Highs, Lows, and the Future

Are there positives in a 37-13 loss, on your home court? Gus Johnson and Brent Jones, the announcers for the game, didn't think so. I am not so sure I do either, but without a silver lining, where do the San Diego Chargers look in order to gain confidence?

David Boston sat out with a heel injury. Stephen Alexander was lost when he re-aggravated his groin. Reche Caldwell is gone for eight weeks with a dislocation of his wrist. Even in humiliation, the Chargers left the game far worse than they started.

Despite all this, there are 14 games left on the agenda.

14 games to right the wrongs.

14 games to show they are a team capable of making that playoff "push".

They get another home game this coming week, and 295 yard runner Jamal Lewis trots into town like a rabid dog. Saliva is dripping from his mouth as he anticipates no letdown from his record setting performance.

The Good:

Fans hollered all week long for Eric Parker to start. They got their wish, if by default, and he responded. Parker caught five balls for 59 yards and a touchdown. Parker had 12 balls thrown his way. His touchdown reception was a thing of beauty. He ran a perfect corner route, beating two defenders, and Brees delivered a perfect strike for the touchdown as Parker did a nice job to drag both feet.

Walls made a nice play on him to knock away the first pass that went incomplete his way. The second incompletion was the fault of Brees who thwarted Parker's chances for his second touchdown reception of the game. Brees threw a pass over the middle, late in the third quarter, intended for Parker that was batted down by Ian Gold before it ever came within five yards of Parker.

Late in the fourth quarter, Brees tried to connect with Parker a number of times. One ball was thrown wide, low and outside, to a diving Parker who had no chance on the play. Deltha O'Neal was called for holding on Parker. Brees delivered another ball to Parker that went out of bounds and short, Parker had no play on the ball.

In fact, on the day, Parker may have missed only one catchable ball.

Parker also added three punt returns for 44 yards, a 14.7 average.

LaDainian Tomlinson was very effective running the ball. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and had a long of 23. In total, Tomlinson ran the ball 16 times for 93 yards. He showed the elusiveness that has tabbed him as a great back and appears ready to take over a game, that is if the defense can hold up its end of the bargain. With the team down by touchdowns, Tomlinson has been handcuffed. Down by that much, the Chargers are forced to throw.

The Bad:

Red zone efficiency on the day was 0-3. Three times in – six points on two field goals. That cannot happen if the Bolts want to win, which is another question up for debate.

On the first San Diego Chargers drive, with the ball inside the ten and the Charger down by seven:

The offensive line was flagged with an illegal formation penalty. Left tackle Damion McIntosh was flagged since there were only six players on the line of scrimmage and seven are required by NFL rules. It wasn't really the fault of McIntosh, but rather a receiver who should have been up on the line. Second down and goal from the five became second and goal from the ten. Tomlinson then had runs of five and four, leaving the Bolts a yard short and stranded at fourth down. They chose to kick the field goal.

1st and goal from the six on the opening drive of the third quarter:

A score makes the game 24-17. Drew Brees throws a strike to Tim Dwight, running a curl route in the end zone. He comes back to the front of the end zone and the ball bounced off his chest, falling incomplete.

On second down, Peelle had a terrible block on Pryce on the first drive of the third quarter. Inside the ten, Peelle could not block him and Tomlinson, who was rushing the ball his way, went down for a loss of one. It turned out to be crucial as the Bolts only got three points after that.

On third down, Brees has Parker open in the back of the end zone but delivers a ball high and behind him as Parker tries unsuccessfully to contort his body for the reception and touchdown. They again settled for the field goal.

Inside the red zone late in the fourth:

Osgood missed a catch in the back of the end zone on first and goal from the three. He was wide open and the ball, sharply thrown, went off his hands. If he hopes to help this team with Reche Caldwell out, he needs to make plays. Lorenzo Neal then could not hang on to a pass thrown behind him. He had a shot at it but tried to secure it with one hand and it fell incomplete. A better throw by Brees and a sure touchdown. Brees nailed Parker at the one on a crossing route but could not hold on; it was his only miss of the day. A ball thrown up for Osgood again fell incomplete. Another ball he had a play on, but failed to secure.

Third down conversions were atrocious. The Chargers picked up just one out of eleven. They had plenty of chances, but both Brees and his receivers were faulty in there execution.

Stephen Alexander came up limp after a perfect pass from Drew Brees. Alexander never got his hands up to make the catch. The ball was passed him before he even got his hands up to make the reception. Alexander hurt his groin on the play, and maybe that was why it looked like his hands were made of cement.

Drew Brees was pressured and had to scramble. He tried to lay a pass into Tim Dwight, a few yards away and it went incomplete, thrown behind Dwight. It would not have mattered.

With at least ten seconds to throw the ball from his own end zone in the third quarter, Brees could find no one open and had to throw it away. Denver scored on a field goal minutes later.

Early in the fourth quarter Brees threw a pass for Kassim Osgood, but the ball was delivered short. Osgood never made a break back to the ball and the team punted again. Osgood needs to read the blitz coming in and turn back to his quarterback. Rookie mistake for not reading the play.

Brees tried Osgood on the next time around and the ball was knocked away by Lenny Walls. Osgood ran his route short of the first down…

Cutback lanes


1st drive, Clinton Portis 25 yard run:

Portis ran left and met a wall of defenders. Donnie Edwards and Zeke Moreno had the outside containment sealed off on that side and penetration came from the middle. After a spin move to cut the play back right by Portis, Jason Fisk missed a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Ben Leber ran inside, along the line of scrimmage, instead of maintaining his lane of coverage on the cutback lane. Leber switched directions and tried to get to Portis before he turned the corner, now running right, but he could not get there in time. Marcellus Wiley made the tackle 25 yards later. To make matters worse and add insult to injury, Jake Plummer made a solid block on Kwamie Lassiter 15-20 yards downfield to help Portis gain extra yardage.

1st drive, Portis 15 yard run:

Portis runs left, off tackle and finds a huge hole to run through. Zeke Moreno met the fullback head on to take him out of the play. Ben Leber had a lane to shoot outside the fullback and inside Ed McCaffrey, but chose to meet McCaffrey head on which opened up the hole.

2nd drive, Portis 58 yard run:

Portis headed right, off tackle and McCaffrey again had a nice block to spring him. Jammer missed a hand tackle at the line and turned to pursue Portis. He came up on him at the 42 yard line, 16 yards downfield and just let him cut back inside. Jammer did not even attempt to make a play on him as he pulled up a yard away from him. By this point Portis had juked Jerry Wilson out of his shoes and he cutback to the left, finding all sorts of running room as Rod Smith took out Sammy Davis. Some 30 yards later Jammer decided he should run Portis out of bounds. If there is one play to review, it is this one. What in the world was Jammer thinking? He literally ran right by him instead of tackling him. It was disgusting.

2nd drive in the third quarter, Anderson 20 yard gain on 2nd and 17:

Anderson running inside the right tackle saw room when Jammer and Wiley got forced out wide. With a blitz coming from the left side, not many people were left deep. After getting by the first unit of defenders, Anderson cut back inside as Kwamie Lassiter missed a tackle badly, falling down and not coming close. Sammy Davis got a shoestring to knock Anderson down, or he might still be running right now.

On each drive that had a big run of 15 or more yards, the Broncos scored.

2nd drive in the fourth quarter, Anderson 13 yard gain:

Zeke Moreno and Donnie Edwards were taken out of the play with solid blocks. Anderson was running up the gut, just inside the left guard. Leonardo Carson had him dead, but ran by the play instead of staying in the running lane. Davis and Jammer had to make the tackle downfield. This was the only long run that did not end in a score for Denver.

The Future:

Man to man. The fans wanted it, and the players played it. The secondary was in position to make a ton of plays, but their backs were to the quarterback. With that being the case, they were flagged for quite a few penalties.

Quentin Jammer was first flagged for pass interference, and it was a tough call against him. He was running with Rod Smith when Marcellus Wiley brought pressure on Plummer. Wiley hit either the hand of Plummer, or tipped the ball as a wobbly ball was sent towards Jammer. If it had been tipped, there would be no pass interference, and after review it is still hard to say. Jammer did get his hands on the receiver as the ball was in the air and then turned to knock the ball away. Had he looked earlier and played the ball instead of the man, it would have been an easy interception.

Sammy Davis was flagged for PI in the third quarter. The problem, it was third and eighteen at the time of the call. Ashley Lelie, running a fly stop route, looked to put his left arm out to block out Davis from making a play. Davis tried to hand fight with him and it is tough to tell if it should have been Lelie who deserved the penalty. It looked like he induced it by purposely putting his left arm onto Davis to shield him from the ball and the call could have gone either way.

Penalties will happen in man to man. There were a few other penalties called as well, and penalties will always be present when the team plays aggressive in the secondary. Hands will occasionally fly out to find a man and the young guys will get flagged. The secondary only allowed eight balls to be caught, specifically, against them. If they do that every game, and the run defense is better, wins will come.

Justin Peelle had a decent game and showed some potential as a receiver. Just after the two minute warning, Peelle popped Trevor Pryce before moving out into his route. It gave him separation and allowed Brees the extra time to throw him the ball. He was tackled quickly by John Mobley, but caught the ball, a plus in San Diego.

2nd drive in the third quarter, Peelle was open with Brees throwing from his end zone. He held the ball a little too long and threw behind Peelle. A good thing since if it was on target, with the late throw, it would have been intercepted for a touchdown by Sam Brandon.

Peelle caught another ball late in the fourth and shook off a tackle to gain a first. With his big body, he could be a huge boon to the Chargers offense.

The offensive line played well, minus the few penalties they committed. They allowed Drew Brees to make plays by giving him time and even when he was pressured, there was an open lane for Brees to step up into.

In the rushing game, they blocked well enough to open holes for Tomlinson and reverses from Tim Dwight. For the game, the team averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 18 rushes for a total of 121 yards.

What was more impressive was the play of the pass protection. Down big again, the Broncos knew the Chargers would be passing and frequently blitzed. It was picked up by the line and provided ample opportunity for the Chargers to come back in the game.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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