Sunday’s heartbreaking loss in the last-minute to the Titans made me so sick, I’m just getting around to grading the Chargers against my keys to victory:

1) Front 7 needs to keep CJ2K in check. In this pass happy early 2013, Chris Johnson averaged 83 yards per game and ranks #6 in the league. Put 8 in the box and make Jake Locker (only 136 yards per game) beat you. Pray a lot with our pass defense. Time for all good Catholics to light tons of candles!

Grade: C Defense kept CJ2K to right around his season average and prevented the talented running back from hitting any home runs. However, the grade slips because they gave up 68 yards to Jake Locker on five carries, including letting him break off a 39 yard scamper.

2) Defensive Line has to apply pressure when Locker does throw. Part of the defensive woes plaguing the Bolts is that they have only produced three sacks and one takeaway in two games.

Grade: F Outside of two sacks for 17 yards, lack of pressure on Locker allowed him to shred the Bolts’ secondary for 282 yards, almost 150 yards more than their season average. They also failed to contain Locker, letting him break contain for 68 yards on five attempts. Locker had way too much time to survey the field, enabling him to take advantage of a poor Charger secondary.

3) If you’re going to make Locker beat you, the secondary has to cover better than they have so far. John Pagano has to protect the secondary with pressure on Locker. So far, playing zone doesn’t seem to help the secondary either.

Grade: F- ‘nuff said. Defense allowed six third down conversions out of 14 third down plays and batted one for two on fourth down. Tennessee went 95 yards in barely a minute to edge out a victory against the good guys.

4) Block, block, block on offense. The Titans have recorded seven sacks in two games. When he throws, Rivers is going to have to get rid of the ball quickly. Going no huddle and varying how much play clock is used before snapping the ball should keep the Tennessee defense off balance.

Grade B: This is a generous grade considering the patchwork line that had to play Sunday. The longest run broken was 11 yards. Hardly stellar. Running back committee gained only 102 yards. Philip Rivers was only sacked twice, so the line did hold up better than expected.

5) Ryan Mathews has to run well and often against the league’s #21 rated run defense and he has to hold that ball like it’s his only worldly possession. The red zone fumble against Philadelphia didn’t influence the outcome of the game, but his and Gates’ fumbles sure made the game closer than it needed to be. Mister Mathews has to realize he’s a marked man and act like it.

Grade C: Mathews was a no show again on Sunday, running for 58 yards on 16 carries, but he didn’t fumble either, so that’s a plus. The running star was Danny Woodhead with 31 yards on only five carries, but he did turn the ball over.
The Chargers still haven’t shaken the ghost of Norv Turner, finding creative ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The secondary was awful against a pedestrian quarterback. Lack of a pass rush makes this secondary look even worse. Philip and Ken Wisenhunt did not use the game clock as an asset the way they did against the Eagles. The Titans won the time of possession 31:38 to 28:22, largely due to the Bolts’ failure to convert on third down (three of nine). This is going to be critical going forward for the Chargers to win ball games.


Mike Pisciotta

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