Schottenheimer's ire

There were a lot of plays that could have drawn the ire of San Diego Chargers' head coach Marty Schottenheimer after the loss on Sunday. He could have been mad at Drew Brees taking a sack that took them out of field goal range. He could have been mad at the defense for not playing four quarters but his anger was directed at one place…

Special teams. He fumed after the game regarding the kickoff coverage which was burned for 252 yards on the day. Dominic Rhodes had an 88 yard touchdown return and another return of 60 yards to pace the Colts.

"We felt confident when we came in here that we would play well in all phases," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "You cannot let people take the ball and return it on kickoffs for forty yards and create the kind of field position that it did. That was the issue."

Schottenheimer was so mad that he invited members of the media down to Chargers Park to line up on special teams to show the team how to tackle.

His breath came in slow rasps as he recalled the plays that changed the game.

"We came in here to win," Schottenheimer said. "And with that one exception, we played toe-to-toe with a terrific team."

That exception was special teams. But Schottenheimer also has some ‘splaining to do. He decided to punt the ball on the Colts' 34 yard line after Drew Brees was sacked. It would have been a 52 yard field goal attempt and would have put the Bolts up by two scores with nine minutes to go. Nate Kaeding had already kicked a fifty yard field goal in the game – indoors in the RCA Dome.

It didn't help that Mike Scifres' punt went into the end zone for a touchback making it a 14 yard net punt.

As for the coverage team, the first gaffe was when Rhodes returned a kick sixty yards in the second quarter. After the Chargers had just scored to go up 17-3, the return came and the Colts converted a field goal.

Rhodes then ran one back 88 yards after LaDainian Tomlinson put San Diego up 31-16 on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was the catalyst that began the Colts comeback.

"They have to make the tackle," Schottenheimer yelled. "If you don't make the tackle, you are going to get the result that we got."

"That was probably the best thing we did today – our kickoff coverage unit and our kickoff return team," Colts' head coach Tony Dungy predictably said.

There were other moments of contention but none were of the magnitude created by the failed kickoff coverage. The Chargers defense played well enough to win, especially when the competition is considered.

True, Payton Manning threw for 383 yards but the record-setting quarterback was held to 141 first half yards. The last two Colts' possessions netted 138 yards through the air, 80 on the drive that tied the game and another 58 in overtime.

"We are very, very disappointed not to finish the task. I'll say this: our team played toe to toe with one of the best teams in the National Football League."

In the end, the Chargers came up just short. It was another valuable lesson that the Chargers probably needed as they head for their playoff run.

Eight wins in a row was making them complacent, right? At least, that is what they should be telling themselves. You can be sure that coach Schottenheimer will make sure they know and correct the problems before the win or go home session begins.

Said Schottenheimer: "We didn't cover kickoffs worth a damn."

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