Once again, the San Diego Chargers failed to get over the proverbial hump on Sunday afternoon, as they fell to in turmoil Miami Dolphins, 20-16. This marked the 4 game this year where the Chargers have a legitimate claim that they coulda, woulda, shoulda won the game, but for a variety of factors, victory continues to elude them as they fall to 4-6. The loss dropped them to the very bottom of the horrible wild card race muck in the AFC for the 6th and final playoff spot.
The worst part about this game, the Chargers did everything they could to lose. Not because they were making some egregious mistake to give the game away, but rather it was a systematic loss by a team that found a way to do multiple little things wrong. For instance, the Chargers had 4 offsides penalties on defense in the first half alone. Are you kidding me??!! That’s just a pure lack of focus, especially after the first 2. The Chargers also missed several crucial tackles in the game, including on Charles Clay’s (give me those fantasy points) 39 yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. First, Manti Te’o looked like he was trying to give ex girlfriend Lennay Kekua in his attempt to tackle Clay, then safety Marcus Gilchrist got trucked by Clay around the 20 yard line as Clay finished off the run to put the Dolphins in the lead. Manit failed to make his presence truly felt in this game, despite the Dolphins attacking the interior of the Chargers defense in the run game and the zones in between the linebackers and safety the majority of the afternoon. The Chargers coaches’ commented that Te’o was finally rounding into season form after missing part of training camp and the first 3 games of the year, but in a playoff type game, the Chargers really needed to see a better game from their middle linebacker.
The little things also haunted the Chargers on offense, as they once again settled for field goals on their final 3 scoring drives, with each drive containing a crucial mishap that halted the drive. On the drive at the end of the first half, Mr. Philip Rivers seemed to forget the dumb rule that you can’t throw a forward pass once you pass the line of scrimmage. What? That’s not a dumb rule? It’s been around forever? Oh yeah, duh, of course you can’t, but because of Philip’s constant aversion to running, even when he has some room, he decided to throw the ball once past the line of scrimmage and a play that resulted in a TD by Antonio Gates was negated.
The other 2 drives, though they didn’t have such egregious mistakes, still suffered minor miscues that shone bright once the game was over. Facing 3rd and 7 from the 33 halfway through the 3rd quarter, Philip had Antonio Gates with a step on a Dolphins linebacker, but due partly because of pressure, his throw was thrown with a little to much loft and it fell harmlessly to the ground. Result, a Chargers field goal. Then, on the opening play of the 4th quarter, the Chargers were faced with a 3rd and 5 from the 12 and dialed up a slant pass to Keenan Allen that was open wide open for the first. However, Allen slipped on his break and the Chargers had to kick another field goal. Now on this play there is no blame to go around, but it shows you cannot make miss plays when they present themselves earlier in the game, such as on the previous 2 field goal drives.
One last note on the game before I recap my 3 things to watch from the preview, I have a problem with the play calling that preceded the Allen slip on 3rd down. Immediately after Ryan Mathews broke a big 51 yard run to set the Chargers up inside the redzone, the offense decided to lineup in shotgun on the next 2 plays, abandoning their power run game that had produced about 4.5 yards a carry up to that point, and, oh yeah, just gave you a 51 yard run. This is now back to back weeks, where coach Mike McCoy thought it was smart to go away from his run game when the Chargers needed to and could have pounded a team late in the second half. This to me seems a microcosm of the Chargers the entire year, get close to victory, but do one thing or another that hinders them from pulling it out.
Chargers won time of possession 31:24-28:36 but it was all for not. The Chargers looked good in their no huddle, slow it down offense, but as mentioned above, were not able to capitalize when they needed to.
In a game going against a pedestrian, non explosive offense, I overestimated how important this was to the Chargers, but they still seemed to play at a pace that fit them, just couldn’t pull it out in the end.
Had a great opening drive of the 3rd quarter with 3 catches for 45 yards (his entire game total), including one tough catch against Brent Grimes, the top Dolphins corner. He also had a taunting penalty on this drive that stalled the drive and forced a punt.
He didn’t create separation in his routes like in games passed, and with Philip really spreading the ball around,their weren’t very many opportunities in general for him.
This was a pitiful showing by the Chargers run defense against a team that has struggled running the ball all year.
Though the Dolphins didn’t have a strong commitment to the run they still produced 104 yards on 19 carries (5.5 ypc) from all types of runs (zones, powers, zone reads).
With the Dolphins having an efficient, if non explosive passing game on Sunday, it was imperative the Chargers make them one dimensional but they failed to do this all day.
It’s now off to Kansas City for a tough divisional matchup against the Chiefs who are smarting after their first loss of the season last week. If the Chargers want any hope of making the playoffs, this week is a must win. Check back later this week when I post a preview for the game.