Sep 8, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy reacts in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
On Monday Night Football last night, the Chargers gagged away an opportunity for a rare road win against a playoff-quality opponent. The good news is that this is only one game, and San Diego only lost by a point despite a moribund first half. Indeed, there are lots of positives to build on for the remainder of the season, and there are many opportunities to improve as the season progresses. But Bolts fans are all too familiar with these frustrations – mental errors, late game defensive breakdowns, and an inability to maintain momentum that should have led to 4th quarter dominance. Really, you can say the Chargers only played one solid quarter of football.
I wrote about these frustrations in the preseason, in reviewing the 2013 season:
Here’s the bottom line: If the secondary can improve to merely average, that’s a marked improvement and will benefit this team greatly. The Chargers lost 3 games in 2013 that were a direct result of defensive breakdowns late in the game – Houston, Tennessee and Washington. Reversing two of those three losses would have put them ahead of Kansas City in the division.
You can infer from this that I believe the Chargers should have won more than 9 games last year, and I believe they are talented enough to challenge for the division this year. In order to do this, they have to get control of the mental errors.
For most of the game, the secondary actually played not just average, but very solid. Larry Fitzgerald had zero targets – not zero catches, ZERO TARGETS – through three quarters. The Arizona wide receivers were completely blanketed by Flowers, Verrett and co. The offense sputtered through two quarters, uncharacteristically incapable of executing and maintaining drives.
After halftime, however, the offense caught fire like we expected. Two long drives led to two touchdowns and an 11 point lead going into the 4th quarter.
And then it happened again.
Just like in Washington, Tennessee and Houston last year, the secondary softened up. Cardinal receivers finally started finding open spaces. And the pass rush – which had harassed Carson Palmer all night behind breakout efforts from Dwight Freeney and Jerry Attaochu – suddenly became very quiet.
This is just game one. There are 15 more to go, and the Chargers have a lot of positives to take from this game. The old saying goes, the greatest improvement in any football team is from game one to game two. (Let’s hope so, since the defending champs come to town next week).
It’s simply frustrating for fans to know that there was an opportunity to pick up a road win against a quality opponent, and the Bolts gagged it away.