Despite the incredibly frustrating nature of the loss by the Chargers on Monday Night Football, there are several positive signs to be taken from the game.
First, I’m not sure I’ve seen a better performance by the Bolts on special teams in several years. You’ll recall that the final few years of Norv Turner’s reign, with the steady decline of depth and talent around the roster (thanks A.J.), saw some historically bad special teams play, outside of perennially underrated Mike Scifres. The front office a point of emphasis, but has always remained spotty. Last night, I was impressed with the open field tackling by the Chargers in kick coverage. In fact, on defense as well as in coverage, the naked eye test shows that the Bolts have really improved their tackling form.
Aug 7, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (93) smiles on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, the biggest special teams play was turned in by the rookie. Jerry Attaochu blew past his blocker and was able to get a hand on a punt in the second quarter. I remarked to myself at the time that I couldn’t recall the last time the Chargers blocked a kick.
That leads to maybe the biggest revelation of the game: Jerry Attaouchu. He was all over the field, making plays and causing havoc for the Cards. He and Dwight Freeney were unstoppable at times, and signal a possible revival of the pass rush for the Bolts that’s been sorely lacking for many years. The strip sack and fumble recovery was a huge momentum play in this road game. The secondary play was also excellent (for 3 quarters anyway, until the Cards pulled the comeback). Speaking of Dwight Freeney, it certainly was nice to see his old speed back somewhat.
Other notes: the Chargers won the playoff battle, 2-0 – a notable accomplishment against a playoff caliber team on the road. Manti Te’o had a decent game, shooting the gap several times to limit gain on the ground. Corey Liuget had 5 tackles and a sack, continuing in his dominating form from the preseason. Antonio Gates was his old self, despite showing up late on the injury report.
Finally, despite some questionable playcalling, boneheaded mistakes and dropped passes, the Chargers offense was just a whisker away from a game winning drive.
If the Chargers can get consistency from the pass rush and the secondary, that will elevate their defense from awful to … dare I say it … above average.
What do you think? If the Bolts clean up the mental errors and consistently apply pressure in pass defense, are you still on board with this being a playoff team?