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
On the second day of free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a three-year, twelve million dollar deal (5 million guaranteed) with Chargers free agent running back Ryan Mathews. Mathews flew to Philadelphia and pending a physical, is ready to sign on the dotted line and start a new NFL life in the city of Brotherly Love.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the doctor’s office.
The Eagles were set to halt their pursuit of Cowboys free agent running back Demarco Murray. That is, until Eagles head coach Chip Kelly received a phone call from Murray himself. Murray pitched himself to the coach and the Eagles took the bait. As of the time of this writing on the third day of free agency, March 12, Murray is on a plane to Philadelphia with the intent of signing a deal with the Eagles when he enters the building.
Brotherly Love indeed.
Back to Mathews. He is at time of this writing, finishing his physical and it’s approaching the time where the deal would be signed and he would be issued official Eagles gear. The contract is not signed. Murray’s arrival could mean a couple things. Either the Eagles are planning on sharing the load with two workhorse running backs OR Murray’s signing will put Mathews back on the street looking for work. The latter seems to be the more likely scenario.
Why else would the Eagles bring in Murray after agreeing with Mathews if not to supplant him? Murray is the shiniest jewel in the running back free agent crown. Demarco ran for over 1800 yards last season. Mathews was injured for all but six games last season. Of course Murray is the sexier addition.
The latest breaking news is Murray has agreed to a 5-year, 40 million dollar deal with the Eagles with twenty million guaranteed and a couple million more possible with incentives. Neither player has signed yet. Why would Mathews want to stay? The Eagles undoubtedly made promises about him being the number one back and a day later they brought in the league’s rushing leader.
Essentially, the cute girl in class has been dumped for the head cheerleader.
I am in no way a Mathews fan. Anyone who has read my columns knows I have been campaigning for him to leave since Boltblitz started over two years ago. The injuries, the inconsistency and watching my favorite player, quarterback Philip Rivers, get beat down as a consequence of not having a dependable running game soured me to Mathews seasons ago.
As much as I want to laugh my fool head off at the situation, I can’t. I am waiting to throw my celebration party until Mathews officially signs a deal with another team and that still hasn’t happened yet. Yes he’s a free agent so that means he’s not in any way affiliated with the Chargers anymore. He’s not under contract with San Diego and if the front office wanted him to stay with the team they would have made an offer to him before free agency began. They didn’t. He’s gone.
What I expect will happen is the Eagles will tell Mathews he’s no longer needed or Mathews will tell the Eagles he’s not staying if Murray is their guy. Either way, that means he’s still up for bids. There should be teams willing and waiting to acquire him but what if Chargers GM Tom Telesco decided to make an incentive-laden offer at a lower price and Mathews accepts?
Call it an irrational fear but it isn’t. Stranger things have happened. Look at what’s happened in Philadelphia alone as the example. They had Frank Gore and Gore decided to back out of his oral agreement. Philly then agreed to a deal with Mathews and a day later they agree to a deal with Murray after Murray picked up the phone and offered himself like a hooker on the Las Vegas strip. In the span of a week, Philadelphia has changed running backs three times! A call out of the blue from the old team is downright standard these days.
There are no reports that the Chargers have any interest in getting back in the running for their former running back but we’ve been surprised before. Nobody saw Jimmy Graham getting traded on day one of free agency either. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes and that’s what worries me. The more running backs that sign as this soap opera unfolds, the more worried I am that Mathews dons the lightning bolts again. The title of a favorite Motley Crue song comes to mind: Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away. Maybe the Eagles are telling him that right now…
What do you think? Should the Chargers jump back in the mix for Mathews?
The Greg One
The tedious summer is gone. Fall is here and with it we have made it through the offseason hullabaloo. The NFL Draft, free agency, training camp, OTA’s and most importantly, preseason games and final cuts are OVER! It is time for some live action, these games count FOOTBALL!!
I did get to watch all four of the Chargers preseason games and was mostly impressed with what I saw. GM Tom Telesco has shown a deft touch at finding talent that can make an impact. Donald Brown is going to be a great insurance policy for Ryan Mathews. The few games he had in Indianapolis as the feature back showed he has the ability to carry the load of a number one running back. Brown is a great depth add. He will make his mark before the season is over.
Speaking of Mathews, he had a great 2013 season. For the first time in his pro career he played in all sixteen games. Considering it was his third season before he accomplished the feat doesn’t sway me. Those who have read my columns for any length of time know I am not a fan of 24, but I do applaud his effort last season. Mathews’ hard running spearheaded the Chargers second half surge into the playoffs. This is his contract year and a subpar showing will have him looking for employment elsewhere. For the Chargers sake, I hope he can repeat his success from last season. My dream scenario is Mathews mirrors last season’s production, the Chargers win the Super Bowl in the process and Mathews leaves willingly as he overvalues himself and goes to the highest bidder in the offseason.
I am encouraged by the wide receiver group for the first time in a long time. It’s great to see Malcom Floyd back on the field and looking good in the preseason games. Keenan Allen spent the offseason working on his speed. He looked plenty fast last season but he was working his way back from a knee injury that dropped his draft stock into the third round where the Chargers scooped him up as the steal of the draft. If he’s actually increased his speed running on a now fully healed knee, the Chargers will feature two legitimate vertical threats and a quarterback that is one of the top deep ball passers in the league.
Speaking of deep threats, Dontrelle Inman has been very impressive in the preseason and has gotten raves in camp. Inman has been sure handed, looks good running routes and has also shown the ability to get down the field in a hurry. I’m excited to see Inman on the field with Rivers putting the ball on him in stride. Add Eddie Royal and a stable of fast, uber-athletic tight ends and the field will be littered with great targets for Rivers. There is enough speed on the offense to make Chip Kelly jealous. No one is talking about the Chargers.
I also like the defensive back depth. They are unproven commodities but last year’s fifth round draft pick Steve Williams will be making plays on the field. Williams may have missed his entire rookie year but he now knows the defense and all there is left to do is apply what he knows to the field in real game action. First rounder Jason Verrett will see plenty of playing time. Brandon Flowers was in the Pro Bowl last season, and that was coming off what was statistically his worst season of his NFL career! There are a lot of plays and game impact that can’t be quantified by numbers.
Add to the mix the incumbents Wright, Gilchrist and Marshall (although he’s being converted to safety) and the Chargers now have something they’ve lacked for a long time, a playmaking secondary. My biggest gripe about the defense is they don’t get interceptions. There are quite a few dropped interceptions but the Chargers defensive backs have seemed allergic to interceptions. Usually there’s a defensive lineman who has as many interceptions as anyone in the secondary. Last season the Chargers had a paltry 11 interceptions. Defensive backs had five led by Gilchrist with 2, while defensive linemen had 4. Two picks came from Weddle at the safety position.
My other concern is run defense. Not to put too much stock in the preseason but the Seahawks ran all over the Chargers first team. Conversely, the 49ers couldn’t run against the Chargers defense at all. The best backdrop to use is recent history. Last season San Diego allowed 107 yards per game on the ground. Blame injuries and instability at nose tackle but it needs to be fixed if the Chargers are going to make the playoffs. This season they face great running backs like Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore, Zac Stacy, CJ Spiller and Ray Rice (lest we forget 4th and 29). Stopping these running backs are key to making the playoffs.
As I wrote in a recent column, no one is more excited to see Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich hand Philip Rivers a shiny new toy called the no-huddle offense. This is the same system Peyton Manning used in Indianapolis during the height of his powers. This offense also has aspects of the K-Gun offense run by the Buffalo Bills during their run of four straight Super Bowls in the early 90’s. Reich was Manning’s quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis during his run and Reich was Jim Kelly’s backup quarterback in Buffalo. Now Rivers gets to run an updated version of the same offense.
There are few quarterbacks in the league as cerebral as Rivers. There’s not a page of the playbook he doesn’t know upside down and inside out. There’s not a defense he hasn’t seen, no situation he hasn’t been in. With the defense unable to substitute regularly inbetween plays Rivers will have time to find the weak link in the defense and exploit it. To boot, he has the offensive personnel needed to make it successful. This could be the last wrinkle to the Chargers becoming a Super Bowl winning team in the near future. This team is going to take the league by surprise and by the time they show up on everyone’s radar, it will already be too late.
The Greg One
When the roster was announced for the players that made the Pro Bowl, I immediately recognized the lack of surprise behind the selections of both Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle. But, another quick-twitch reaction was the fact that neither Darrell Stuckey, nor Ryan Mathews, made the squad. Upon further review, Stuckey was snubbed and Mathews was not.
Do not get me wrong, Ryan Mathews has had a breakout 2013 campaign. The tenacity and hard-running that has been on display is certainly something for the organization and its fans to be proud of without a doubt. But when you look at the names in front of the fourth year back, it comes as no surprise that he was not included.
Lets take a look at the running backs that did make the Pro Bowl. They are listed below.
- Jamaal Charles Not only did Charles earn a Pro Bowl nod, he should be in the running for the NFL’s MVP honor.
- Matt Forte He just so happens to be one of the most under-rated players in the NFL; even among Bear fans.
- Marshawn Lynch This guy gets his #BeastMode running style from hard work and Skittles. Awesome ball carrier.
- Adrian Peterson What more can be said about Peterson? I don’t feel the need to elaborate.
- LeSean McCoy This runner was already a duel threat but the Chip Kelly offense has enhanced his talent for sure.
- Frank Gore I am a big fan of Gore. He earned this spot, in my opinion. Despite Colin’s struggles, he’s been solid.
Looking at this list, it is obvious that the NFC running backs dominated in comparison to those that play in the AFC. Had the vote been similar to past years, Mathews would have been a lock to make another Pro Bowl.
In an effort to point out my appreciation for Mathews, I’d take him over a couple of the running backs that were selected for the NFL’s most meaningless game. Additionally, if he runs the way he has for the latter part of the 2013 season, he may just pass them all up in 2014.
Thanks a lot for reading.