That loud thud you heard late Sunday afternoon was the San Diego Chargers free-falling to the basement of the AFC West standings with a 2-5 record.
What happen? The quick answer is inconsistent play, injuries to the starting lineup and mental mistakes in key moments of a game have all contributed to the Chargers demise and another disappointing start to the regular season.
They’re a tough team to figure out because the Chargers can looking downright dominating in memorable fourth quarter comeback wins, then the following week, look like a team that has never played the game of football before in their life.
The fans have called for the coaches to open up the playbook as the offensive play-calling seems to be too predictable, but the solution cannot be that simple.
You have to take into consideration that the constant talk of a possible move to Los Angeles has provided an atmosphere that’s not conducive to winning each week.
Capturing the AFC West title is out of the question, but it wouldn’t surprise any Chargers fan to see them go on a roll and win seven of their final nine games. The opportunity to stay in the playoff hunt clearly remains for the Bolts if they can get back on track immediately. How to do this: protect the football, get the offensive line healthy and have their playmaking receivers become dynamic once again.
The Chargers recent success has primarily centered around on one player, Philip Rivers, who is off to his best start of his career, with 2453 passing yards (averaging 350 yds.-per-game) and 15 touchdown passes. The only blemish is the seven interceptions, as too many of them have resulted in either a defensive touchdown or setting the opposing team’s offense with great field position.
Rivers needs a quarterback whisper to help him identify quicker what the defense is giving up, whether it’s sensing a blitz or a safety sneaking into the box, as his reaction time has been way off all year. The pressure in the pocket has forced Rivers into hurrying his pass attempts and continually under-throwing his targets. The obvious solution is having the offensive line provide him more time, as its tough to be an accurate passer when your footwork is rushed because the protection folds like a tent in a matter of seconds.
The Chargers thought they addressed their biggest weakness—the offensive line—by signing free agent guard Orlando Franklin, re-signing tackle King Dunlap and moving starting tackle DJ Fluker to the inside at the guard position. Everyone expected these moves would improve the line’s overall play, but no one could have predicted the amount of injuries sustained by this unit thus far. It has been commonplace to have two or three starters out of the lineup each week, and no solution is insight because Franklin could be lost for a significant amount of time after sustaining a knee injury against the Oakland Raiders.
What was once a very good receiving corps, now struggles to make that big catch that could change the outcome of the game. This unit is still trying to find their identity, and don’t dismiss the loss of Eddie Royal who was a very dependable slot receiver during his time in San Diego. It has been remarkable how No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen has responded to this challenge (62 receptions through 7 games) because he hasn’t received much help from Malcom Floyd or Stevie Johnson, as neither have been a factor in the passing game due to injuries. Another receiver needs to step up with their production because the physical punishment that Allen has sustained has taken a toll on his body and he will not survive the season.
That’s the formula for getting out of the AFC West cellar, now the Chargers’ destiny is in their own hands.