Chargers Not Horrible!

Marty Schottenheimer was not willing to call his team horrible just yet. It didn't stop certain areas of the team from accomplishing that goal. The San Diego Chargers coach was willing to blame the linebackers and the secondary for a poor job in run support, while choosing not to lay any fault to the defensive line.

"We got three sacks, two of them by the defensive line," said Marty Schottenheimer. "Dingle had an outstanding day. I thought they played pretty well."

The defensive line is not exempt from blame. The ends got upfield, and sometimes got too far upfield, which ultimately opened up the screen pass and went for huge yardage. They ends did not show a variety of moves either. Where is the inside swim move or any attempt to get inside. The ends will not always be faster off the snap or faster around the corner and the rest of the team becomes vulnerable without pressure up the middle.

If game planning for the Bolts, such as Denver, it would seem delays to either side would work at any time. With the ends rushing upfield on the outside of the tackles, open running and throwing lanes are open. Look for the lanes to be exploited soon.

"The running game was focused on the perimeter and we didn't do a very good job of it," Schottenheimer added. "That is the key thing we have to address defensively.

"In this case it would be modifying the way we go about it – the scheme. And I am not saying we are going to do any change in the scheme. More likely we are going to work to make sure we get it understood. We got to make sure everyone gets to where they belong.

"The perimeter run, the toss stuff, and the handoff where they pull the guard and the center, pull the tackle and the center, and when they do that you have got to get as many people to the point of attack as they got. On a couple of occasions, three that come to mind, including the 24-yard one for the touchdown, that touchdown, they had an extra guy there. He didn't have to block anybody."

If the guy in front of you on the interior of the line is pulling to the right, wouldn't it make sense for a few people to actually "go right" with the play. Maybe a naked bootleg will happen and that is why only a few go. As of game one, no one was getting past the sealing lineman/tight end.

Linemen free up the linebackers to make plays. Without them, linebackers are defenseless against bigger offensive linemen. Witness the assault on Ben Leber who was cremated out there. A 350 pound lineman is a "wide body" to contend with and to go up against them is similar to a personal Oklahoma Drill and not many defenders actually won that battle in camp -- you get the picture, right? The linebackers were bad as well; they missed some tackles, got caught in the line and were out of position. When was the last time you saw a game and didn't hear Donnie Edwards' name? It happened yesterday. Zeke Moreno was terrible, until the fourth quarter that is.

The secondary? They had enough to contend with in pass coverage. Vernon Fox, a stalwart safety in run coverage, was nullified. His diagnosing of plays was terrible. When plays went outside, he went inside; when plays went inside he was dropping back into coverage. Ok- maybe it wasn't that bad?

It was truly a lesson in humility all around.

The next question is: Can it be fixed?

"You better because Clinton Portis – That is the first thing they are going to find out if you have done your homework," said Schottenheimer.

The Chargers have now lost eight of the last ten and five in a row dating back to last year. Mistakes have haunted this team for what seems a lifetime.

"You have to make sure they understand where the errors were and get them fixed. There will be other errors the next game that we didn't have in this game and they will have to be fixed. As you work together, the number will begin to diminish to a point where now you can win some games."

"We did some very good things yesterday, individually. We have to do better collectively. In the NFL, you are only as good as your next game."

No one asked, but why play zone coverage then? Playing better collectively also means coaches will fit the players into the proper scheme. They drafted players for bump and run, yet refuse to play it. A young defense that has been patched together partly because of injuries must know where each other is, yet they have not even developed camaraderie. Youth in the secondary is great, but before the game the motto was, "Keep it simple".

How did they keep it simple and allow the team to play as a group when they are unsure of their own assignments in the zone?

Play man and they have less to contend with. Sure they got beat even when playing man, but it happened already in zone. The bonus is: they will make plays in man that they wouldn't in zone. Obviously you can't play man all the time, but it should be the base defense, and different looks should come from that.

"When I made a statement here that (Kansas City was) the best team in the AFC, I wasn't blowing smoke. I believe that, that is why I said it. You have to win up front these days. It is one of the reasons Kansas City has become so good.

"I told the guys after the game that we're on a journey," Schottenheimer said. "This is just one game. Kansas City is one game. Kansas City is not the destination.

"We're on a mission to get better each week and be a championship team at the end of the season."

The question remains: are these lessons being learned and is the team going to get better. We will have to wait until next week to find out.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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