NFL Insiders Chargers Report Card

The NFL Insiders grade the San Diego Chargers performance this past weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. As has been the usual, the grades are never flattering in the land of the sun. At 2-9, the team has been officially extinguished from the playoffs and the only race they are in is for the #1 overall draft pick. They have a good handle on that at least.

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Doug Flutie wasn't bad, especially late in the game when he hit six of his final eight attempts, which included a 26-yard touchdown to David Boston. Flutie finished 15 of 33 for 210 yards and two TDs. The pass protection was OK; it was good to win a game -- if the defense had showed up.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 5.9 yards per carry -- trouble was, he got but 16 rushes. Tomlinson is a stud, and he proves it every game. But when the Chargers fall behind -- they did 14-0 on Sunday -- it takes Tomlinson out of the game. The run blocking was decent, although it didn't get much chance to show it.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Four touchdowns from Jon Kitna? Amazing. The two cornerbacks got picked on like someone flicking lint from a dryer. Quentin Jammer continues to prove he is no fifth overall pick; rookie Sammy Davis is still playing tentative and scared. The pass rush wasn't consistent enough, as Kitna was sacked but twice. This unit is young and bad. Eventually, the kids will get older. It's not certain if it will ever get better.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Terrible performance here. The Bengals piled up 225 yards rushing, the worst showing in 16 years. We know the Bengals have a two-headed monster in Rudi Johnson and Corey Dillon, but 225 yards? The linebackers were overmatched, and the defensive line was getting pushed off the ball. A unit that many thought had hit rock bottom, found another level.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-- Leon Johnson showed a little wiggle (31-yard return on a kickoff; 18-yarder on a punt). The coverage units were solid. Steve Christie was true on two attempts; three of Darren Bennett's three kicks were downed inside the Cincinnati 20.

COACHING: F -- Schottenheimer made some strange calls on Sunday, two of which must be mentioned. With 59 seconds left before the half, the Chargers were faced with a fourth-and-5 at the Cincinnati 40. Punt it away, right? Nope, the Chargers go for it fail, and the Bengals march down and deliver a TD. Then after the Chargers pulled to 34-27 with three minutes to play, Schottenheimer didn't try an onside kick. Instead, he kicked it away and asked the defense to do something which it hasn't done all day: stop the Bengals. The Chargers have two third-down opportunities, and let the Bengals slip away both times.


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