Chargers Report Card Week 16

One game to go until the misery ends for the San Diego Chargers. Then fans can turn their attention to more important matters – like the 2004 NFL Draft! Still the teams needs to be graded and after a 40-24 loss to the Steelers frustration continues. The team will tell you they are not this bad, but the numbers on this season don't lie. Right now, at 3-12, they are that bad.<br><br> The grades are in:

Quarterbacks:

Drew Brees' fumble in the third quarter could have been avoided. Instead of pulling the ball down and running, Brees pulled up and continued to look for a place to throw the ball. As he did, Troy Polamalu closed and stripped the ball. His interception deep was a poorly thrown ball. The pass to Antonio Gates at the goal line almost cost the team a touchdown. Doug Flutie was no better on the field. It comes down to putting it in the end zone consistently and hitting some wide receivers, they did neither well enough.

Grade: D-

Running Backs:

LaDainian Tomlinson was relegated to picking up the blitz much of the day and he did an excellent job at it. His running was solid behind a line that created little running room. Congratulations to LT for setting and tying records.

Grade: A-

Wide Receivers:

David Boston was a no-show. The big wideout was not a difference maker and ended the day grossing the fewest amount of yards of any wideout. Kassim Osgood had a record day and seems to be headed in the right direction. Dondre Gilliam comes back and has two catches. Why the kid has not played before today is still a mystery.

Grade: D+

Offensive Line:

The line did a formidable job against the variety of blitzes they faced. They were unable to get much of a push in the running game, making LT fight for his yards. Ed Ellis replaced Damion McIntosh and inexplicably did not get called for an offsides. He did, however, let up a sack. Props to Kris Dielman playing left guard. Scary that the line consisted of Ellis, Dielman, Raymer, Keathley and Bogle. The line committed zero penalties, unbelievable given their track record.

Grade: C

Tight Ends:

Gates is getting open with such regularity that he has become the go-to guy. His routes are crisp and his hands are soft. He did have one miss and was denied a touchdown by Drew Brees. Justin Peelle also got in on the act with two receptions, but his came towards garbage time.

Grade: B-

Defensive Line:

Jason Fisk was a monster on the inside in run defense. Otis Leverette was the only other lineman of note, a testament to him, and it should be a degrading statement to the line. Again they failed to get any pressure on the quarterback. The one sack from Leverette was really a coverage sack. The run defense was decent, but the team was behind by so much, so early, they knew what was coming.

Grade: D

Linebackers:

Stephen Cooper had his first sack of the year and showed some speed off the edge. Donnie Edwards reclaimed the top tackler spot on the team for the 14th time this year. Zeke Moreno was in the backfield making some plays and has gotten better as the season has progressed. The unit, however, made Jerome Bettis look like a racehorse on two separate occasions when they could not catch up to the scampering "Bus". It showed the glaring need for speed at the linebacker position.

Grade: C+

Secondary:

Sammy Davis was burned a few times on the day and was the most picked on cornerback. Jammer bit on an inside move by Burress and that left Ben Leber the closest man to the touchdown maker. The group has given up 36 touchdowns on the year and it only took Tommy Maddox eleven completions to get three touchdown passes. Not a good ratio.

Grade: F

Special Teams:

Justin Peelle had a chance to make a game changing play, but he could not secure a fumbled punt by the Pittsburgh punt returner inside the Steelers 20 yard line with the team down 21-7 just before halftime. Leon Johnson could not pick up a ball to save his life. It is amazing he still has a job. Steve Christie kicking off was a joke. Only once did Pittsburgh start inside their own 30 after the Chargers scored.

Grade: F

Coaching:

Some calls that were made continue to baffle the mind. Why the team did not take one last shot at the end zone right before halftime is a mystery. Pulling Drew Brees to make a point with four minutes and one game to go could have ruined the kids confidence long term. Playing man-to-man against the Steelers was just silly.

Grade: F

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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