Chargers In-Depth SD Bolt Report

The San Diego Chargers were in their throwback uniforms this Sunday and continued to honor it with their fourth consecutive loss in powder blue. Having dug themselves a deep hole at 0-3, there are just as many problem areas to deal with as a week ago.

The Good:

Lorenzo Neal is carrying the rock more than he has in his career. Short yardage situations are going through Neal now and he is coming through. Neal went 3-3 in short yardage runs, gaining a first down each time. He also is starting to play a role in the passing game. Never a big threat in the open field, he is finding himself open and making some catches.

Neal is also blocking well. He is becoming in tune with not only the playbook, but the style of running that LaDainian Tomlinson has. Neal paved the way for Tomlinson to rush for 105 yards against perhaps the toughest run defense in the league.

Despite not getting the ball in the end zone, the Chargers played relatively well in the first half. Considering their recent history, entering halftime down 10-3 is nothing short of a miracle.

Even the lead Baltimore took into halftime was more the "luck of the Chargers" at work. An Adrian Dingle induced fumble jumped right into the hands of Alan Ricard who ran it 50 yards for a touchdown. Sure Jamal Lewis had significant yardage, but the team was holding its own and the other three points of the half for Baltimore came off a missed field goal by Steve Christie late in the half.

The defense held the Ravens to 2-5 on third down and one of those was helped out by a defensive holding penalty on Donnie Edwards on a third and eight play that DeQuincy Scott had sacked Kyle Boller at the line of scrimmage on.

The offense had three drives of 12 plays or more and the disappointing part was coming away with just three points in the half. The Chargers owned the stats for the half, but trailed in the game, where it counts.

Back down to earth as Schottenheimer said, "This game is about scoring points."

The Bad:

Another game where a runner gains over 130 yards rushing. Jamal Lewis piled up 132 yards rushing on just 23 carries. That is an average of 5.7 per attempt.

Nine times during the game, Lewis had runs of six yards or more. On those nine carries he gained 94 yards or 71% of his yards.

Five times Lewis had runs of eleven yards or more. On those five carries he had 65 yards, or half the yards he gained in the game.

Simply put, make it past the front four of the Chargers defensive line and you will often see lots of daylight. Jason Fisk actually had the most tackles on Lewis at the line and Zeke Moreno provided some solid support, but when plays went elsewhere it was up to the secondary to make plays on the big bruiser. Putting Sammy Davis in that position is asking for a concussion. One time Davis actually looked like he moved away from Lewis to avoid trying to tackle him.

Marty still thinks the run defense was better this week. How that is possible with a rookie quarterback and still allowing over five yards per carry, none of us may ever know.

"I think we continue to do some good things in the kicking game, particularly on the coverage phase of it," Schottenheimer said.

Coverage good, actual kicks terrible. Steve Christie kicked the ball off to the 10, 5 and 16. One of those kickoffs turned into a touchdown.

"One of those we kicked off into the scoreboard – into the wind," said Schottenheimer.

A reporter quipped, "There was wind?"

"I thought there was wind," responded Schottenheimer

Ah, to remember the little things.

Christie then missed a field goal late in the second quarter. Baltimore turned that into three points when they marched into field goal range and converter their own attempt. A swing of six points in a close game.

"He felt comfortable with the one that was long enough but wide left," Schottenheimer said. "Momentum swings are a clearly important part of a National Football League game. For them to hit one -- as I left the field, I'm thinking, ‘We sure didn't want that circumstance.' We wanted to be able to score a touchdown and take the lead."

With eleven minutes left in the half, Christie lined up for another field goal and ended up pooch punting it. Christie's longest field goal of the season is 25 yards. That is good for last place among kickers. Seventeen different kickers have already connected from 45+ yards out. Yet he is continually defended.

"We set a strategy with regard to the other one and we felt like we could get good field position out of it which we did," said Schottenheimer.

Field position is a game you play when you know you cannot get three points. Six points and a 9-7 lead were lost. The avalanche fell from there.

I always ask the player, what do you think? Do you feel comfortable with this range? Steve felt comfortable with the range.

Ten penalties, aka drive killers, for 61 yards. For a Marty Schottenheimer coached team, they do not show much discipline.

Three penalties happened on one drive. That drive stalled at the Baltimore 34 and the Chargers ended up punting from field goal formation. The penalties accounted for 18 yards meaning the Chargers could have been on the 16 and looking at an easy field goal, even for Christie.

Later in the half, Boston committed a false start penalty putting the team back five. After an incompletion, Christie missed his 5- yard attempt. Five yards closer, and, well, he still would have missed it.

A special teams holding call on Terrence Kiel pinned the Chargers deep with the Chargers behind late in the fourth. The Bolts drove the ball down to the 17 before Brees was intercepted in the end zone.

One of the most dynamic kick returners of his time has looked pedestrian. Tim Dwight is barely making it out to the 20. He volunteered for the job and now fans have to be wishing he hadn't.

"The return phase of (special teams) isn't something we like," said Schottenheimer.

Drayton Florence took over returning kicks when Dwight was felled by injury. Florence muffed one attempt and had to pounce on it before Baltimore and he gained eleven yards on his only other return.

Whether it is scheme or players, they need to get better and start shortening some fields.

The Future:

No. 89 was on the field and looked to be in fine shape. He led the Chargers with 91 yards receiving on six receptions. It is easy to see he can be a difference maker once the offense starts firing on all cylinders.

Schottenheimer defended Boston for a play in the fourth quarter that resulted in an interception. Marty said after watching the tape, "David went up for the ball and was hit from behind and it knocked his body forward. When the ball came down, and it is evident looking at the tape, he did not know where the ball was. He did not know it was intercepted, he had thought it went incomplete."

David Boston refused to speak to the media after Sunday's game and had an engagement to attend to on Monday. While Schottenheimer hopes he accommodates the media, it does not appear to be in the cards.

It was not all roses for Boston. Baltimore head coach Brian Billick gave his defensive game ball to the man covering him. "You can't imagine the position Gary Baxter was put in on Thursday, to have to go from safety to corner in all of our packages that we have and to have to step up to an athlete the caliber of David Boston."

Phil Bogle was on the field when the Chargers scored their only touchdown. In fact the play went his way. The undrafted free agent out of New Haven has already surpassed third round pick Courtney Van Buren in terms of team trust. The coaching staff would rather stick with Bogle. Consider if Damion McIntosh went out with an injury. As of this weekend, Vaughn Parker would likely have switched tackle spots and Bogle would come in to man the right side. When LaDainian Tomlinson ran right and scored, he gave the young kid confidence.

With Parker now out for an extended period of time, Schottenheimer said the team could go with Bogle, "as one possibility", or they may opt to put Solomon Page at tackle and put Cory Raymer or Bob Hallen in at guard. Page is currently nursing a sprained left ankle which would foil those plans. Either way, Bogle is already the real deal.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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