Positive Vibe, Negative Charge

The one noticeable difference between Sunday's game between the San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns was the emotion and energy the Bolts had on the sidelines, in the huddle and after each play. They were genuinely excited to be playing football and it is a far cry from the comatose response of the five previous games.

The positives:

"I don't have to cry at home, don't have to wake up in the middle of the night and walk around like a ghost," said Kwamie Lassiter. "It feels good."

It should feel good. The first win of the season always does. Of course, Lassiter and the rest of his teammates would have preferred it came some weeks back, but that is the way their cookie crumbled.

"We gave up three sacks, several hurries and our quarterback got hurt a lot yesterday," said Butch Davis.

The defense was flying high on an acid trip. The bright orange jerseys were the targets, and the line was dominant for most of the game. The color of the Browns jersey may have had something to do with the increased intensity from the Bolts. It was a jersey they could actually see in their heightened state of euphoria.

"This game has become a matter of third downs and we won 12 out of 14," said Schottenheimer. "Our defensive football team played as well as it has played all year long. The longest gain was a 24 yard pass."

Several Chargers were exuberant on the field. It looked and felt like a playoff game out there for the Bolts. The players cheered each other on and were spirited when they made a good play.

It helped being ahead in the game, but the feel was different. It seemed like the Chargers came in with a heightened mental state. We are not even talking psychiatric ward mental this week. The straightjacket holding them back and preventing them from making tackles became just an ordinary shirt.

Heck, even Marty Schottenheimer felt something, and at his age, without Viagra or supplements, that is saying something:

"There was a different look (in the defenses eyes), a different feeling on the sidelines. There was more emotion."

Add in Dale Lindsey, who came back from the Dark Ages, and the recipe was finally right on defense. Lindsey finally added the sage in with a prizefighter's mentality. Straight to the point – he mixed things up.

"(The Chargers) changed their coverages," said Butch Davis. "They clearly played two different coverages. They did play a lot of the things they played all season, but they did stick in two they hadn't played in any ballgame. Those are things you have to work through. You don't know when they're going to come up and how to fit them with some of the routes. One of the new coverages led to the interceptions."

"Defensively, we dramatically reduced the errors we had from Jacksonville," said Schottenheimer. "We did some things differently. We played a lot more zone yesterday."

Terrence Kiel had a great game. His first significant playing time netted an interception. Lassiter also played well for the first time this year.

They were not the only ones who deserved praise.

"I was pleased with Sammy Davis," added Schottenheimer.

Davis held up well after a bad game or two. He even provided run support.

On offense, Tomlinson was a stunt car driver. He started left, swerved right, found hole through the cone of would be tacklers and went unscathed. His numbers speak for themselves.

The blocking was also exceptional. Antonio Gates stepped in as a starter and did not do much to relinquish his role. Look for it to expand into the passing game soon as he gets his route running down.

"Antonio Gates has done a terrific job for us," said Schottenheimer. " In fact, he had more snaps at tight end than anyone else. And I foresee that continuing cause he is playing extremely well for us."

He was not the only blocking "receiver" to get praise. The hulk also got his due. He was barely used in the passing game, and made his mark on the coaches.

"I thought David did well (playing off the ball)," said Schottenheimer.

"We didn't play particularly well individually in the ball game, but probably from a collective standpoint, offensively and defensively we put some things together," Schottenheimer added. "We were able to play off one another."

A perfect segway…


"The kicking game was really a problem for us," Schottenheimer pointed out. "Fortunately, I think they are the kind of things that can be corrected."

A botched snap is fixable as David Binn threw a shot put up high to Darren Bennett. Binn does not make many mistakes and having it come in a win is excusable.

Kevin House standing in the end zone waiting to down a punt with two Chargers standing near him and seconds to spare is fixable.

Penalties, particularly on Carlos Polk, should be easier to solve than a brainteaser. Penalties overall are another story.

Kickoffs are easy to fix if they actually activate Mike Scifres. Steve Christie kicking off to the 20 is like kicking it out of bounds and at least no one will get injured on that strategy.

Tim Dwight fumbling -- two hands on the ball not an option?

"We didn't throw it as well as we would have liked to," said Schottenheimer. "I think Drew would agree he would like a few more opportunities to throw it and we would like to get that completion percentage up around 65-66%."

Drew Brees was horrible. Throwing 18 times he never got into the flow of the game. It seems apparent he is not like Mike who could take a shot with ice in his shorts and still make it. Brees needs to get into his groove to be successful. Throwing just a few times sporadically throughout the game is not his forte. Look at his two minute drive, that is where he earns his pay.

"We dropped a couple on him and we have to quit doing that. It is bad enough when you drop them, but we keep batting it up in the air so they can catch it."

Josh Norman is like a frightened cat out there. He has all the talent in the world and creates mismatches across the field, but he continually draws his claws in when the ball heads his way. Forget the sticky glue, someone needs to tie a string from the football to his hands so he can start pulling the rock in.

In the end:

"I never remember winning being this difficult," said Schottenheimer. "It was very gratifying. We all know anybody can beat anybody, but it is more real now than it has ever been."

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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