NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
For the San Diego Chargers, the catch phrase is "Looking Ahead." And after Sunday's stinker in Oakland, one can't blame the Chargers.
The Indianapolis Colts are Monday's visitors and the local fans are so fired up that thousands of tickets remain available for the game.
Chargers watchers aren't quite sold on this year's team, and those doubts were solidified after losing to the Raiders,
"We picked the wrong night to have a bad night," coach Mike McCoy said.
But they get a chance to get right against the Colts, although there's a possibility the team's hard core fans won't see it if the game is blacked out.
But the Colts will present a serious challenge, as they shine in places where the Chargers are thin.
The Chargers know the Colts are the next team up. What they aren't sure about is if the next man up will be able to hold his ground.
The Chargers were a thin team before the season kicked off. And that's being proven as when key starters go down, they replacement is a far fall from what the starter possessed.
But the Colts aren't going to feel sorry for the Bolts. Indy has wrapped up two impressive wins this season, beating the 49ers on the road and the Seahawks at home, and sit atop the AFC South.
And that's the direction, south, the Chargers are headed. One week after feeling giddy about a home victory over the Chargers, the reality is they are tied for last place in the AFC West. And if you include tiebreakers, they own that undesirable piece of real estate all to themselves.
With the Chargers almost at mid-October, it's still hard to get a read on this rebuilt team.
Is it the one that prevailed on the road at Philadelphia and held off a talented Dallas team at home?
Or that one that squandered fourth-quarter leads to Houston and Tennessee and played too careful at Oakland.
"When you turn the ball over five times it's tough to win games," McCoy said, and he was proven right in the loss to the Raiders. "The week before, we played the way we wanted to play. It's unfortunate, but that's this game. You have to get up every week and play it the best you can. If you don't you're going to get knocked off."
Will the Chargers be up on Monday night. One would think so. Then again, they came out flat against the Raiders in falling in a 17-0 hole and that's surprising in how much beating the Raiders once meant to the Chargers.
"We've shown the good and we've shown the bad," McCoy said. "We have to eliminate all the bad and get back to where we were at the Dallas game. We have to take it one week at a time and take it back to the practice field this week to correct all the mistakes."
It's a long list, almost as lengthy as the one showing injured players.
But something not showing up on the sheet with the bumps and bruises is wounded pride. The Chargers got a big dose of that in Oakland, with the question being if they learned anything from it.
Or, are the Chargers' inconsistent ways what we can expect as they continue this trek back to respectability.
"We just need to continue to improve and eliminate the mistakes that hurts you winning football games at this level," McCoy said."The parity is too good in this league. If you don't play your best, you're going to get knocked off. Every team has an opportunity to win week in and week out."
It's not a stretch to say the Chargers have had that opportunity if all five of their games. But that doesn't trump their 2-3 record, a mark which could get worse before it gets better.
SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 15-9. The Chargers have won five of the last six meetings, when including two playoff games. All of those wins came against a Colts team which was lead by QB Peyton Manning. The last time the Colts were in San Diego, they were upended in an AFC first-round playoff game, losing in overtime, 23-17.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
-- The Chargers' passing game, especially on the outside, has taken a hit after losing Danario Alexander in the offseason and Malcom Floyd in early in the regular season. That's why the team was so encouraged with the performances of third-year pro Vincent Brown and rookie Keenan Allen as both went over the 100-yard receiving mark. It was the first time the Chargers had two wide out gain more than 100 yards through the air since Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham did it in 2000. Brown had a team-high 117 yards on eight receptions; Allen had 115 yards and his first NFL touchdown on six catches. "We're going to need those guys going forward," QB Philip Rivers said.
-- With RB Ryan Mathews (concussion) availability for Sunday not settled, it's possible Danny Woodhead could be asked to do even more in the offense. Is it too much to ask, considering how active he is as a receiver and he's returning kicks as well.
"He's done that before," coach Mike McCoy said. "I think he can. Danny, Ronnie (Brown) and Ryan (Mathews) will split the load as time goes on. There's going to be games where guys get more touches than others. Depending on the flow of the game, you are going to do what's best to win."
-- The Chargers had been keen, to some degree, taking care of the football -- then the trip to Oakland. After five turnovers in that loss, the Chargers are at a minus-eight in the takeaway/giveaway ratio. The Colts stand at plus-six.
-- Chargers GM Tom Telesco, in his first year, cut his teeth with the Colts' personnel department.
-- Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano's brother is the Colts' head coach, Chuck Pagano.
BY THE NUMBERS: O -- Number of Chargers wins against AFC opponents five weeks into the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not going to look back. We're going to learn from our mistakes and move on." -- Coach Mike McCoy, when asked if he second-guesses himself with some of his decisions after getting beat by Oakland.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Chargers continue to juggle their roster, with the latest move adding DE Lawrence Gay, a waiver pickup from the Colts.
Gay was last seen blocking a punt Sunday against the Seahawks which was returned for a touchdown. He's played 11 games with the Colts the last two years, which means the Chargers will not only to possibly contribute on the field, but in the meeting rooms with his fresh knowledge of what the Colts are doing.
To make room for Gray, the team released DE Jarius Wynn.
-- RB Ryan Mathews (concussion) was cleared for contact and returned to full practice Friday.
-- T Mike Harris (ankle) was placed on IR.
-- RT D.J. Fluker (calf) returned to limited practice Friday, but could be questionable for Monday. He was hurt during Sunday's loss at Oakland.
-- CB Johnny Patrick (chest) returned to full practice Friday.
-- LG Chad Rinehart (toe) didn't practice Friday and could be down another week.
-- LT King Dunlap (concussion) was able to work and indications are he will start on Monday.
-- OLB Jarret Johnson (hamstring) didn't practice and could be down Monday.
-- CB Richard Marshall (groin) did not practice Friday.
-- G Jeromey Clary (clavicle) was a full participant Friday.
---G Rich Ohrnberger (groin) was a full participant Friday.
-- ILB Manti Te'o (foot) was a full participant Friday.
-- CB Shareece Wright (hamstring) was a full participant Friday.
-- LT Nick Becton could be thrust into the starting lineup, depending on the health of the two players in front of him, King Dunlap and Mike Harris. Becton relieved Harris on Sunday when he exited with an undisclosed injury. Becton, like Harris, is an undrafted rookie.
-- RB Danny Woodhead's 31 receptions is the most among NFL running backs. That is just nine catches shy of his career high, set last year in New England.
-- TE Antonio Gates is coming off another 100-yard receiving game. If he gets one more, he will tie Wes Chandler on the Chargers' all-time list with the fifth-most in franchise history.
-- ILB Manti Te'o continues to see more playing time as he eases into the season after missing the first three games with a foot injury.
GAME PLAN: The Chargers will want to keep the ball away from Colts QB Andrew Luck -- good luck with that. But despite a questionable running game and a depleted front line, the Chargers will lean more to long, time-consuming drives rather than Philip Rivers utilizing his two new deep threat, Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen -- two young players coming off big games.
The Chargers' defense is such that it doesn't figure to slow down, let alone stop Luck and his revved offense. The best defense for the Chargers is to play keep-away -- and like we said, good luck with that.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: The Chargers pass protection, with a banged-up front line vs. the Colts' active pass rush -- The Chargers could be down to a third-string left tackle and a second-string left guard. Opposite them will be pass-rush dynamo Robert Mathis, who is showing little signs of missing his old running mate, Dwight Freeney. While Freeney is out for the year with a quad injury, Mathis is leading the league with nine sacks.
Chargers secondary vs. the Colts' passing attack -- Among the Chargers' woes is trying to keep up with shifty receivers -- scratch that, any receiver. CB Derek Cox was brought in as a free agent this offseason, but he's struggled. Shareece Wright was to start opposite him, but he's missed two games with a hamstring injury. Johnny Patrick and Richard Marshall have filled in for Wright and at the nickel spot -- and it just ain't working. Now here comes Luck aiming for the likes of T.Y Hilton and a resurgent Reggie Wayne and the Chargers are going to be challenged to stop them. Maybe a stout pass rush could aid the back end, but not only is Freeney gone for the year, but Jarret Johnson, with a team-high four sacks, had to exit from the Oakland game with a hamstring injury. His availability is in question.