There comes a time when repeated tragedies occur, that you throw up your hands and bellow out a sarcastic laugh or bow your head and give it a good hearty shake.
Week 3 is now in the books and so is the third Charger player to be out for the season due to an injury in as many weeks.
Misery certainly does love company.
After an MRI on Monday, it was officially announced that Manti Te’o is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
The “Next Man Up” mantra that has been utilized by the Chargers for the past few seasons might need to be changed to “Next Man Down.”
Despite the loss of the defensive captain, the Chargers (1-2) also lost another game where they had a chance to win in the end.
Circling around social media last night and Monday morning, there are many that have blamed Philip Rivers, Hunter Henry, Mike McCoy, Melvin Gordon or Josh Lambo for Sunday’s 26-22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on the road.
Sorry, but I am not going to dignify a response for blaming a kicker whose job is to kick field goals and extra points – not to prevent a rusher from getting a chance to block a kick.
From the early onset of the game, the vibe and tone set by the team was extremely sluggish. The fire and passion that resonated through the first half of Week 1 against Kansas City and the entire Week 2 victory against Jacksonville seemed a distant memory.
Rivers was not the elite quarterback that fans have grown accustomed to watching, missing many targets with passes that were too high, too hard or simply off the mark. The fierce competitor that he is, after the game he admitted to the poor performance and execution of his game – even singling out his biggest mistake of the game. “Of all the plays I missed today, I wished I got the one to Travis (Benjamin) on 3rd-and-2 because we were running that thing down. We may end up with it in our hands at mid-field, and I just missed it…”
Indeed, it was one pass that if completed, the rest of his errant throws would have been forgotten. It was a crucial play that could have possibly secured the game, forcing Indianapolis to use their timeouts and dwindle the game clock down.
Chalk it up to a bad game for the offensive and team leader.
One player in particular took the loss solely on himself:
Gotta take this one on the Chin!!! I Loss the Game …..
— Jason Verrett (@Jfeeva_2) September 26, 2016
No, Jason, you alone did not lose this game. And might I add that your humility is a breath of fresh air and one of the reasons why you are a fan favorite.
It might be true that Jason Verrett was beat often against a very good wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton on Sunday. Equally important to note is that in no way shape or form is the loss all on his shoulders. Game after game the Pro Bowl cornerback has shut down the opposition’s best wideout. It was just a bad day for the talented corner – occurring on a day where others experienced lousy games, as well.
Moreover, it was not Feeva’s fault for being on the sidelines during a potential game-clinching 4th-and-7 play with less than two minutes left in the game. Brandon Flowers was covering Hilton and instead of playing him up close, Flowers gave T.Y. a four-yard cushion where he made the easy, wide-open catch at the first down marker, falling forward to ensure the call was a simple one. Flowers has been playing exceptionally better this year than last, and was one of three players that I mentioned on this site to have a great impact this season. It is unfortunate that this crucial play has his named associated with it.
Melvin Gordon was held in check by Indianapolis, who came into the game ranked as the worst rushing defense in the NFL. Clearly, the Colts knew about this dubious honor of theirs and studied a lot of film on the second-year starter. It was clear to them that “Flash” loves to run in between the tackles and does not improvise as much as an elite back would. Perhaps it is his style, or perhaps it’s his youth that explains why he runs the way the play is designed to, without recognizing other outlets.
Gordon did, however, hit pay dirt again for the fourth time in three games and continues to punish those would-be tacklers. The Chargers fans are very excited about his play thus far. His ability to get into the endzone, his potential, especially if he learns from his mistakes, and how high his ceiling is reinforce the fact that the excitement is justified.
The second-round draft pick of 2016, tight end Hunter Henry, received the starting nod to take the place of the future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Hunter had five catches for 76 yards and looked like he could be the heir apparent of Gates as he levied space between him and the defender, moving the chains on several occasions. Although, it is hard to remember those precise routes and great hands due to his late game fumble that ended any last-ditch efforts for a comeback.
Yes, the Bolts still had a chance to win the game. Yes, the fumble ended that hope. However, it should not have come down to that one play, nor is it the dubious “play that lost the game.” Hunter is a talented rookie and as you could see his reaction on the sidelines he was devastated.
As upsetting as it was to watch the game slip away, my heart went out to him and I wondered what encouragement he would receive. Then I saw Gates call him over and give him a veteran pep talk.
By now, most fans who watched the game or have seen the highlights know about all the following miscues: dropped punt, missed catches, missed throws, fumbles…etc. Let us not take too much time dwelling on those players, because it was not one single player nor single mistake that helped in the loss on Sunday. It was the collective faux pas of many.
McCoy expounded on my thoughts when he stated after the game, “There are a number of plays you look at; missed opportunities through the entire game. It’s not just one drive or one series. There were a number of opportunities we had, where we didn’t make the plays today.”
To further McCoy’s point, it was not just those mistakes, which during a loss are enhanced and nit-picked, but it was also the penalties. Those yellow flags are thrown often during NFL games, legitimately or otherwise, and this game would see 20 of them – 10 for each team. It has been instilled in many young athletes that a physical mistake is easier to forgive than a mental mistake. Having your named called out by the men in pinstripes is a mental mistake, showing a lack of discipline more often than not. That being said, at least two of those “phantom calls” would cost the Chargers points in the end.
Several times those penalties either killed a drive or allowed the Colts to continue theirs. Whether the call is obtuse or astute, it is difficult to gather momentum when the game stops for a penalty.
When all’s said and done, with massive blunders and penalties, San Diego still had a chance to win the game. Even with the defense unable to stop the aging wonder who is Frank Gore, collectively they were able to sack Andrew Luck twice, forced two fumbles (recovering one), scored a touchdown and had an interception. Thus far after three games, the defense has logged six total turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles.
In 2015, the Chargers secured only 11 interceptions and nine fumbles for the entire season. Furthermore, Rivers has yet to throw an interception, which has contributed to San Diego being at plus-2 in the turnover department, ranking 5th in the AFC.
It was, without a doubt – a sloppy game but one that San Diego should have and could have won. As stated previously, with the poor play at key moments by positional players, and the horrid and massive amount of penalties, the game was still within reach in the waning moments. However, in order to take this team to the next level, a game like this is one that the Chargers needed. A victory would have given then team confidence to win close games and perhaps string a few victories together to gather momentum. After all, the Bolts have not won back-to-back games since November of 2014.
Let that last sentence sink in for a bit.
The Chargers will return home to Qualcomm Stadium in Week 4 to face the New Orleans Saints. This game will provide the Bolts a prime opportunity to get back on track, possibly evening out their record to 2-2 against a Saints’ team that struggles defensively.
Here is to hoping that the Chargers do NOT lose another key element to their roster for the fourth consecutive regular season week in a row.
Please comment below on what miscue, by players or non-players, was the main contributor to the loss in Indy.
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott