The San Diego Chargers lost a tough game last night in Denver. The ball just did not seem to bounce their way. The Bolts now sit at 5-3, second in the AFC West. They are on pace for a 10-6 season, which would be one win better than last year. With how things are looking right now in the AFC, that may be enough to get the Chargers into the postseason. But the Chargers should not be gunning for a Wild Card spot. The division title is not out of reach by any means. The Chargers’ next three games are at Miami, then the Bolts host the Raiders and the Rams. They could feasibly be 8-3 before going to Baltimore on November 30th. The first half of the season has come to a close. Here is my report card for the Chargers thus far in 2014.
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San Diego Chargers Passing: A
Philip Rivers is having a fantastic year. Despite a few questionable decisions in the Denver game, he has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He threw for 3 touchdowns in Thursday night’s loss. He is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards, 3rd in QB rating, 2nd in passing touchdowns and 4th in completion percentage. He has done a good job securing the football over the first 8 games. He has played this great while dealing with injuries all around him. He is the main reason why the Chargers sit at 5-3. Antonio Gates is now the all-time leader in receiving in Chargers history. He is quietly having a great season that includes 9 receiving touchdowns, which is tied for the NFL lead. Keenan Allen has picked it up lately and now has 427 receiving yards.
San Diego Chargers Rushing: D-
This should be an F, but I will give the Chargers a little bit of a pass due to 3 main rushers being out with injuries. They are 30th in the NFL in rushing. The injuries to Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown have not helped. Branden Oliver has been serviceable in their absence. He has run for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his production has been on the decline the last few weeks. The Chargers will miss the postseason if they can’t run the football, plain and simple.
San Diego Chargers Offensive Line: C-
The line also gets a little grace due to injuries. The loss of Nick Hardwick is brutal, and becoming more so every week. The coaching staff also can’t seem to pick a right guard between Chris Watt and Johnnie Troutman. D.J. Fluker has had flashes of brilliance and flashes of incompetence. The line was why Oliver could not see any daylight all game against the Broncos and the reason why Rivers had to throw a few uncomfortable passes.
San Diego Chargers Run Defense: C
When your safety (Eric Weddle) leads the game with 11 tackles, that usually means you had a hard time stopping the run. Former Aztec Ronnie Hillman ran rampant around the Chargers for 109 yards and the Chargers allowed 139 yards total on the ground. The Chargers allow on average, 110 rushing yards per game, which is 18th in the NFL. Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes have had decent starts to their seasons. This needs to improve if the Chargers want to play deep into January.
San Diego Chargers Pass Defense: B
The Chargers have the 8th best passing defense in the league. This is much improved from last year’s mess. The additions of Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett have helped tremendously. Verrett may be lost for some time, so the Chargers will have to step up. Eric Weddle is the leader of this secondary and leads the team with 58 tackles. Shareece Wright, Marcus Gilchrist and Jahleel Addae have also made good contributions to this aspect of the Chargers defense. This can turn into an “A” if the Chargers can create more interceptions. Turnovers can change games and seasons. If the Chargers want to play playoff football, the secondary needs to create more opportunities for turnovers.
San Diego Chargers Special Teams: C
Mike Scifres leads the NFL in punts that have landed inside the 20 yard line. He is also among the AFC leaders in total punt yards. Nick Novak is a perfect 14 for 14 on field goals this year, his longest at 50 yards. He is also 23 for 23 in PATs. However, the Chargers are dead last in kick return yards and also return yards allowed, giving their opponents good field position.
San Diego Chargers Coaching: C+
This grade would be higher had it not been for the debacle that was allowing Jahleel Addae to remain in the game after clearly being shaken up on a few hits early in the game against the Broncos. But give Mike McCoy and his staff credit for winning despite what seems like a new key injury every week. The Chargers are 5-3 without their veteran center, 3 running backs, and now a few key defensive players. That has to count for something. Without endangering Addae, this grade would be a “B” or higher.
There is lots of Chargers football to look forward to. San Diego is in the thick of it right now. If the season ended today, the Bolts would get the first Wild Card spot. Do not lose hope, Chargers fans. All great teams must fight through adversity. The Chargers can be a great team if they find a run game and heal up. The second half of the season will be fun to watch.
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