"When you get down inside the 20-yard line, you have to have awareness on the field where you are," head coach Marty Schottenheimer chided. "And you've got to go ahead and get out of bounds so that if the ball does ricochet somewhere and it hits you...it's not relevant. Drayton got lost in the moment and didn't know where he was relative to the 20-yard line. He said he was battling with the guy and the guy pushed him into it. Well, he needs to be out of bounds so that we can make sure we don't have that happen. It was a critical error."
Donnie Edwards bailed him out with an interception in the end zone on the very next play. The Chargers would score on their drive after the interception, making it at least a ten point swing on the scoreboard.
"(Cleveland) had a first-and-goal (Sunday) at the five-yard line," Schottenheimer explained. "If they go in and score and that crowd gets cranked up and they get excited, all of a sudden you could be looking at a different outcome. Once again, Donnie was able to make the play, and that kind of got us going."
Looking at all the things that could have gone wrong it seems like an impossibility that the Chargers would get a shutout.
The lucky breaks would never have gone the Chargers way last year but this is the Cinderella team. They are the AFC West Division Champs and have a chance at a first round bye.
As luck would have it, the game really came down to execution. The Chargers converted on any chances they were afforded.
When they got an extra set of downs because of a roughing the kicker call, the Chargers turned it into a touchdown. When they recovered the onsides kick, another score. When Antonio Gates was left uncovered out of the backfield, Drew Brees hit him in stride.
"We did a good job of taking care of the football," said Schottenheimer. "The opportunity was there to use the clock and burn time off the clock. We did so. The play for (Antonio) Gates, (offensive coordinator) Cam (Cameron) and his staff on offense set it up during the week. It played out exactly the way you hoped that it would've. Basically, the linebacker tried to cover Gates and Antonio was by him before I think he knew it."
The Chargers also stayed error-free in terms of penalties. They committed just one, while having one other declined.
"It may be one of the lowest, if not the lowest, (number of) penalties that I've ever been involved with," Schottenheimer beamed. "I fully intend to bring it to their attention."
San Diego used each portion of the game to pull out the win. Sure Cleveland helped matters by going for it on fourth down but the Bolts hit them where it counts – on the scoreboard.
Right now, the Chargers have been playing less than their best but are still coming away with victories. Leadership and team continuity are playing a big role.
"A team is made up of three parts, offense, defense and special teams," linebacker Donnie Edwards said. "Sometimes offense plays better than defense or the defense plays better than the offense. You just never know. When you have all three phases of the game working together, that is what an ultimate team is. We've been able to win on all facets. We have a great make-up for a team."
Indianapolis is up next and the Chargers may need every part in synch to compete. The number three playoff seed is on the line and with a little luck the number two seed is within reach. It is time to play for keeps.
We mistakenly said Drayton Florence missed and then recovered the onsides kick. Thanks to loyal reader Eric for pointing out the miscue.