On Saturday night, quarterback Philip Rivers agreed to a four-year contract extension with the San Diego Chargers that will keep him in lightning bolts through the year 2019. The deal is between $84-85 million dollars and comes with $65 million guaranteed dollars per NFL Networks’ Ian Rapoport who broke the story. Rivers will sign the extension on Monday.
The Chargers front office has taken a lot of fire this offseason for how they have handled player contracts this offseason. They stepped up to the plate and guaranteed Rivers will be a Charger for life as GM Tom Telesco has said in countless interviews. The exclamation point is the guaranteed money. The $65 million is the largest guaranteed dollar amount given to a player in NFL history. The deal surpasses the $61.5 million that was guaranteed to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson just a month ago.
This is a lightning bolt of great news that has energized the San Diego fan base if you peruse social media. Despite what happens in the relocation scenario, the elephant in the room was Rivers, who was in the last year of his current contract this season. The subject of trade speculation in the weeks leading up to the draft, Rivers spoke hesitantly about his willingness to resign if the Chargers move to Los Angeles. Thankfully, that game is over and the franchise quarterback will stay put until the day he decides to hang up his cleats.
Though it remains to be seen how the new members of the offensive line perform, Rivers had to be impressed in the guys the front office brought in to protect him. Orlando Franklin (6’7″, 320 lb) is a left guard the Chargers signed away from the rival Denver Broncos. Joe Barksdale (6’5″, 326 lb) is a right tackle signed away from St. Louis. The pair of 27-year old studs solidify weak spots on both sides of the line.
The signings of reserve center Trevor Robinson (6’5″, 300 lb), guard Michael Huey (6’4″, 317 lb) and tackle Chris Hairston (6’6″, 330 lb) provide quality depth to a line that resembles a turnstile last season. This group will be tasked with keeping Rivers clean and opening holes for the running backs. At first look, they look very capable of doing so.
With Rivers solidly back in the fold, they are primed to overtake the Denver Broncos and reclaim their former dominance at the top of the AFC West. They’re bound to experience growing pains with new workhorse running back Melvin Gordon. Much is expected of the Chargers 2015 first round draft pick but his transition to the pro game will be a little easier with a stable of veterans to lean on. A healthy Danny Woodhead and human bowling ball Branden Oliver will also take pressure off as they will share the backfield load, turning the running back position into a three-headed monster.
This deal was inevitable. Rivers is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the team. He is the undisputed leader and face of the franchise. Rivers’ intelligence, toughness and passing proficiency is unquestioned. At this moment, Rivers is the sixth highest rated passer in NFL history. By the end of his career, Rivers will own every significant Chargers passing record.
Will San Diego win the West this year? If they stay healthy (big if), they can absolutely overtake the Broncos. At the very least the race for the top spot should go down to the wire. I expect at least ten wins this season which puts them in the playoff picture. Rivers has his best collection of offensive talent top to bottom since the Tomlinson years.
Peyton Manning is already declining and will most likely retire at the end of this or next season. Rivers still has plenty of life left in his arm and we long suffering bolts fans can finally realistically expect deep postseason runs culminating with a long overdue Super Bowl ring(s) for our MVP!
Congratulations Philip from all of us in Bolt Nation!
The Greg One
During the two weeks leading to the Super Bowl here in Phoenix the focus of all things statewide was the Super Bowl. Media, celebrities and athletes overran the capital city and a visitor had no shortage of NFL-related spectacles to enjoy no matter wherever in the valley they were.
One of the biggest events of the week happened Tuesday as media day took place at the US Airways Center, home of the Phoenix Suns. The floor of the arena was reminiscent of an NCAA National Championship where the student sections storm the court and swallows the team amidst the celebration. The floor was a mass of credential wearing humanity pushing and shoving to get close enough to get their recorders in a player’s face.
At media day, the throngs gather around the podiums of the biggest named stars hoping to get good sound bytes. Similar to Mardi Gras, some dress in ridiculous costume in order to catch the attention of a star and make themselves known, however ignominiously.
Why then, is anyone gathered around the podium of Marshawn Lynch?
We get the fact that he is the arguably, the biggest name on the Seahawks marquee. Lynch and Russell Wilson are 1 and 1A, in either order. Marshawn was fourth in the league in rushing, only 57 yards shy of making it to #2. There’s no question he is the most punishing runner in the league. A great quote from Lynch could move a lot of newspapers or at least get a lot of clicks on your website. There’s just one problem.
Marshawn Lynch is not interested in talking to the media. At all. Not even a little bit.
We remember last season when Deion Sanders found Lynch lurking behind a backdrop in the corner of the venue. Even the charismatic, widely respected Primetime wasn’t able to get much response from the enigmatic Lynch. He did get the catchphrase of the season though.
…I’m just ’bout that action, Boss.
It’s been no secret for many season now that sticking a microphone in Lynch’s face is pointless. He rarely talks to the beat writers for his own team, what makes the league think he’s going to talk to the rest of the media circus?
Lynch has accumulated over 100,000 in fines this season for refusing to speak to the press. He has added more to the fine toteboard for taunting as a result of crotch grabbing as he scored touchdowns. It’s clear to the rest of us, Lynch says all he wants ON the field, not off of it.
NFL players are mandated to speak to the media in their contracts. They signed it knowing that fact. Marshawn seems completely comfortable taking the fines and being left alone. The fines are likely tax-deductible anyway.
At Media Day Tuesday, Lynch sat at his podium and repeated the same phrase 29 times.
I’m just here so I don’t get fined…
Five minutes later he was gone. Even though they knew he wouldn’t say anything different, his podium was surrounded by media. On the second day of their mandated three days of media sessions, Lynch carried the theme over today too with a new line…
You know why I’m here….
This doesn’t translate to a t-shirt very well, does it? No merchandising opportunities here. Still, he was the object of everyone’s attention when all he wanted was to be left alone. Five minutes later he was gone.
On day three he did speak more than one sentence. He used his five minutes to rant on why the assembled throng continues to come to him when they know he has nothing to say to them. Great point.
These Lynch/media confrontations are painful to watch. It’s akin to the school nerd trying to get a date with the homecoming queen. He walks up to try to utter something resembling a greeting and in the midst of his stammering she stares at him like he is growing three heads. It’s as uncomfortable as a separated couple that still lives together. It’s like trying to hold an intelligent conversation with a Raiders fan. Time to face it media…
He’s just not that into you.
Why go someplace where you’re not wanted? In the interest of solving the problem I’ve posed, I offer the media and the league these solutions.
1. Leave Marshawn alone. Give him time to miss you. Perhaps if you play hard to get he’ll actually come to you.
2. Restructure his contract. Marshawn is a free agent now and while the Seahawks are (allegedly) looking to extend him for another couple of years, now is the time to solve this problem. Just as easily as the ‘must speak to media’ obligation is included in his contract, it can also be omitted in negotiations. Lynch will be happy to stay and the media knows he is a virtual ‘no fly zone’ in the locker room.
3. Fine him at the beginning of the year. If the rule can’t be taken out of the contract, fine Lynch the equivalent of whatever it will cost in fines to absolve him of speaking to the media for the entirety of the season. The NFL will donate half to a charity of their choice, Lynch chooses the charity of his choice for the other half. This will result in good PR in the form of helping the disadvantaged and will show the league is sympathetic to its players to the casual fan even though we diehard fans knows its the farthest thing from the truth.
This way, everyone can move on and do more productive things with their time. The media can move on to interviewing people who will actually talk. Lynch can hide out in the locker room scarfing Skittles. The league can focus on the much bigger matters at hand than an athlete who doesn’t want a close up for a change instead of bullying him into saying nothing for five minutes.
Here in sunny Phoenix, you can’t have consecutive conversations on any subject without the Super Bowl being mentioned. For good reason, Phoenix is the center of the universe this week and the game pitting the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks has all the makings of an epic encounter.
Then again, we thought the same thing about last season’s Super Bowl…
On the first snap of last season’s big game, the ball was sailed over Peyton Manning’s head and it was all downhill from there as the almighty Denver Broncos were boat raced by the Seahawks 43-8.
Are we doomed for a repeat of last season?
Let’s check the similarities. The Seahawks are the power of the NFC, featuring (arguably) the best secondary in the game and a stout defense that keeps opponents off the scoreboard while the offense gets ahead early and forces the opposition to play out of their comfort zone. The Patriots were the top team in the AFC or, perhaps, considered 1 and 1A most of the season when you include Denver in the mix. Both teams finished with identical 12-4 records and first round byes in the playoffs. In the end, the Patriots had the edge due to a 43-21 win over the Broncos. The fact that the Patriots are the AFC representative in the Super Bowl erases all remaining doubt.
The Patriots also feature a deep and talented secondary and the best game planning staff in the league in Bill Belichick and crew. The Patriots offense, like Seattle, is not explosive by definition but they have bursts of scoring that is usually enough to put teams away.
Both teams come armed with a play making quarterback and one star complimentary player. Seattle has Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch. New England has Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Aside from those tag teams, neither offense has a player that strikes fear into the opposition. The question is which tandem will be held in check the best. Both teams have slow, plodding offenses with short rhythmic passing attacks. Neither team has a propensity to fire the ball deep down the field.
The differences are Seattle has a more creative offensive attack with Wilson running the read-option. His ability to extend plays with his legs will create problems for the Patriots. New England has faced one running quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and no read option teams all season. The Patriots, boring style and all, do average 30 points per game to Seattle’s 24. All their offensive shortcomings are overshadowed by the ability of Brady to make the plays needed to win. Brady is in the argument of best quarterbacks of all time. New England is playing to cement their legacy while Seattle is hoping to create a legacy reminiscent of what the Patriots are doing now. Back to back Super Bowl wins over two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game will go a long way to doing so.
In the end, it boils down to can Seattle disrupt Tom Brady enough to make him average. He’s great when he has time to throw and has established a rhythm. When the pass rush forces him to slip and slide in the pocket he becomes average and prone to making mistakes. Seattle’s defense found its stride at the right time coming down the back stretch of the season as they reeled off six straight wins, allowing six points per game to the opposition. Only one team in that stretch scored more than 7 points.
For New England, the big question is can they stop Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is the most punishing runner in the league and over the course of a game defenders are less and less willing to tackle him head on. The Patriots have given up big rushing games to lesser backs this season. Moreno (132), Knile Davis (107), Chris Ivory (107), Matt Forte (114), Eddie Lacy (98) and Justin Forsett (129) in the Divisional Playoff against Baltimore. Stopping Lynch makes the read-option and play action ineffective which is the Seahawks bread and butter.
Thankfully, this game looks dead even which means we won’t be looking for something more interesting to do before halftime as was the case last year. The Seahawks will shackle Gronkowski for most of the game. He’ll find an opening for one short touchdown catch. Seattle strong safety Kam Chancellor will be the unsung hero of the game. The heartbeat of Seattle’s defense, force multiple incompletions on balls headed to Gronk and without his safety net Brady will falter.
The stingy Seahawks D will force field goals instead of allowing touchdowns in the red zone. Brady will throw for a pedestrian 250 yards and two touchdowns but the pass most talked about will be of the second half pick six he threw to Earl Thomas that broke the game open. One half of the Wilson/Lynch tag team will win the MVP and the ‘Hawks will succeed in going back-to-back by a score of 30-23.
Who you got, Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
A little over a month ago, the Chargers were off to a 5-1 start and coming in at number one in multiple NFL power rankings. Those regards have long since disappeared as San Diego comes out of their bye week looking to end a three game losing streak. The now 5-4 Chargers are no longer on anyone’s lips. No one is talking about Philip Rivers’ chances for league MVP. All the eyes are on the Broncos, Patriots and Colts as the class of the AFC if not the league.
That’s a good thing. Keep moving, nothing to see here.
That hot start disappeared as the injuries mounted and the Chargers found themselves playing a brutal schedule of three games in 14 days against teams (KC, Denver, Miami) that are all in the playoff mix as of now.
The bye week, no matter when in the season it occurs, always seems to happen when it needs to happen. The Chargers desperately needed that two weeks off to get bodies out of the trainers room and back onto the field. These are key bodies that were instrumental in the Bolts 5-1 start. Such a thing has happened as its been reported that the Chargers will regain many starters who have been out of action for a long while.
The anemic running game gets a shot in the arm as the Chargers top two running backs, Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown return. The hobbled right tackle DJ Fluker has had time to regain full strength. On defense, returning playmakers Dwight Freeney, Jeremiah Attaochu, Mantei Teo and Melvin Ingram will bolster the defensive line. Brandon Flowers will add much-needed punch to a struggling secondary. Safety Jahleel Addae will also return once he clears concussion testing.
The San Diego Chargers are gone. The San Diego SUPER CHARGERS are back!
While the rest of the world expects the Chargers to disappear along with the other also-rans, expect San Diego to hit their stride. Here’s the way I see the rest of their season playing out.
Week 11- Oakland
It had the feel of a homecoming game for the Chargers. Coming out of the bye week on a three-game losing streak punctuated by the sting of a 37-0 beatdown by the Dolphins still in the air, who better to begin the second half of the season against than the Raiders? Though it was an ugly win, it was a win and a step in the right direction.
Week 12- St. Louis
The Rams have a strong front seven but their offense is downright horrid. The revitalized Chargers offensive line will keep the Rams linemen at bay while Rivers flings touchdowns. Chargers win 30-15.
Week 13- At Baltimore
The Ravens and Chargers have been mirror images of each other for parts of the season. The difference is the Chargers are now beginning to lap the still helter skelter Ravens. Defense wins the day for the Chargers, 24-17.
Week 14 and 15- New England and Denver
The Chargers true tests will come in these two games. Both home games against the best teams in the AFC. If my prophecy holds, San Diego will be 8-4 heading into the New England game and in the thick of the playoff race. I see the Chargers losing one of these games. I lean toward the New England game as that loss because I figure the Denver games would each go to the home team. For that reason I believe the Patriots will get by the Chargers in a nail biter, 28-27 and the Chargers get revenge against team Manning 27-21.
Week 16- at San Francisco
San Diego heads up the PCH to face a 49ers team that will also be fighting for their playoff lives. This Saturday matchup will be a smashmouth affair. San Francisco should have both their stud pass rushers back in Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman as both have been gone a majority if not all of the season. The difference in the game will be the offense. Kaepernick is digressing in games and the speed on the Chargers (hopefully) now healthy defense will bottle the scrambler the same way they did with Russell Wilson. The Chargers will prove to have too much firepower and beat the Niners 31-16.
Week 17- at Kansas City
This too could be a game with a playoff spot on the line. The Chiefs won’t be resting their starters this year. The Chiefs have the best home field advantage east of the Missouri river and San Diego has its history of troubles in that ballpark. Still, I don’t see the Chargers getting swept by any team in the AFC West so I expect a strong finish to the season and a playoff entry by way of a 20-14 win.
That’s right, I have the Chargers winning six of their last seven games. It’s easy to look at them after the past three games as the ‘same old Chargers’ but the name of the game is always injuries and now the Chargers are coming out on the right end of the injury equation just in time to make their playoff run. Rivers now has a running game that will free up receivers and enough big play performers on defense to give him short fields. I expect a fully bolted up unit coming out of the tunnel Sunday and while dismantling the Raiders won’t gather any national attention, knocking off playoff bound teams along the way will.
The Greg One
When you turn your attention to the football events ON the field this past weekend, there was no bigger story than San Diego beating the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. The Chargers beat, dare I say, dominated the Seahawks in San Diego. Although the final score was 30-21, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates. When you consider the referees gifted the Seahawks a touchdown by not calling Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin for stepping out-of-bounds during his 51-yard TD run the margin of victory probably would have been greater. The NFL since admitted their mistake but that won’t take the points off the board.
Seattle is at the top of every media pundits power rankings and carry a reputation as the hands down best team in the NFL. That reputation carried over into this season especially after seeing them dismantle the Green Bay Packers, stewarded by a now healthy Aaron Rodgers in the season opening game.
The Packers didn’t do anything to dispel the perception that the Seahawks were the most dominant team in the NFL. Rodgers didn’t throw to the side of the field occupied by Seahawks standout cornerback Richard Sherman one time. Seattle’s pass rush got to Rodgers or kept him on the run all game. For a team expected to go deep into the playoffs, the Packers definitely looked afraid of their opposition.
Seattle cut a path of destruction through the league last season, going 13-3 with the #1 ranked defense leading the way. In the Super Bowl they beat the Denver Broncos who boasted the #1 offense in the league last season by a 43-8 margin. That destruction continued against the Packers in week one. Did they overlook the Chargers? The Chargers did squeeze into the playoffs last season, the last team to gain entry to the postseason. However, in week three the Seahawks host the Broncos in a Super Bowl rematch. The Chargers were just going to be another victim of Seattle’s dominance, right?
In three hours on a 115-degree day in San Diego, the Chargers proved the Seahawks were mortal. In turn, the Chargers just made the Seahawks road back to a championship repeat much more difficult. What did we (and more importantly, coaching staffs of teams who will face Seattle) learn?
1. Seattle is not invincible. Perhaps the Seahawks bought into their own hype a bit too much. It was easy to count San Diego as a win and focus on their home game against Denver. The old cliche’ goes that the Super Bowl champion will get every team’s best shot. That will be true this season as well. The Seahawks learned they can not just roll their helmets onto the field and get a win. Only two teams had scored 30 against this Seahawks secondary in the ‘Legion Of Boom’ era, Atlanta in the 2012 playoffs and Indianapolis in week five of last season. The Chargers become the third to do it in only week two of the 2014 season.
Taking such a defeat so early in the season is a gift and a curse. Seattle knows they can’t steamroll every opponent and will be more prepared going forward. Alternatively, their aura of invincibility is also gone early in the season and they will not have the fear factor to their advantage against the NFL’s stronger teams. If Philip Rivers can light them up for three touchdowns and 284 yards in the air, what will Peyton Manning do?
2. Richard Sherman is not a shutdown corner. We heard the Chargers wideouts say it after the game and they are right. Richard Sherman is an excellent ball hawking cornerback but we all know he plays zone in the Seattle secondary. Sherman does not play man-to-man. He patrols a quadrant of the right side of the field, free to attack any ball or wide receiver that enters it. Unlike Aaron Rodgers the week before, the Chargers and Philip Rivers went right at Sherman and continually completed passes to his side of the field. When he lined up over Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, Sherman was left facing the wrong direction on simple cuts on numerous occasions. Disgusted with himself after the game, Sherman left without talking to reporters after the game. His uninformed reputation as a shutdown corner is now in shambles. Opposing quarterbacks will follow the Chargers lead and go at him instead of away from him.
3. If San Diego can do it, why can’t we? That will be the mantra of the rest of the league after seeing the game tape which has no doubt been sent in triplicate to every offensive and defensive coordinator in the league. Did the Chargers provide the blueprint for beating Seattle? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that the Chargers provided a great example of how to beat Seattle. Ball control offense. Strong running game. Quarterback protection. No in the sense that most teams don’t feature the personnel to be able to pull off that type of game plan.
The Chargers feature an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers. There are few elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Behind a blossoming offensive line, the four man rush Seattle relies on for pressure was neutralized and Rivers had time to pick apart the weaknesses in the secondary. Hall-Of-Fame bound tight end Antonio Gates expertly found the openings in the Seahawks secondary and Rivers got him the ball repeatedly, with Gates logging three touchdowns on the day. Most teams don’t offer as skilled a tight end as Gates to compliment their receiver corps.
Lastly, the Chargers defense was able to keep Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the pocket by blitzing through the middle. As a result, Wilson was not able to step up into the pocket and choose which way to run to elude danger. The defense also stifled the Seahawks rushing attack. Seattle feature back Marshawn Lynch only gained 36 yards in the game. There aren’t many defenses with the ability to contain the man known as ‘Beast Mode’. The Seahawks collectively gained 100 yards rushing with the benefit of the Harvin run which should have been called out halfway through.
4. The Chargers are a dangerous team. The Chargers would probably prefer to stay under the radar but a landmark win such as this against a juggernaut team will change the perception of every team that will face them. Every team from here forward will know the Chargers are capable of beating anybody. San Diego beat Seattle with their own brand of physical, power running, pressure football. They are widely regarded as a finesse, soft team league-wide. Perhaps not anymore.
More importantly, the Chargers now know they are capable of beating anybody. If you can manhandle the Super Bowl champions, who can’t you beat? It’s a great morale win and it’s also great that it comes so early in the season. The Chargers still face a long uphill climb as games against New England, San Francisco, Baltimore and two games each against Kansas City and Denver loom on the schedule.
Too much stock can’t be put into one win but confidence is a reservoir a team can drink from all season long. This is a win that can turn the fortunes of a franchise. The momentum started with the bounce back season in year one of the Telesco/McCoy regime, it continues to snowball with this win. These type of wins lead to deep playoff runs and eventually, Super Bowls.
You’re welcome, NFL.
The Greg One
The Chargers and the Seahawks had one thing in common starting the game on white hot Sunday. They both had their last meaningful loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. For the Seahawks, they had only lost once (in preseason) since they played the Cards last December. After steamrolling the record-setting Denver Broncos and opening the season with a thrashing of Aaron Rogers and the Packers, most considered the chances of the Bolts winning pretty slim. Yet OUR San Diego Chargers handed them their first loss by more than a touchdown since 2011.
It didn’t help the fan confidence that in week two of the preseason the Chargers looked like a MAC team playing the SEC in a week one college tune-up game. While the final score reads 30-21, it doesn’t paint the picture for those of us who watched the entire game. While many have pointed out that the Chargers players dominated the defending Champs on the field, I think it was the coaching staff of the Chargers who dominated Pete Carroll and his crew.
I know a testy Earl Thomas after the game blamed the heat and sheer luck for their loss. “It was hot and there was a lot of cramping up when [the defense] was out there a long time,” Thomas said. “I exert a lot of energy out there, and in this heat it was kind of hard for me at times. But it wasn’t anything we didn’t prepare for. We just didn’t execute when it really mattered. When somebody beats us it’s just luck to me. It’s not about them.”
Wow, someone forgot to learn humility. Sorry, Mister Thomas. It was everything you didn’t prepare for. You lost, dude. Not only that, you got handled. You came blame the high pressure system that was hanging over southern California (I mean, I am not a fan of it either), but if you want to blame anyone I think it should be your coaching staff. Mike McCoy, Frank Reich and John Pagano are not getting used to new rings on their fingers like the Hawks coaches but they out-coached them by a mile. That was the difference in the game.
Pete Carroll admitted as much by saying, “we weren’t able to execute the plan we had gone in with.’’ I wonder what gameplan he is talking about? Because I only saw evidence on the field of one team with a plan. It really would worry me as a Seahawk fan that it didn’t seem like Carroll and crew learned anything from Arizona’s victory over the Bolts. I know it is not Seattle’s style to mix coverages or disguise blitz packages, but last Monday the Arizona defense was confusing and flustering our offense. Not once did I see anything like what the Cards did.
This coaching chess match goes back to week two of the preseason. It was clear from the moment the two teams stepped on the field the two staffs had wildly different agendas that day. Pete Carroll seemed intent on winning the meaningless game, playing his starters for longer, running actual non-vanilla plays and seemingly hitting and tackling with much more authority than the Chargers. Once the Champs started scoring it seemed the idea was that the Seahawks wanted to put a beatdown on the Chargers, one they would remember.
Coaches set the culture of their team perhaps Earl’s lack of humility comes from the top. It didn’t seem like Carroll was at all worried that he was giving our coaches a lot of tape, or our players a lot of motivation. It doesn’t seem like they took our coaches or team seriously at all.
Mike McCoy saw things differently in that preseason game. He couldn’t have cared less about who won or lost. He wanted out of the Clink with his team healthy and nothing the Seahawks could learn from. McCoy, who should come out of the tunnel at the Q to the theme song from Mission impossible, excels at the impossible games because he has an old school formula and the right team to execute it.
The plan was only slightly different from the one that beat Denver in the huge Thursday night domination in 2013. BOLO! As with that game, it was not a rout score-wise, but in both games the Chargers imposed their will leaving the opposing team feeling crushed. The league admitted the mistake that the score and the running stats are misleading. The Hawks were spotted 35 yards and a rushing TD when Percy Harvin stepped out-of-bounds with a Line judge pointing at his feet. So do some math in your head when you look at the numbers.
The plan was just as it was last year. Hog the ball. The Chargers ran 75 offensive plays in comparison to the Hawks 40. The Bolts had a 26-14 advantage in first downs and controlled the ball for 42 minutes. Philip Rivers brought the team to the line, and called most plays in audibles, thus not giving the defense time to substitute. In 37 pass plays, the O-line only gave up one sack for 8 yards. It is no surprise in 120 degree weather that the defense started to wear down and had trouble tackling. Seattle allowed 377 yards, more than any regular season game last year ( Not counting the overtime victory at Houston when the Texans had 476). Philip Rivers is the first Quarterback to throw 3 Touchdown passes against the Seahawks since Week 8 in 2012.
The only major difference between how we executed this game plan this year as opposed to last year (in Denver) was with our revamped defense. John Pagano’s defense, while not lights out, looked a hell of a lot more “badass” than the so-called Legion of Boom. In week two it seemed like Pagano was clueless about stopping the mobile QB. All four quarterbacks on their roster had rushing touchdowns.
In Sunday’s game, Russell Wilson had only 1 yard rushing more than Philip Rivers who normally looks like he is pulling the team bus when he takes off. Not only that after watching QB’s slip out of our hands on 3rd down over and over in the last two years – yesterday the D dropped Wilson twice for 22 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Seattle gave up eight quarterback hurries in 27 pass attempts to rank third-worst in the league in pass-blocking efficiency. How about that Chargers Pass rush!
Most importantly, they held Percy Harvin to three touches, including a huge stop by Wright on a jet sweep that seemed unstoppable in week one. How about beast mode and the running game? Marshawn Lynch had just six carries. Pete Carroll admitted, “that’s the last thing we want to have happen.’’ In fact, the team only rushed for 108 yards (remember you have to subtract 35 from Harvin). In this case, the numbers do lie.
Pagano’s gameplan was great for most of the game, helped by the fact that we are finally seeing his defense tooled with the weapons he needs. It is amazing when you consider Jarret Johnson and Brandon Flowers didn’t even play. He attacked for most of the game. The soft zone prevent defense let the team back into the game in the third quarter, but Pagano attacked on the last drive and the team made four amazing plays in a row. The key was Reggie Walker playing spy on Russell Wilson; who prevented him from running on the last crucial 3rd down. If only we had this year’s D on the 3rd and 17 last January!
Only one Seahawk player that I know of admitted it, and that was Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright. He said, “They kicked our ass and beat us at our own game.” This is the same crew that embarrassed Manning in the big game, and that went 13 and 3 last year. The difference was our coaching staff.
Russell Wilson was a perfect 6-0 in games against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Too bad for him his coaches let him down when he faced Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers. In the Battle of NC state QBs, Rivers is 1-0. The best part is we made this staff and team angry before they go home next week and play Denver. This might end up being worth more than one win. Coach McCoy and the staff deserve the game ball. Be patient, Charger fans. These coaches and this quarterback showed you they can outplay and, more importantly, out-coach the world champions. They have what it takes to get this town the Championship it deserves.
David Agranoff is the author of three novels published by Deadite press one of the world’s leading publisher of cult horror novels. His latest Boot Boys of the Wolf-Reich is coming of age horror novel about anti-racist skinheads in gang war with Nazi werewolves. All three of his novels are available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @DAgranoffauthor or look him up on Facebook.
In front of a white-hot sellout crowd at Qualcomm Stadium, the San Diego Chargers defeated the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, 30-21.
However, that wasn’t the entire story of the game.
Questionable calls by the officiating crew along with the return to All-Pro form by Tight End Antonio Gates seemed to be the highlights in this man’s opinion. After the Chargers took an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter, Perch Harvin received a pitch from Russell Wilson and ran along the sidelines for a 51 yard touchdown. Replays showed that Harvin clearly stepped out-of-bounds. The side judge on the play also pointed to where he stepped out-of-bounds. The Fox television broadcasters even brought in Mike Pereira, referee turned analyst, to explain how the review process works. Yet, the play was confirmed.
Since the play was allowed to stand as called, the Seahawks gained the lead, 7-3.
In a future possession, Rivers, who isn’t known for his mobility, ran out-of-bounds and was pushed by Seahawk Linebacker Bobby Wagner. Rivers, livid at the late, unnecessary contact by Wagner, confronted the defender. No penalty was called.
On a later drive, as the Chargers had the ball in the red zone, a questionable holding call was given to tight end John Phillips that took away a touchdown run by Ryan Mathews. Gates eventually scored a touchdown to put the Chargers ahead, 10-7.
Officials tried to make amends by calling a personal foul late hit penalty on Seahawk linebacker Bruce Irvin which lead to Antonio Gates’ second touchdown and a lead for the Chargers 20-7.
As I sat and watched the game from the comfort of my home, I couldn’t help but feel that the officials didn’t seem to want the Bolts to win. The blown call on Harvin’s run was merely the beginning. Non-calls on obvious penalties and flags on questionable calls (that went against the Chargers) and it felt as if the San Diego was battling two opponents: the Seahawks and the officials.
Seriously, how can officials who monitor the games in New York miss such an easy call? The National Football League is in full crisis mode with off the field incidents involving Ray Rice and Adrian Petersen. The Chargers-Seahawks game was also a nationally televised game. The game showed a sizable audience that the league is constantly making mistakes. Granted, mistakes happen. I get that. Yet considering the pains the league has made to get calls right, the NFL can’t afford any more blows to its reputation.
At end of the day, the Chargers overcame a lot this Sunday. The infamous “12th Man” of Seattle were mostly held in check. Although I was appalled at a brief “Seahawks” chant I heard in the third quarter. Gametime temperatures on the field reached 120 degrees and the team overcame that. Richard Sherman, famed Seahawk cornerback, claimed he was the best in the league. Philip Rivers threw the ball in Sherman’s direction on multiple occasions and Sherman wasn’t a factor.
Yes, that was one tall mountain that San Diego climbed on Sunday. Not many experts gave the team a chance (the preseason game earlier didn’t help), but the Chargers controlled the ball, pressured Russell Wilson, and looked good against a team that was perceived to be unbeatable.
I, for one, hope there’s still more of what Gates showed fans on Sunday. I hope the Mathews injury isn’t serious. Additionally, I hope Qualcomm Stadium will continue to host sellout games and host loud, loyal Chargers fans.
I’m wondering now if the organization would consider “persevere” as a team motto.
Photo Credit: James Ebo and Raymond Broome
Every football media pundit on television lauds the NFC West as the by far best division in football. On some shows it has even been mentioned that the NFC West is the toughest division in sports regardless of the sport. While the NFC West is definitely the talk of the league division-wise, it is hardly a forgone conclusion that the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are the best division in football.
The AFC West would beg to differ. While not as defensively dominant as the NFC West, the AFC West excels in the opposing category. The AFC West is the most offensively dominant division in football. The 1754 points scored by the AFC West teams best the closest division, the NFC North, by over 100 points (1,648). The NFC West led the league in fewest points allowed with a paltry 1,191. The next closest division was the NFC South with 1377 points allowed, a difference of 186.
The AFC and NFC West are the classic example of unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
That story played out in the last season’s Super Bowl as the highest scoring team in the league, the 13-3 Denver Broncos with 606 points scored faced the team that allowed the fewest points in the league, the 13-3 Seattle Seahawks with 231 points allowed. Both teams reached the same record in completely different fashions. Another old adage played out in this contest. Defense wins championships. The Seahawks embarrassed the Broncos 43-8, solidifying their season-long dominance with the Lombardi trophy. The win also put the NFC West as the best division going today.
But are they?
The NFC West was long the laughing-stock of the league until only three years ago. Keep in mind in 2010 the Seattle Seahawks created a national firestorm among football purists and analysts when they made the playoffs by winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record. It was during these three seasons that the NFC West rebuilt itself starting with the Rams drafting Sam Bradford in 2010. The 49ers drafted quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2011 draft. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted in the 2012 draft. Add to the mix players that are now household names like Seattle’s Legion Of Boom members Walter Thurmond (2010), Earl Thomas (2010) and Richard Sherman (2011) or San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (2011) Navorro Bowman (2010) to show how this division has risen only after years upon years as the NFL’s doormat.
On the other hand, the AFC West has long had dominant teams represented with the exception of the 2008 and 2011 seasons when San Diego and Denver won the division with 8-8 records, respectively. In both cases, they won the wild card game and lost in the divisional round. League dominance by a division is cyclical. The last time the NFC West dominated the way they have been in present years was the Steve Young era 49ers in the 90’s. During the second half of that decade, the division also featured the Kurt Warner-led ‘Greatest Show On Turf’ St. Louis Rams team. Now the NFC West looks primed for another long run of dominance as players like Kaepernick and Wilson mature and the team around them gets better suited to their talents. The question is, at this point, are they that much better than the AFC West?
Take a look at the principal teams. In the NFC West you have Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona as the heavies while St.Louis toils away in the basement. In the AFC West you have Denver, San Diego and Kansas City jockeying for control with Oakland living in the cellar. The AFC West was the only division to get three teams in the playoffs last season. The NFC was close to getting three teams in as well as Arizona went 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs. Call them victims of circumstance, but the Cardinals did lose three games last season by a field goal including a loss to the lowly Rams in the season opener. The big three in NFC West had 2 more wins than the big three in the AFC West by a 35-33 margin. They were by far the top two divisions in the NFL when you take a win count of the top three teams. They may be lapping the rest of the league, but not each other.
Look at the starting quarterbacks. Representing the NFC West you have Wilson, Kaepernick and Carson Palmer representing the Cardinals. In the AFC West you have Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. If you had to select one group of quarterbacks, team notwithstanding, to carry your team a for full season which group would you pick? The NFC group is the young upstarts, (Palmer notwithstanding) but Palmer is only in his second season in Arizona. The AFC West feature the proven quarterbacks. Manning and Rivers can light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree. Kaepernick and Wilson are on the rise but their best days are ahead of them. The AFC West crop are winding down their careers but Manning and Rivers represent the most dangerous quarterback tandem in any division.
Leaving Palmer and Smith out of the formula for a moment, in Manning and Rivers you have two of the most cerebral quarterbacks in the league. Give them time and they will eat defenses for lunch. There’s nothing they haven’t seen and they are the old-fashioned stand in the pocket, lead-footed gunslingers that are fading out of style in the NFL. Instead, teams fancy the new breed of quarterback with Wilson and Kaepernick as the prime examples. They are quick to scramble to extend a play. They are also very intelligent, game managers. They capitalize on field position granted by their stalwart defenses. Manning and Rivers have rarely had the benefit of top five defenses, instead making their mark with their arms and their superior knowledge.
This season, these divisions will battle it out in the regular season and when the smoke clears two things will be evident. One, neither division will get three teams in the playoffs. Two, we’ll know which division is truly the best in football because as you can see, no other division comes close. However, to answer the pundits, the NFC West is not without a doubt the best division in the NFL. They may be in the lead as they can boast the current Super Bowl champion but not by far. The safer thing to say is the WEST is the best division in the NFL, regardless of conference. Will the unstoppable force or the immovable object come out on top this year? Let the games begin.
What do you think? Which division is better?
The Greg One