Chargers Can't Focus

Tempe- The game with a twist. The San Diego Chargers prepared all week for a home game in San Diego. Wild fires throughout California made the air quality so bad in the area, the game moved to Sun Devil Stadium from Qualcomm. Qualcomm, until late Monday had been a staging area for the Red Cross until people were sent to various indoor facilities around the County to get out of the smoke infested area. The key to the game:

Focus:

"Certainly the impact is significant and has been a factor to us, but in the NFL you always have to focus and refocus," said Marty Schottenheimer before the game. "While we have all been impacted by the events in San Diego, we are focused out here. Our players wanted to play and it is Monday Night Football."

This was a true test of Marty Schottenheimer's ability to keep this team together. He failed miserably. His message fell on deaf ears.

Four minutes and twenty seconds into the game, Drew Brees had thrown two interceptions. Six minutes in, the team was down by ten. By halftime, the Chargers were down by 21. Not the focus the team was hoping for. Then when the Chargers were within striking distance of the end zone, Brees was picked off again.

"You can put this loss on my shoulders," Brees said.

"We really wanted to win, just for the city of San Diego and for everything they're going through," Brees said. "Since we couldn't be out there on the front lines, this was the least we could do."

Three turnovers turned into 17 points for the Dolphins in the first half. It was not that the defense played terribly, although the pass defense was suspect on one drive in particular, they just had nothing to work with as the Chargers offense gave the ball away at every turn.

"This is embarrassing," Schottenheimer could be heard telling from the tunnel at halftime. "This is a test. Get your heads up and play this game."

Four times the Bolts entered the red zone and they came away with just seven points. Two times they were stuffed on fourth down and goal and Brees was intercepted once.

"Our players did a fantastic job of adjusting to the time, to being in two states in two days, in two different hotels," Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It was amazing they were able to keep their focus like they did."

It all starts with focus and the Chargers had none. They blocked poorly along the line, the playcalling was shoddy at best and they played well off the ball in man coverage when they continued to get beat on short routes. Had they been focused, they would have adjusted.

The emotional toll of several players having to evacuate their homes, Stephen Alexander and Lorenzo Neal, had to be at the forefront of their minds. The team played uninspired as thoughts had to be racing back to the family members back home.

"Wherever we played this game, we were going to come out and play hard," said Brian Griese.

Miami had the advantage. They did not have fires tearing through their neighborhood. When they return home, they know their homes will still be there. The Chargers could not be so sure.

Focus – a tough thing in these trying times. As a professional sometimes you must buck up and play for something. The Chargers had a chance to play for the City of San Diego. Instead they went up in smoke early and by halftime the embers had burned out.

"Every guy in this locker room has to take a deep look inside," Schottenheimer yelled at his team after the game.

Truer words were never spoken. Schottenheimer must also look into the mirror and see his own reflection. He may not like it either.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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