The first quarter of the 2016 season has been a roller coaster with more downs than ups for the San Diego Chargers. Despite the injuries and close losses, I really think we’re looking at an improved Chargers team from the last two seasons.
The Chargers have been putting up points in every game despite losing Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Danny Woodhead in the first two weeks of the season. All we haven’t been able to do is finish games, for a combination of reasons from individual player errors to questionable play calling. Despite these collapses, the Chargers do have some stuff going for them.
They are ranked third in the league in points scored, according to NFL.com, scoring 30.2 points per game. Defensively, the front seven is getting boosted this week with the additions of Joey Bosa and Damion Square despite the secondary also losing Pro Bowler Jason Verrett this week.
Offensively, the Chargers have generated success through an improved offensive line led by Matt Slauson that allows passing plays to develop and opens up running lanes for second-year running back Melvin Gordon. When the Chargers can even slightly run the ball, their play action becomes very successful. Our wide receivers Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman have all stepped up and made big plays downfield and scored touchdowns. Meanwhile, Gordon has proved to be sensational running in the red zone, having already run six into the end zone through four weeks. Throwing To Hunter Henry has proved to be as effective as we all had hoped it would be in the offseason.
The Chargers have plenty of ways to make their way down the field, but I can tell you for a fact that two running plays and a screen on third down will not get us where we need to be. The Chargers need to stop going away from their own game plans and continue to do what’s working in game-time situations. They need to learn to ride the playmakers they have on the field to victory. These guys keep scoring this way and games will be winnable all year. The fumbles have to be learned from and moved on from the same way Henry had to forget his gut-wrenching giveaway at the end of the Colts game.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) is hit by San Diego Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett (22) near the sideline during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The Chargers have not had much success closing games, winning only one out of four games in which they had fourth-quarter leads. This will be the single deciding factor for the rest of the season. The players have stepped up in the absence of its starters, but the team as a whole cannot finish strong and hold leads.
Like Philip Rivers said, there really is no one thing you can point out, and the only time we will know they fixed it is when they go out and finish a game. The Chargers desperately need this week to be the start of that as their chances at the playoffs are getting slimmer and slimmer with each loss. The Chargers can’t afford to lose another game, let alone another division game.