Bolts Report Card: Week 8

The Chargers team is a tale of two units, with a potent offense and an impudent defense. Coach Norv Turner can only hope the season is a tale of two halves, as the Chargers will need at least a 6-2 finish to have any shot at the playoffs. Here's a look at the grades from the team's latest letdown.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Philip Rivers delivered another winning effort until a late turnover cost him and the Chargers. But the Chargers' woes aren't because of the play here; Rivers threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns. The passing game got a boost with Chris Chambers' return. His presence helped three different receivers snag scoring passes. The pass protection was keen -- no sacks and Rivers had time to look downfield. Having a healthy Antonio Gates (team-high six catches for 96 yards and a score) was a factor here as well.


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Nick Laham/Getty

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- LaDainian Tomlinson collected a 100-yard game, and while that was once written with regularity, it was only his second such game of the season. Tomlinson showed a burst -- and a cutback move into his spin move -- that had seldom been seen this year. His toe is that much better. The run-blocking was a notch up, but it might have been more about Tomlinson feeling so well.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Ugh -- this phase looks equally as bad on both sides of the Atlantic. With no pass rush, Drew Brees sliced and diced a secondary that was asked to stay with receivers longer than it could. Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer have had better days, and the safety play was also lacking. But it gets back to the lack of a pass rush -- 10 consecutive quarters without a sack -- which is the foundation of this collapse.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- No complaints here, although the Saints do most of their "rushing" with little swing passes that are about the same thing. LB Tim Dobbins had a team-high seven tackles inside. DT Jamal Williams didn't have one but clogged things up front. The Saints may have collected 409 yards, but only 70 came on the ground -- although this unit did allow two touchdowns.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- A killer second-quarter fumble by Darren Sproles was turned into a touchdown by the Saints, who seized momentum. Kassim Osgood continues to play at a Pro Bowl level on the coverage teams. There were no problems with the legs of P Mike Scifres or K Nate Kaeding.

COACHING: F -- Something isn't clicking, and 14 penalties are among the indicators. The Chargers have yet to solve -- through scheme or personnel -- how to stop opposing passing games. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell remains reluctant to let the corners play more man than zone; maybe he's not confident in their abilities. What we do know is there is no pass rush, either through players winning plays or fancy stunt packages. As long as the Chargers can't figure out how to get, and slow, opposing quarterbacks, it will be a long second half of a season. The offense is playing well, and Norv Turner deserves attention there. But he also, as the head coach, needs to become more involved in a defensive game plan or its approach. He must find the answers to a team shortcoming that could torpedo the Chargers' season.


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