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 7, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    This was one of those September NFL eye-openers, a mimosa with a gallon of Red Bull for legs, a Bloody Mary with not enough caffeine in its blood. When you get up the following morning after one of these losses, the room still hasn't stopped spinning.
    So you need help. More than anything, you need your behind kicked. The players need it. The coaches need it. It all goes away after you've watched the film, which is when you get sick and rid yourself of all the bad stuff Sunday shoved down your throat.
    The Chargers have aspirations of playing into February, in Tampa, where the Super Bowl will be performed for the 43rd time. But after watching them clumsily fall 26-24 Sunday in their season opener here to Carolina, maybe this codger, who has attended more than half of those Roman numeral games, can provide some useful advice.
    You don't get to a Super Bowl if you can't stop the run. The Chargers couldn't keep the Panthers from doing so, and that was their preseason M.O., so they haven't done it all summer. They got themselves manhandled yesterday, especially in the first half, and this defensive front seven never, ever, should be mush.
    You don't get to a Super Bowl allowing a team to travel 2,100 miles to your joint – where you've won 15 of your last 16 games – and drive 68 yards in 2 minutes and 21 seconds and score to beat you on the final play of the game. As that wise sage Marty Schottenheimer often pointed out (and I paraphrase), if you take care of yourself at home, the season will take care of itself.
    You don't get to a Super Bowl telling everyone within range that the season is a marathon, not a sprint, or that it's back to the drawing board. Marathons are for Kenyans, drawing boards for math professors. This is a sprint. Get too far behind and everyone else is likely to look like Usain Bolt.
    You don't get to a Super Bowl allowing the opposing quarterback – in this case the Panthers' Jake Delhomme – enough time to do the Sunday crossword. The Chargers (end Igor Olshansky) got to Delhomme, who complains more often than an NBA player, but once.
    Maybe learning the hard way that NFL games last a couple seconds more than 59:58 will help some slugs without many February dreams, but this isn't going to aid the Chargers. They know the script better than most. Yesterday they forgot their lines.
    It was a terrible loss. A home loss. And, what has to make it more painful than anything else for this football team, a deserved loss. Carolina, on this day at this time, was better. I won't say the Panthers wanted it more. They just did more; they did more things right.
    They're supposed to be good, these Chargers, who for some reason continue to have trouble with their starting blocks. Can't say what it is – obviously they don't know, because they'd fix it – but if there was any real fire yesterday in Mission Valley, it was in a Hibachi.
    The Chargers didn't have a great day offensively – again, especially not in the first half – but Philip Rivers had a real nice quarterback afternoon, throwing three touchdowns, a 44-yarder to Chris Chambers, a 5-yarder to Vincent Jackson and, running to his left, a beauty covering 24 to tight end Antonio Gates. Tailback LaDainian Tomlinson really wasn't given much of a chance to be LT, although he did accumulate 97 yards on 22 carries.
    But they did manage 24 points, and that usually is enough for them to win at home. It should be enough. But on this day, the defenders, who allowed 281 first-half total yards (112 rushing), weren't what they must be when their brethren on the other side of the ball are scoring enough and special teams is more than holding its own.
    “We didn't play at the level we're capable of playing in the first half,” head coach Norv Turner would say. “I thought we came out and played the run in the second half.”
    The Panthers managed just 30 yards on the ground after the break, but the Chargers didn't do what they had to do at the end. They allowed Delhomme, without his best player (receiver Steve Smith), to complete eight of his 11 passes on that final drive.
    They aren't going to realize their dream playing this way. On a day when New England, one of the teams everyone figures they must get by to play into February, apparently lost quarterback Tom Brady for the season, the Chargers blew a chance to get to the first leg on a trip to Florida.
    The Patriots aren't going to the Super Bowl without Brady. The Chargers aren't going either, not playing this way, with the dog eating their assignments.
    “You can make all the great plays and stops in the world,” linebacker Shawne Merriman said. “But when you can't make the stop that matters ”
    Let me finish. You spend February wrapped in a blanket.

    By Nick Canepa

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