The defense started strong, putting some serious heat on Miami. But our secondary was victimized late in the game and the Bolts were unable to beat another team that basically played without a rushing attack.
Darren Sproles' fumble was a killer. His early injury may still be hampering him. He certainly doesn't have the burst he had early on. But his hands were even more damaging. You could see how he needed to look the ball into his chest on his first return. By the time he did that, there was no room. The fumble later in the game made us all wonder why Eric Parker wasn't back there.
So who's to blame? Miami claimed that they felt disrespected because the Chargers went for it twice on 4th down. Any Charger fan knows that is more a product of our early season conservativeness than anything. The Dolphins claim that the Bolts were talking a lot early on? So what. Football is an emotional game. I think the Chargers were trying to feed off the crowd and vice versa. They were trying to pump themselves up rather than disrespect Miami. At this point in the season, mind games shouldn't be a factor.
That's the point. If the Bolts weren't fired up, you have to blame Schottenheimer. It's no secret I'm not a supporter of his. During any pregame huddle you will see the players looking around when he does his "one play at a time" mantra. However, I can't fault any of Marty's decisions on Sunday. I thought that Cameron got a little too cute early on. Giving the ball to LT didn't require all the maneuvering at the line. However, there wasn't a lot of room for him. Roman Oben won't be back any time soon and Leader Jordan is a liability. In all of our losses this season, teams were able to dominate our line and stall our offense.
The receivers weren't getting open and Brees crumbled down the stretch. If we hadn't recovered the fumble on the 1-yard line, we would have been out of it by the time Drew got hit. You just cannot fumble in that situation. He did it against the Jets and during many games in 2003. Much like the Redskins game, he made an error when we couldn't afford one.
I've said all along that the Bolts would not be done in by their autumnal failures unless they didn't learn why they lost those games. I've learned that it's what happens in December that really matters. When Schottenheimer claims that it was unrealistic to win the last 7 in a row, he's just rationalizing after the fact. One game will not define our season? It will if it looks just like all our other losses.
Also, this team has its weaknesses. Last week, in this very space I wrote: "while Jammer hasn't been nearly as mistake prone lately, I really worry what will happen when teams start attacking him over the next month." I am absolutely baffled by people who spend more energy defending him than he does opposing receivers. Drayton Florence didn't look so good last week, either. The interception tallies confirm that we don't exactly have shutdown corners on the roster right now.
I'm not going to speculate on the long-term future of The Organization because if we lose another game we'll have all the time in the world to do that. I don't care what they say when the mike is in front of them but the Chargers better realize that their season is over if they lose Sunday. I don't care if the Colts are 13-0. The Bolts shouldn't need any added motivation. They shouldn't have needed any last week. Last year, they took a lead, got conservative and give up big passes down the stretch. Sound familiar? LaDainian Tomlinson told Jimmy Kimmel last night that you can bet on the Bolts being in the playoffs. I, for one, want to believe him. No one deserves a Super Bowl ring more than that man.
Honestly, no one thinks we can win on Sunday. It doesn't matter. Inside that locker room, the Chargers need to know that everything's on the line. When they walk off that field, they need to know that they left everything out there. The biggest challenge yet is upon them and they need to go out with everything they've got. The biggest crime of all would be for the Bolts to go down without playing like there is no tomorrow. Otherwise, there won't be.