Time Will Tell

Prior to the 2003 NFL season many predicted the team sporting lightning bolts would end the season at the back of the line in the race to conquer mount AFC West. The race up the mountain is 25% complete and the San Diego Chargers must not have heard the starting whistle...

As it stands now, the Chargers are 0-4. Game One was a blowout loss in Kansas City. Game Two was a debacle of a home opener against Denver. Game Three saw the Chargers edge Baltimore on the stat sheet, but trail on the only stat sheet that matters, the scoreboard. Game four was an absolute heartbreaker in Oakland.

From DUI's to sucker punches, from kidnaping arrests to fellow wide receivers having pregame verbal altercations, from player suspensions to key injuries, you name it and these 2003 San Diego Chargers have probably been through it. Oh, and don't forget the strength coach's incident with the teams star wide receiver. There's enough there to make a movie or better yet a mini-series. Maybe we could call it Playfakers.

Through all this and the four losses, Charger players and coaches feel there has been improvement from the first game until the most recent. Looking at these four games, the Chargers went into halftime down 24-0, down 24-10, down 10-3, then leading 21-14 respectively...

Down 24 points at halftime in Kansas City is a laugher and the chances of the Chargers coming back and winning were about as good as Mike Shanahan following NFL rules for a whole season.

Down 24-10 at halftime against Denver was not completely out of reach. A touchdown makes it 24-17. The fact that the Chargers had some success moving the ball gave fans hope. Sorry, I meant to say false hope.

Down 10-3 at halftime against Baltimore was looking like a win. The Chargers easily outplayed the Ravens in the first half.

Leading 21-14 at halftime in Oakland was feeling like a win. Wait, there is a pattern here. With each game this team is getting closer and closer to a victory. At this rate, the Chargers may even win a game this year. The problem is that the goal is not to win a game. The goal is to win a bunch of games, make the playoffs, and find a way to get to and win a superbowl.

Going back a bit, the Chargers bumbled through a 1-15 season in 2000, then came Butler and company. Chargers go 5-11 in 2001(gotta crawl before you can walk, right?) Enter Marty Schottenheimer and a record of 8-8 in 2001(are they walking yet?) Heck, just continue the steady improvement and the Chargers could turn in a 10-6 or 11-5 mark this year. Instead the defense was dismantled(something had to be done) and here the Chargers sit at 0-4.

The Chargers themselves call this a "push" year. The owner even guaranteed playoffs. Fans and even some media held high expectations because of all this. Instead of seeing a young, fast, well coached defense, Charger fans have only seen a young, somewhat fast, horribly coordinated defense with no pass rush.

We know the defense has many new faces and will take time to gel, but this is not the only concern. When and if the defense decides to gel, will a pass rush materialize? Will the linebackers be able to stop runs to the outside? Will the young DB's have any confidence left? Will the coordinator suddenly start calling better games?

Those are just some questions related to game performance. There's plenty of other issues as well. How about that dreadful stadium situation? We'll let the experts worry about that one. Does David Boston really want to play football? He apologized, which is all fine and dandy but the question remains...Do you REALLY want to play football? Charger fans can only pray he does. David Boston with a burning desire to play football could almost single handedly pull the Chargers off the cellar room floor. Is Marty Schottenheimer the coach for this team? Time will tell. Is Drew Brees the quarterback of the future? I hate to be redundant, but time will tell.

Time has all the answers but even Charger fans can become impatient. In the meantime, while the world waits for this defense to gel up, a little something called shot at the playoffs may be sliding out of reach.

Let's not put this all on the defense. The fact is the Charger defense played just well enough to get a victory(Baltimore) only to have the other facets of the team let down. What has not been accomplished is a solid game from all three units(offense, defense, special teams), hence the mark of 0-4.

This past Sunday in Oakland, the Chargers found a way to blow a 31-17 lead with less than 6 minutes to go in the game. Blame the defense. Blame the offense. Blame the special teams. Blame the coordinators. Blame injuries. Blame David Boston. Blame everyone and everything.

Leading 31-17, the special teams gives the Raiders the ball at the 40 yard line, thanks to a Wade Richey like kickoff out of bounds.

The defense gives up a quick touchdown. How quick? You could've got up to take a whiz, grab another beer, sat back down on your sofa and next thing you know is the Raiders just made it 24-31 with almost 5 minutes left on the clock!

The offense then stalls giving the ball back to the Raiders and you still haven't finished your beer.

The defense gives up another quick touchdown. How quick? You STILL haven't finished your beer. This ball game is tied 31-31 with over one minute left.

So what does the offense do? Let's just say the Chargers made the two-minute drill look like the two-mile drill. One thing that I will never comprehend is why early in the drive, after a big completion(23 yarder to Kassim Osgood) would Drew Brees burn the final timeout. Wouldn't it make more sense to hurry your team to the line, spike the ball and save your final timeout for when you really need it, like say...to attempt the game winning field goal. Whatever, blame it on youth.

This is where it stands: 0-4 heading cross country to Jacksonville, who also happens to be at 0-4. One thing has held true for the Chargers thus far. This team simply cannot stop the run, particularly, sweeps to the outside. Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis, Jamal Lewis and Charlie Garner all can attest to this. That first victory will not be easy, even at 0-4 Jacksonville. Fred Taylor, when healthy, is a talent capable of breaking the single game rushing mark. If the Chargers are lucky, they'll get to face a talented rookie QB in Leftwich. The Chargers aren't lucky, so that means they'll probably get Mark Brunell. Whoever gets the nod at quarterback for the Jags will have Jimmy Smith to throw to. Smith is the craftiest of veterans and matches up well against the bolts young corners. Like I said, getting that first victory won't be easy.

Has this football team improved since opening day in Kansas City? Yes. Slightly.

Is it improved enough to pull out a victory in Jacksonville this Sunday? I don't know, ask me on Monday. Only time will tell.

Will can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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