After bashing the underachieving San Francisco 49ers a few weeks ago, I feel like it’s about time I show a little hate for our neighbors to the south.
The San Diego Chargers, who went 13-3 last season, are now 2-4. Getting off to a slow start is nothing new for the Chargers, who began each of the last four seasons 2-3. So there may be reason for optimism, as the Bolts have come back from these slow starts to win the division each of the past four seasons.
[media-credit id=20135 align=”alignleft” width=”191″][/media-credit] But this year is different. San Diego can’t win on the road, where it is 0-4, falling behind its opponent by double-digits in each game — all against beatable opponents who had a combined record of 15-49 last season.
It’s almost incomprehensible. The Chargers currently have the #1 rated offense and the #1 rated defense, in terms of yardage per game. Seems weird, right? How can a 2-4 team have the best offense and best defense in the league?
The answer is inconsistent play on the road and poor special teams. Special teams are like breathing. You take it for granted when it runs smoothly and only give it attention when it falters. Yet it is vital to your success.
San Diego has allowed six non-offensive touchdowns this year — 42 out of 126 points the team has allowed. Furthermore, Chargers punter Mike Scifres has had three punts blocked. Before this season, Scifres had one punt blocked in 393 career attempts.
This is why the Chargers’ defensive achievements may be skewed.
Philip Rivers is a stud and Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd have played well, but football is a team sport. The Chargers — who made drastic offseason moves — lack many of the playmakers that have helped them overcome poor starts in years past. The squad cannot expect to come from behind to win the division every year, especially with key players missing.
On defense, the San Diego aggressive and blitzing scheme of years past is all but dead. With linebacker Shawne Merriman, defensive tackle Jamal Williams and cornerback Antonio Cromartie gone, the San Diego defense is hurting. Here are the quarterbacks that have beaten the Bolts this season: Matt Cassel, Matt Hasselbeck, Jason Campbell and Sam Bradford.
When you play against young, inexperienced or mistake-prone quarterbacks, it is thought that you should move around on defense to show them various looks and eventually they will make a mistake. But the Bolts have been unable to disrupt quarterbacks. They will need to do so in the coming weeks when they face the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Schaub and Peyton Manning if they hope to turn this season around.
All of this puts more pressure on the offense — a.k.a. Philip Rivers — to dominate. And he has. The offense has actually been great, but only because of great play from a few players. Football is a team sport, where a single weak link in the chain can be identified and exploited. The group is not without fault.
Rivers was sacked a career-high seven times against the Rams, a team that had 10 sacks coming into the game and finished 30th in the league last year. Additionally, the Chargers have lost nine fumbles, a league-high and already two more than all of last season. The over-hyped Ryan Mathews has two of those fumbles. It’s safe to say the Bolts are missing LT right about now, and that LT — who is seventh in the league in rushing for the 5-1 Jets — is not missing them.
In Week 5, the Chargers lost on the road to Oakland, snapping the 13-game winning streak San Diego had over the Raiders spanning over seven seasons. Oakland? Oakland!? Please type in “We Lost to Oakland” on YouTube. That about sums up San Diego’s season thus far.
Much like the 49ers, one big thing the Chargers do have going for them is a weak division. It remains to be seen if the division-leading Chiefs are for real, and the Raiders and Broncos are not intimidating, let alone experienced.
So if history tells us anything, it would be foolish for me to bet on the Chargers to win the division. Ultimately, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and San Diego has one of the best in the business. While Philip Rivers is very capable of leading his team to another division, it won’t happen this year. History also tells us that it is extremely difficult to dominate a division for this long, and this may be the year the Chargers falter.
Daily Nexus NFL columnist Ryan Porush gets off to a slow start sometimes, but always comes storming back.