It was a gutty win, I will say that. It was definitely flawed, but it was a win when we absolutely had to have one. I also give Ryan Mathews (along with Antonio Gates, obviously) a lot of credit for playing hurt. That run after the screen pass he had in the first half was a thing of beauty. Keeping himself off the ground with his hand brought back shades of Randall Cunningham against Giants. The big question this week, and every week thereafter should they win, is how can a team who has made so many mistakes survive a season where they have to play errorless football the rest of the way? I will actually be watching Sunday’s game a few blocks from my last Manhattan apartment. Since I left town, MJ Armstrong’s has apparently become the NYC Charger hangout. I lived in that town for 13 years and there was never any such place. However, I am going to see the Black Crowes Saturday night and am staying over. Since the game is an early one and since we are having an open house at our condo, it seemed like the right call.
This is a photo from the “Chargers NYC” Facebook page. I can guarantee you that neither the inflatable Bolt nor the girl in the Chargers shirt were there when I last watched a game there early in the 2004 season. Of course, this also means that I will be unable to approve any comments during the game. Actually, the same will rules will apply the following game as well. I will actually be attending the Allmans/Gov’t Mule benefit show on 11/22. Yes, FAITHFUL READER, I know we are playing Denver that night. But with the birth of my son approaching, I won’t be attending a show like this for a while. Plus, the Chargers have a great record when I mix live music with the game. Tom Twomey will be in San Diego that night and promises me score updates. I don’t think missing the show to watch the game on TV makes sense. It’s not as if it’s a playoff game, which I still plan to attend should it happen.
But the playoffs are a long way from our situation right now. We have to win to even stay relevant. I turned on SIRIUS yesterday morning and heard Bob Papa, Jr and Ross Tucker talking about the Chargers. Tucker went with the argument (recently espoused by Mike Dikta on NFL Countdown last week) that we’ve let so many good players go over the years. Look at how Brees, LT, Cromarite, etc. are playing. I don’t know if it is just the fact that we play a zone or that we don’t create a culture of accountability. But Cro would not play like that for us. As Papa pointed out, you can’t plug in their production elsewhere for the Chargers now. In LT’s case, the line play of the Jets, committment to the run, blah blah. Of course if every player who leaves the Chargers instantly becomes better, you’ve got to look at your own team. I would say that the secondary is better without Cro, but Cason keeps getting burned in CrimeTime-like fashion.
Of course, all this comes on the heels of our ‘05 and ‘07 first-round picks being gone from the team, to go along with the aforementioned ‘01 and ‘06 first-rounders. But we have all offseason to analyze where and why it all went wrong should we miss the postseason. Planet Houston, of Superman II fame, is actually the site of the Chargers initial rise from futility. I remember not being able to find a bar to watch the 2004 opener. When we finally found a spot to watch the game, we were all pleasantly surprised when Drew Brees led the Bolts to a win. I won’t even bother calling Sunday a must-win. I thought Oakland was a must win. It goes without saying that every game thereafter is as well. Let’s be honest, we can probably only afford to lose one more game all year if we expect to play in January. If we give that one away on Sunday, I can’t imagine us winning every game after the bye week.
Philip Rivers winning player of the month doesn’t really excite me. I know he’d trade that reward for some more wins in a heartbeat. He claimed, however, in a recent U-T piece that we don’t need to sacrifice passing yards for a win. I still preach balance. I grew up loving the Bolts that passed all the time, but I know get most excited when I see a back rip off a run and finish with a punishing hit. Is it because I also question the toughness of this team? Absolutely. The same thing applies to the blocking and defensive line play. I saw Acee mention in his Male Sack that “wining one on one battles on the defensive line has been the problem for the last three years.” I can’t say that I disagree and I assert that sadly it is the biggest reason we haven’t even reached the Super Bowl. Incidentally, Bob Papa, Jr., who spoke so highly of the team before the December game at Nashville (I posted his XX1090 interview before he called the game) said on Thursday that he still can’t believe we didn’t at least reach the Super Bowl last year.
But let’s focus on the present. I threw up a little in my mouth watching Luis Castillo try to chase Chris Johnson on his touchdown run. Steve Gregory’s return will undoubtedly help on Sunday, but this team needs to find a way to get pressure on Schaub. The last time we faced him in 2007, we beat the shit out of him. I keep seeing Barnes and Hip Hop Garay get close to sacking quartbacks, but that isn’t good enough. I know that Phillips is being double teamed on most plays.
I give Rivers a lot of credit for getting it done with so many receivers out. I don’t think that should be used as an excuse, however. He’d be (and was) the first guy to admit that even with all the special teams blunders, he had a chance to lead the team into the end zone for either the win or tie in all our losses. When I hear that Jackson is so much better than the guys we have on the roster, I do wonder whether we should reconsider trying to keep him. But what happens the rest of the way will have an effect on that. Then again, it’s the defense that needs playmakers most of all. Maybe it’s time for AJ to use that Jax money to get someone not off our or someone else’s practice squad. I mean, I like Applewhite and all, but…
If you took a look at the special teams article that Sports Illustrated ran, you’ll see that Applewhite had to beg Steve Crosby to keep him on kicks after the first block in Oakland. Yet, he blew it again as McMichael did on Sunday. By the way, when I read Crosby’s quote that we are missing blocks “that Ray Charles could have made,” I realize that he’s not only stupid but kind of offensive.
You know I am not a San Francisco Giants fan, but could their embrace of the Grateful Dead this year have something to do with their recent World Series win? Nah, I think it’s just the pitching. Yes, that is The Fat Man after he sang the national anthem on 4/12/93.
Going back to where I started, I think we need to keep running the ball. It helps out in so many ways. It keeps our defense off the field. It makes it that much easier for Rivers to throw. It wears down the opposition. It shows we actually have some balls. I am still pissed at his two fumbles, but Tolbert was a beast against Tennesee. I think it really made all the difference.
The move to Bloguin is still a few weeks away, but I wanted to unveil the new JIC banner that will be on the site. I thought it was time to give Tombstone back its font after 16 years. Plus, the Humphries-era lettering doesn’t get much love any more.
In closing, it has become very fashionable lately to trash the Chargers. No one does it more than me since I am angry at how much we have not accomplished. I will say the same thing I did in 2008–I am not going to root for us to have a horrible record just so we can get rid of the coach. The last time we missed the playoffs entirely, 10-6 would not have even been good enough to make the postseason. Shit, the Patriots missed out in 2008 with an 11-5 record. Incidentally, there has been a lot of talk about New England since they are the only team in the NFL with one loss. Are they the best team? Probably not, but they are making the one or two plays that are the difference between winning and losing. That is all that matters.
If you take issue with LT saying that his current team is the best he’s ever been on, just think of what he’ll say if he wins a ring. We can’t stop that unless we’re in the playoffs as well. We’ve dug quite a hole for ourselves. I know the records of the five teams we’ve lost to isn’t aren’t nearly as bad as they were a year ago. But there is no question that we’ve made crucial errors instead of crucial plays in those games. Do that again and the season’s over. If we don’t, what kind of a future do we really have?
I don’t know, but I’d love to find out. It’s certainly better than the alternative.
By the way, I spotted another good nickname for Kaeding–The Great Gazoo. When Mark Kelso played in Buffalo, his oversized helmet made me think of the Harvey Korman voiced character, also.
Let’s ruin someone else’s Sunday.