Long Plays, Forgetting Their Roots, Dooms Chargers

The San Diego Chargers offense, behind LaDainian Tomlinson, came out of its shell to score 31 points, then they forgot how they got there.<br<br> The Raiders offense, lost before facing the Chargers, found its groove, not on the ground, but through the air as it has become accustomed to.

"To not come out with a win is disappointing," said Drew Brees. "We thought we had it won. We didn't. We're just sitting here 0-4."

""There's a lot of disappointment -- coaches, players, fans. You work so hard to put yourself in a position to win, and they you don't finish it off, it's very disappointing. When you get as many points as we had, when you get as many yards as we had, I'd like to think that we'd find a way to win," said Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose team fell to 0-4. "But we didn't. And that's what's disappointing."

Finding a way to win. That is what Schottenheimer was brought here to do. Teach the team how to win. Eight losses in a row are not exactly the lessons we were taught in high school gym class and certainly not some reverse psychology to teach the team to win in the NFL.

Disappointing is not even the tip of the iceberg. That is simply equating the sinking Titanic as disappointing. It is now at the point of catastrophe. The Bolts are their own natural disaster.

The two keys coming into the game were getting Tomlinson the ball (check) and keeping the Raiders from hitting their stride on offense (insert comedy here).

LaDainian Tomlinson was the focal point of the Chargers offense and his determination, along with fabulous play by the offensive line, paved the way to a dominating 54 minutes of play. The problem is: a game is generally 60 minutes in length and this one lasted even longer.

"We thought we had it," Tomlinson said. "I guess they showed why they went to the Super Bowl last year. They know how to win games, and we don't."

Tomlinson went on to talk about stepping up and not waiting for someone else to do the job. LT is one of the few who can call out his teammates. He has good reason:

187 yards on 28 carries – fans thought, fools that they are, that the Chargers actually had a win in hand. More yards rushing than passing – those are winning statistics. It smelled like a win, looked like a win, alas it was nothing close to a win. Rather it was a demoralizing defeat. A defeat like no other. This loss could actually do more harm than good.

I can hear it now, oh wait I did hear it -- "In some cases, clearly we were better," said Schottenheimer.

I won't dispute that. As good as they are getting, they could not close the game out, even a game against little leaguers.

160 of the 222 yards the Chargers had on the ground came in the first half. Brees had just nine passing attempts. You know what, it was working. The Chargers then passed the ball 22 times in the second half. Imagine beating a team into submission and then giving them a break. Everyone watched as they whooped and hollered and did their curtain calls to the crowd as the Raiders slowly, quietly got up, grabbed a chair and smashed it over the backs of the Chargers.

"They were killing us, especially in the first half," free safety Rod Woodson confirmed. "Their left side against our right side. They were just killing us. In the second half, we held our ground better."

There came the Raiders, riding high on offense with a prescription labeled ‘Chargers secondary'.

"I thought we had a good plan and did a good job executing," Gannon said. "We've gone through some adversity."

Adversity in the Oakland dictionary: ‘Oakland ranked 26th in the league in yards per game entering the game. The passing game was averaging over 70 yards less per game compared to 2002 and 30 less rushing yards per game than a year ago.'

The Raiders are feeling better now. 40 yards more rushing than the season average thus far. 145 more passing yards than the average through three games. Prescription filled.

"I hope that this game serves as a catalyst and a launching pad to get us going again," Oakland coach Bill Callahan said. "We came alive. We were wearing them down at the end. I thought our stamina was excellent down the stretch."

The Chargers should have been the ones with the stamina, oh, but we forgot, they forgot what go them there. Instead, it was the Chargers defense left gasping for air.

"We came back with some deeper routes and deeper cuts and took advantage of the coverage that they were playing," Callahan said.

A team known for its dinks and dunks made the changes they had to and the Chargers could not adapt. Eleven plays of 14 yards or more, just two of them runs. Seven plays of 21 yards or more, one a run. One other big gain was called back.

The Bolts did not want this game as much as the Raiders did. They did not do the things they needed to late in the game to win. They were not prepared to win. They have not been taught to win.

Who will teach them now?

They must teach themselves, no one else is willing to.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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