NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
All signs point to the Chargers not being very good. Not very bad, either, and that drives home the following point:
The Chargers proved again on Sunday that they are playing without a net. Meaning, they don't have much wiggle room if wanting to win a game.
Such was the case in Sunday's 20-16 loss to Miami. The Chargers play well enough to hang around, but ultimately, they hang themselves.
The Chargers aren't good enough to overcome 10 penalties. Not good enough to struggle in the red zone. Not good enough to avoid clock-management miscues to prevail.
"Too many mistakes from the football team from start to finish to beat a team in the NFL," rookie head coach Mike McCoy said.
He's real. It isn't rocket-scientist stuff in why the Chargers saw a losing streak grow to three despite Miami being among the most dysfunctional squads in the NFL.
Miscues and lost chances can be brushed aside -- along with 10 penalties -- when you have a talent-loaded roster.
But the Chargers are far from that.
Their defense continues to be unable to generate a pass rush or consistent pass defense.
The offense continues to stub its toes in the red zone, having little trouble piling up yards but not so much when it comes to points.
And the coaching continues to produce curious calls and decisions.
Add it all up and it equals a team riding the toboggan to the AFC West cellar. Only one other AFC team has fewer conference victories (two) than the Chargers, and when the other one is the Jaguars, that's never an encouraging sign.
So on goes the Chargers second half to forget. It wasn't that long ago they were a game over .500, fresh from their bye, and perched on the Washington 1-yard line with a first down, poised to win a game in regulation to make a playoff push.
Now, the Chargers are getting pushed out of playoff conversation. It's no longer what other teams do, it's about the Chargers, and as of late, that hasn't been a option to embrace.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
--It will go down, among others, as a play that illustrates how badly the Chargers tackle. Miami's Charles Clay snagged a short pass with three Chargers in front of him; 39 yards later, he had reached the end zone. Those whiffing on tackles were ILB Manti Te'o, SS Marcus Gilchrist and ILB Donald Butler. Butler said he missed four tackles, which is "unacceptable."
--There are penalties, then there are penalties. Some are so stupid, they can't be ignored and that was the case with DT Corey Liuget, who took one, two and almost three steps to smack Miami QB Ryan Tannehill after the ball was gone. That the Chargers would recover a fumble near their end zone was quickly lost in the realization that Liuget's roughing-the-passer penalty would erase the potential game-turning play. "It was a very costly penalty for us as a team and that's one play I wish I could get back," Liuget said.
--Another bonehead move was when rookie WR Keenan Allen helped stall a drive when he was called for taunting. The Chargers coaches have talked to Allen about his considerable swagger, but it apparently fell on deaf ears.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--CB Derek Cox made it though his first game in three weeks without being benched. He still had trouble in coverages and dropped an interception.
--LT D.J. Fluker started on his usual opposite side and he did OK, all things considered. He did get bull-rushed on one occasion which led to a sack.
--TE Ladarius Green is making the most of his chances. He set career highs in receptions and yards and seems to have a knack for making the big play when needed.
--G Chad Rinehart returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 3 after suffering a toe injury. But instead of playing his usual spot at left guard, he played right guard. Regular RG Jeromey Clary slid out to right tackle with D.J. Fluker moving over to left tackle.
--CB Johnny Patrick (head) left the game and didn't return. The team said Monday he had suffered a concussion.
--T King Dunlap (concussion) didn't play on Sunday and it remains to be seen if he will be cleared to practice this week.
--C Nick Hardwick (neck) managed his injury, despite missing a series of snaps.
--WR Keenan Allen (knee) seems to have avoided a serious injury.
REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- QB Philip Rivers played OK, and maybe a tad better, and that's the problem. If he isn't perfect, the Chargers' chances of winning are plenty slim. He threw for a touchdown -- none over the last three quarters -- and for 298 yards. But his receivers let him down with sloppy routes -- Vincent Brown on the interceptions -- and Keenan Allen -- he slipped on a route near the end zone where the pass was put in a perfect spot. The makeshift line protected him decently, but he was sacked three times and was forced from the pocket on numerous other occasions. Antonio Gates got the touchdown catch but the best tight end for the Chargers was Ladarius Green -- a career-best four catches for 81 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The line did well in opening holes and Ryan Mathews was sensational in hitting them with a purpose. His game continues to shine and he rushed for 127 yards, the second-highest total of his career. He had a 51-yard rush, the longest of his career. But the Chargers still have trouble running the ball into end zone. Danny Woodhead wasn't in the mix often with Mathews running so well.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The unit continues to struggle. Not only in coverage but it's after a reception is made where most of the yardage is being allowed. Eric Weddle isn't having a good year and the safety is the glue of the secondary. CB Shareece Wright and Derek Cox are getting beat on a regular basis; nickel back Johnny Patrick did have an interception. Simply put, this unit was bad at the start of the season and it has made no progress.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Dolphins were getting into the second level on blocks, despite having so many new faces among its run-blockers. ILB Donald Butler was supposed to help when he returned, but he's missing tackles as well. Manti Te'o isn't making anyone claim he is having a stellar rookie year -- just the opposite. A defensive lineman's name is seldom called, unless it is when one of its members is committing a penalty. The Dolphins went for more than 100 yards and five yards per carry -- not good.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C - Nick Novak was solid again on field goals, making all three of his attempts, and that's the problem. Too often the Chargers are settling for field goals in their red-zone trips and that is among their biggest problems. Allen is showing a spark as a punt returner for the Chargers.
COACHING: F - It's win or else, so says coach Mike McCoy so we will follow his wishes. The Chargers aren't winning, which means McCoy and his staff aren't getting through to them -- although, to be fair, McCoy's roster isn't very good. But some weird calls when McCoy didn't make the Dolphins punt at the end of the first half -- he let the clock run out -- and again in the waning moments of the game when the Chargers' clock management wasn't very good. Defensive coordinator John Pagano is trying to work with a unit that can't put heat on the passer and is getting burned on the back end -- not a good combination. But the staff needs to try something different because over the last three weeks, nothing is working.