Monday Night Football

TerribleAttendance

(Photo Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune)

This past Monday Night football was nauseating to watch. The Chargers, who dominated most of the game, could not hold onto a slim three-point lead in the waning minutes against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. When the clock displayed double zeros and Le’Veon Bell’s reach over the goal line was replayed numerous times, Bolts fans were disgusted.  The final score was not the only thing that upset the home crowd. It was all the obnoxious yellow towels that were whirled about Qualcomm stadium. Players from San Diego were even in awe of the strong black and gold front that, at times, overtook the stadium. The game was, after all, played in America’s finest city and not the Steel City from Pennsylvania. How shocking was it to see and hear?

Honestly, it should not have been that big of a surprise.

The Monday Night announcers made sure that people sitting at home were very aware of the Steelers’ fan-base presence; especially after the end of the game. So naturally sports media, talk shows, podcasts…etc. were talking about it. Chargers fans worldwide voiced their frustrations and even compared San Diego’s fanbase to other football teams, asking why Bolt fans were outnumbered at home.

Let me take this moment to state the obvious:

The San Diego fan base will never be at the same level as the fans from Green Bay, Pittsburgh, or Chicago.  Period.   

Several articles that I scanned through all had this to say about the Pittsburgh Steelers fans:

“Best traveling fans in the NFL.”

Out here on the west coast of Florida, you could maybe find 20 people out of 100 that were born and raised in the Sunshine State. The other 80 hails from the likes of Pittsburgh, Ohio, Massachusetts…etc. Having gone to several Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays games in my 15 years of living here, it rarely feels like a home game. It’s a transplant state after all. Residents bring their fandom with them. In fact, there is a Steelers bar very close to my home called Fanatics Sports Bar & Grill.

So why do fans from all over outnumber the home team? What does Florida have to offer?

The same thing San Diego has to offer….except the awful humidity, of course.

In America’s finest city, people come from all over to reap the benefits of perfect weather, beaches and the lifestyle. Just like here in Florida, after a few visits, people decide to move and plant themselves permanently, or seasonally. San Diego has always boasted the best weather year round of any other city in America. With the ocean breeze slapping them in the face, the surfing, fishing and the relaxed atmosphere, it is no wonder people from twelve-below temperatures are flocking their way out west.

I am a transplant Floridian, and the only games I really attend are those when the San Diego Padres and Chargers are in town. Do I get nasty looks? Of course I do. Nobody wants to see opposing fans at their home stadium.

As disheartening as it was to see those awful towels seemingly exceed those beautiful Charger jerseys in the stands, it should not have been a surprise. It is painful that this story reached such great heights.

However, Charger fans need to worry less about the number of opposing fans and more about the team itself. Call it like it is, Bolts fans: the city of San Diego is a transplant city and those transplants bring their money as well as their love for their favorite team. All Charger fans need to do is to continue to support the team and “BOLT UP!!”

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott

Rivers Sad

 

Certain plays keep running through my mind as I lay my head on my pillow. I am flooded with memories of penalties and mistakes that conquer my thoughts. And who do I see when my sleep-deprived eyes finally come into focus? Brandon Flowers. My eyes begin to burn and my head hurts.

Make no mistake about it my friends – the Chargers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night; except of course on the scoreboard. Ironically, however, that is all that matters when you are trying to win the AFC West and go deep into the playoffs.

San Diego played with heart and determination throughout most of the game. People who read that sentence might have a quick-tempered retort, so I am asking for you to re-read that sentence.

 

“…heart and determination….”

 

The offensive line is battered – again. However, with a potpourri of players blocking and protecting, they managed to only allow two sacks – against a team that blitzed almost every play. Of course you have to credit the master, Philip Rivers, for maneuvering in the pocket and getting rid of the ball quickly. But you also need to credit those players ahead of him. They played hard and fought through it all. Their mistakes? Penalties. Those penalties from that offensive line hurt drives; inevitably hurting field position. The Bolts and Rivers feed off of momentum. When you throw a fade route to Ladarius Green to convert a 3rd down and it comes back, frustration begins to creep in no matter how hard you choose to ignore it.

For 58 minutes of the game, the defense was a beautiful sight to see. Manti Te’o was wrapping people up and making key tackles. Melvin Ingram and Corey Liuget continued to be in the face of Michael Vick. Jason Verrett was everything San Diego had hoped he could be, as he dominated one of the best wide receivers in the game, limiting Antonio Brown to three receptions for 45 yards on the night.

Pittsburgh’s offense had many golden opportunities with their field position; something the Chargers offense lacked for almost three quarters. Even with Pittsburgh’s great field position, John Pagano’s defense stepped up huge, allowing only three offensive points through three quarters.

The interception that was returned for a touchdown was upsetting. Those who blame Rivers for that need to watch more football and perhaps understand that Malcom Floyd did not run the sharp route he was supposed to. Rivers laid it out perfectly, and the person who ran the best route was in fact Antwon Blake for Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, that was not the most disconcerting mistake of the night.

What was devastating was when Vick threw a deep pass to a wide-open Markus Wheaton.

Did that just happen?”  

My heart had not stopped racing with enthusiasm after Antonio Gates caught his second touchdown of the game.

Flowers was beat badly and it appeared that after the 72 yard touchdown, Vick knew where he had to go when asked to throw. Over and over again Flowers was beat.  How fitting that Heath Miller, who caught a pass at San Diego’s one-yard line, was covered by Brandon.  Furthermore, what was more disturbing and gut-wrenching to watch, was the soft defense with two minutes left in the game while holding onto a slim lead.

All game, Vick was disrupted.  There seemed to always be a spotter on him, ensuring that his dangerous speed and agility were contained.  For some reason however, the attack button was put on pause as he marched down the field to win the game in dramatic fashion.

Can we blame the loss on one player?  Of course not.  As pointed out there were many mistakes that were made which accounted for the loss.

This Chargers’ team can compete. They have the talent and the heart to win. San Diego is not out of the AFC race by any means. This week will be a tough challenge, and if mistakes can be minimized and mental toughness strengthened, there is no reason why the Bolts can’t shock the NFL next Sunday and the weeks thereafter.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott

FlowersAndVerrett

 

 

The excitement surrounding the secondary of the 2015 San Diego Chargers was palpable heading into the regular season. What they lack in size – as not one is taller than 5-feet-11 – they make up for in experience. Consider that the on-field leader for these men is eight-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle, a guy who is matched in intensity only by the Bolts’ offensive signal caller, Philip Rivers. There are only two other Pro Bowlers in this unit, Brandon Flowers and Darrell Stuckey. For a bunch of men who were primarily drafted in rounds one through four, they should be performing at a high level. At least that is how it shakes out on paper.

Chargers fans are quite obviously frustrated with the product appearing on the field these past four weeks. So, what seems to be the problem? Injuries have a role, but so do ridiculous penalties when the team has the opponent stopped and a chance to get the ball back into the hands of No. 17. What lengths do secondary coach Ron Milus and his assistant Greg Williams have to go to so that this bunch does what it is paid to do? With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town for a Monday Night game, and even if Ben Roethlisberger isn’t under center, this unit needs to be prepared.

Let’s review some of the issues through the first month of the season.

First and Foremost: Get healthy, stay healthy!

Of the four designated starters: free safety Eric Weddle, strong safety Jahleel Addae, left cornerback Brandon Flowers, and right cornerback Jason Verrett – only Weddle has started each game. Opposite him, Addae has been nursing a sore ankle since the Cincinnati game. Additionally, Flowers (knee/concussion) and Verrett (foot) have been in and out of the lineup. Milus has had his own merry-go-round to manage due to injury, shuffling corner/safety Jimmie Wilson as well as safety Adrian Phillips, plus corners Patrick Robinson and Steve Williams into the lineup. Rookie cornerback Craig Mager was finally on the field against the Minnesota Vikings only to be inactive last week with a bum hamstring. As of this writing (Friday) Addae, Verrett and Mager are still on the injury report though with limited participation in practice. Who suits up this week will be of utmost importance against the Steelers.

Penalty-free, please!

Although there have only been five penalties, the fact remains that they have come at inopportune times. Two by Verrett gave the Cincinnati Bengals a new set of downs TWICE; both were 15-yard personal foul infractions. In the game against the Minnesota Vikings, Williams was flagged for a costly pass interference (PI) which set up the Vikings at midfield rather than punting. Against the Cleveland Browns last week, Williams was called for illegal use of hands. And in the same matchup, Flowers was nailed for a PI which fortunately only cost six yards. Five penalties in four games by just the secondary is not conducive to winning. This area needs to be addressed.

Tackling by the numbers

As per usual, Weddle leads the posse with 38 combined tackles (29 solos), plus half a sack. Addae has managed four solo tackles in two games. Flowers has collected eight solo tackles (10 total), while Verrett has been credited with six overall (4 solo). The back-ups (Wilson, Robinson, Phillips and Williams) collectively have 42 tackles, a forced fumble (Robinson) and two picks (Robinson versus Detroit and Williams at Minnesota). In 2014, the secondary was responsible for six interceptions on the year. Is having two thus far a good measuring stick for Milus’ men? Time will tell.

Despite the secondary undergoing a bit of upheaval early in the season courtesy of the injury bugaboo, Milus and Williams seem to have their group on the right path. However, they will need to step it up and play smart. Meaning, no getting beat, no dumb penalties, no blown coverages. Monday’s AFC divisional face-off with Pittsburgh will be a turning point as the Bolts’ secondary will need to play it tight – keep Antonio Brown and company in check.

Here’s to execution being stellar this week!

Thanks for reading!

Cheryl White

The start of the 2014 season looked extremely promising for the offensive line. Veteran center Nick Hardwick was returning after questioning retirement, right tackle D.J Fluker was entering his sophomore season, and a healthy left tackle King Dunlap was set to make another impact. Adding to the mix was guard Chris Watt; a third round draft pick in this year’s draft. However, being past the halfway mark and into the bye week, the offensive line has crumbled into little football pieces; almost unrepairable.

Shortly after the one point loss to the Arizona Cardinals on a Monday Night Football showdown, Hardwick was placed on injured reserve; not returning for the rest of the year. Rich Ohrnberger was to fill the position, however injuries have inhibited him to be able to play effectively.  He too has missed some games. The injury bug struck so hard that at one point it left Watt, not a true center, filling the void as the fourth backup to Hardwick. At that point, the offensive line started to disintegrate and show their true colors. The next man up motto almost seemed like a joke.

It should be no surprise that the Chargers are ranked almost last (30th) in the NFL for rushing yards. Yes, the void of Ryan Mathews has greatly impacted the run game, but the guards and center haven’t done a sufficient job at creating holes for the run. In week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, Donald Brown had 31 attempts, ran for 62 yards and only averaged 2.0 yards for the game. If you remember, the Bills have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The run game had no chance. As many know, Johnnie Troutman is the right guard on the line, but does it shock anyone that he isn’t performing well? I’m not at all. Scary enough, Watt hasn’t even been able to outperform him to snag the starting role — as predicted in the offseason. It wasn’t until the Miami where the entire offensive line hit rock bottom.

The Chargers were shut out a few Sundays ago by the Miami Dolphins. That hasn’t happened since 1999 (I was eleven years old). Philip Rivers had a total of three interceptions and one strip-sack fumble. Does it sound oddly familiar to the 2012 season? Before the three game losing streak, Rivers was said to be the league’s MVP contender, but he doesn’t look like that anymore. If you look below, Rivers’ poor play has been due to an extremely underperforming offensive line:

SD vs Miami Oline 1

-Rivers sets up for a pass play on 2nd and 18. Eddie Royal to the lower right looks to be making a route in open coverage and the offensive line looks to be blocking correctly to allow Rivers sufficient time in the pocket.

SD vs Miami Oline 2

-Notice Troutman, turned around, looking completely lost and confused while exposing Rivers to Miami player #79. Fluker is basically playing the right tackle and  right guard position. But it’s becoming more evident that he might excel at the right guard position. As a result, the play ended in one of the three interceptions of the game.

Just as I mentioned, Fluker is being forced to play two positions at once. Do you miss Jeromey Clary yet? This type of play is a disgrace at the NFL level and absolutely needs to be address by the coaching staff sooner than later; if not, the next draft. Could it get any worse? Yes, and it does in the next example:

SD vs Miami Oline 4

-A view of the offensive line setting up for a well needed 8 yards on 3rd down. Antonio Gates looks to be the receiver while lined up on the right side.

SD vs Miami Oline 3

-In this view, Rivers appears to have pocket time to convert. However, the play never ended that way.

SD vs Miami Oline 6

-Dunlap was horribly beaten on the edge. Keep in mind, this play only lasted roughly three seconds. That’s how little time it takes to disrupt an opposing offensive line and quarterback. The play ended in the games only strip-sack fumble.

Lastly, Watt was given an opportunity when Ohrnberger was removed from the game. The rookie’s inexperience was exposed horrendously:

SD vs Miami Oline Watt 1

-Rivers has a pretty decently protected pocket, however Watt starts to crumble under the pressure from Miami’s Dion Sims at the far right.

SD vs Miami Oline Watt 2

-Well, this doesn’t look great. Watt is easily manhandled and left looking behind him while #80 attacks up the middle for Rivers.

SD vs Miami Oline Watt 3

-A very painful looking sack occurred on the play while Watt looks like he is in complete disarray. Rookies will be rookies. However, with the mindset of “next man up”, Watt doesn’t look NFL ready.

An efficient guard and offensive lineman will protect the passer and open up the pocket for the quarterback to see an open receiver. At this point, the Chargers current linemen have allowed the pocket to collapse sooner than desired leaving Rivers to increase his release rate to 2.52 seconds in order to get the pass out quicker. If the line is collapsing in three seconds or less, that ultimately leaves Rivers forcing to throw and converting in .52 seconds or less. Even if you’re Peyton Manning, that is horrible protection for any quarterback.

Basically, the offensive line has looked like the former 2012 line; nonexistent pass protection, no open lanes/holes for the running back and players looking like a lost child in a grocery store. Not to mention, they have been hit by injuries. The sad part, this was just the Miami matchup and more horrendous play occurred well before this game. Tom Telesco and company have many issues to address, and the offensive line is the biggest one. Everyone is pretty excited to see Ryan Mathews return to the practice field, but can the line hold up? It’s going to take more than a bye week to clean up this train wreck.

 

Briana Soltis

007

 

I sat in the rafters at University of Phoenix stadium, better known as the home of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. The Chargers closed week one of the NFL regular season against the Cardinals. From my seat, parallel to the ten yard line three rows from the top of the stadium, I couldn’t be happier to see my guys in lightning bolts take the field.

The electricity filled the stadium long before kickoff and didn’t dissipate until after the stands had cleared over three hours later. Kurt Warner was on hand to initiate the coin flip. He would be inducted into the Cardinals Ring of Honor at halftime. The Chargers won the toss and chose to kick off. The regular season had finally begun for our beloved bolts. This wasn’t my first Chargers game, I started going to games two seasons ago. This was my first Chargers road game and first time at a Monday Night Football game. I could barely sit still as other members of Chargers Nation provided a great turnout for the road team.

The game started. When the Chargers finally took the field on offense I sat ready for fireworks. The whole half passed and I wasn’t getting what I came for. There were some excellent plays made by both teams. The Chargers forced an Andre Ellington turnover and the defensive line got penetration, harassing Carson Palmer most of the half. Rookie Jeremiah Attaochu blocked a punt.  A Cardinals cornerback made a great diving interception of Rivers that led to a field goal as halftime descended with a score of 6-3, Cardinals.

I couldn’t help but shake my head. The whole team was out of sync. The running game was going nowhere. Rivers didn’t look as crisp with his passes as he usually does. Receivers dropped ball. Antonio Gates dropped a ball! Rivers overthrew Malcom Floyd who had gotten a good two steps behind the Cardinals defense and there was nothing but green between him and the end zone had that pass hit its target.

Where was this no-huddle offense that was supposed to be unveiled? I understand not showing it during preseason but now it’s game on! Wins and losses count. I watched each play and after each play was a normal huddle. No muddle huddle. No nothing.  No one was more excited than yours truly to see Philip Rivers dissect a defense in the no-huddle offense OC Frank Reich spoke of implementing. It never happened.  Ironically this would have been the perfect team to unveil it against. The Cardinals had lost the meat of their defense during the offseason. Daryl Washington is lost for the year after his second incident involving banned substances. Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland. Darrell Dockett was injured in camp and will be gone all year. Safety Tyrann Mathieu was not activated for the game. With the instability on the defensive line, it would have been a great idea to blitz all the unproven players with nonstop offense and light up the scoreboard like Times Square on New year’s Eve.

After halftime, it seemed like Warner’s speech fired up the Chargers instead of the Cardinals as the Chargers bolted out of the locker rooms and delivered two touchdowns in the second half as they shut down the Cardinals offense and went ahead to take the lead 17-6 going into the fourth quarter. The reverse happened in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals capitalized on Chargers errors and responded with two field goals and a touchdown to eek out a one point win.

Like the rest of us, I had a lot to cheer about in that game, especially in the third quarter. Similarly, there was a lot that left me scratching my head.

On the positive side, Malcom Floyd looked great on the field. He showed his speed, got behind the defense on a couple occasions and showed he is all the way back. Antonio Gates showed he is still the go-to guy in the clutch. Despite the drops, the Cardinals were forced to rotate coverage to him throughout the game. Jeremiah Attaochu showed he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Attaochu blocked a punt, forced a fumble sacking Carson Palmer and was in on a host of tackles.  I heard Mantei Te’o name quite a bit it seemed. Te’o even caught Ellington on an open field tackle which is an achievement in itself. Hopefully this is a sign Te’o is okay and will be a key contributor on defense as well. The defense played great for three quarters, holding the Cardinals to two field goals despite giving up big plays. For a change, they managed to force turnovers and come through on third downs keeping the game close at hand.

Conversely, the defense fell apart when the Chargers needed it most. With a 11-point lead going into the final quarter, a playoff level team should be able to close the show, even on the road. All the key stops ceased in the fourth quarter. Carson Palmer, who would probably tie Rivers in a 40-yard dash, was allowed to leave the pocket and pick up first downs with his legs. The Chargers couldn’t produce anything in the run game against a patchwork Cardinals defensive line. Aside from Mathews’ touchdown run, the Chargers running backs barely advanced past the line of scrimmage on most attempts. On a related note, guess who was the second leading rusher for the Chargers: that’s right, Philip Rivers! Rivers 10-yard first down run put him second behind Mathews 40 yards rushing. Atrocious. The run defense also needs work. They allowed an injured Ellington to rush for 53 yards on 13 carries and the Cardinals as a team ran for over 100 yards including 29 from Palmer. Lastly, there were too many missed sacks. Not tackles, sacks. By my count, at least four times the pocket collapsed on Palmer and it looked like the sack was imminent. Lo and behold, out pops Palmer getting away and picking up positive yardage or at least getting back to the line of scrimmage.

By the way, Mike McCoy, please stop running Eddie Royal on end arounds. Thank you.

The Chargers and Monday Night openers don’t seem to mesh well as of late. Correction, the Chargers and the fourth quarter of Monday Night Football season openers don’t seem to mesh well.  For the second straight year, the Chargers gave up a fourth quarter lead in the last three minutes of the game, and took the loss. The good news is last season, after taking that loss on the chin from the Texans, the Chargers faced the Eagles who had unveiled the Chip Kelly offense against the Washington Redskins and their blowout win was the talk of the league. The talking heads got on the bandwagon and some had the nerve to say they would post 50 on the Chargers in week 2.

The Chargers took the challenge, marched into Philadelphia and beat the Eagles at home to the shock of the league. This season the Chargers face a bigger task. The Chargers face the defending champion Seattle Seahawks sunday. David to the Seahawks Goliath, the Chargers will again shock the NFL world with a win. Seattle will be the opening home game for the Chargers. No one is expecting the home team to win, but I  for one will not be shocked if they do. The Chargers have no weaknesses that can’t be fixed and there were plenty of missteps to be coached up on before the Seahawks arrive which is a good thing. Expect a better, more focus squad on gameday.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#TelescoMagic

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