Forgive a slight rambling introduction, if any of you has read my articles before, I like talking about schemes, personnel decisions, & lists. In general the strategic & intellectual side of the game; but sometimes you have to face the reality of the human factor, and in the specific case of the Chargers and their strength of will and ability to handle adversity. There is more to football then a well designed game plan, excellent execution of a play & identifying your opponents weaknesses. First off let’s get the obvious on the table are the Chargers a weak character team?, in a simple answer YES THEY ARE!!!
Simple facts: The last 4th quarter comeback this team had was on November 8, 2009, against the New York Giants. Also the last 4th quarter drive to win a game (game was tied) was on December 20, 2009 against the Bengals. Nate Kaeding hit a 55 yard field goal to end the game.
I will ask all of my fellow charger fans when the following plays (or circumstances) happened last season did you really think the chargers would win, when they happened in the back of my mind I thought they are done, this game is over, the simple fact is the most recent teams of the Chargers when they get hit with a knockdown punch they stay down:
Week 3, Rivers throws INT before half, Falcons go in for TD before halftime for 20-3 Lead. Game ends 27-3.
Week 5, Melvin Ingram gets called for a roughing the passer penalty on Drew Brees, the penalty negated a pick 6, that would have made the score 31-14 chargers in the third quarter, Saints kept drive alive went onto to score a TD, Saints kept the momentum and went on to win 31-24.
Week 6, the infamous Broncos 24-0 lead game, the Broncos opened the 2nd half with a supremely easy TD drive, the chargers follow that with a drive that crosses the Broncos 50, Rivers is stripped sacked, and the Broncos return the fumble for a TD to cut lead to 24-14, Broncos continue pounding on Chargers for a 35-24 win.
Week 8, the curse of the 4th quarter comebacks comes back to rear its ugly head, the Chargers trail 7-6 to the last place Cleveland Browns (who were 2-6 at the time), and the Chargers who had more than 2 minutes to get a field goal in their final drive were stopped just before getting into field goal range.
Week 10, Rivers was having his best game of the season, in the first half he was 16 of 18, for 218 yards and 3 TD’s. But the chargers had a blocked punt for a TD, and took the final and devastating knockout punch in the 4th quarter, with a pick 6 INT, that gave the Bucs 31-21 lead, the game ended with a 34-24 score.
Week 12, Chargers had 13-10 lead on the Ravens, and then they gave the conversion on 4th & 29, need I say more. Lost 16-13 in Overtime.
Week 15, after playing their best game of their season against the Steelers, they lay the proverbial egg, and are outscored 21-0 in the first quarter against the Panthers. The rest of the game is an exercise in going through the motions, Panthers win 31-7.
The chargers for 2012, were 0-5 in games decided by 7 points or less. If you notice that when that big punch lands, this team tends to quit and lay down. We don’t like to admit it to fans of other teams, and probably ourselves, but this team has a serious strength of character problem.
I try to avoid giving Norv Turner too much of the blame, but we can’t escape the simple fact that this team had fire before Norv arrived, in 2006 the chargers had 4 4th quarter comebacks in 5 weeks, including the amazing 28-7 halftime comeback against the Bengals. To use a cliched term from the Rocky movies, this team had the “Eye of the Tiger”, and clearly they didn’t have it from 2010-2012, with their grand total of ZERO 4th quarter comebacks. So my statement to Mike McCoy not only do you have to install a modern day offense, that makes life easier for Philip Rivers, and is proficient in what many modern offenses do like: no huddle offense, 3 step drop thows to the WR’s, a commitment to use and maximize the slot receiver, just to name a few; and on defense continue to build on a young and improving defense. You have to change the character of this team, and teach them to refind their swagger, and fight.
The truth is, we wont know if this team has found its mojo, until they get hit with a major momentum breaking play, or they have to make that clutch drive in the 4th quarter, or defensive stop. Up until that point we know the problem exists, and a culture change was needed, did it work, that why they play the games.
To best describe the chargers situation, I want use a quote from “The Devil Advocate”:
John Milton: It changes everything. Pressure.
John Milton: Some people, you squeeze them,
John Milton: Others fold.
John Milton: Can you summon your talent at will?
John Milton: Can you deliver on a deadline?
John Milton: Can you sleep at night?
Kevin Lomax: When do we talk about money?
John Milton: Money?
John Milton: That’s the easy part.
From Devil Advocate (film)