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Mike McCoy: "It Comes Down to Not Finishing"
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On third down, Vincent Brown caught a pass a few yards short of his intended destination. But as time dwindled in the first half, the third-year wideout wasn't going to be denied a touchdown.
That convert-at-all-costs mindset was apparent when Brown and other Chargers put in the extra work it took to move the chains in the first half. It was also sorely missed when the Chargers went 0-for-4 on third down in the second half, letting the Texans back in a game they trailed by 21 points.
In that second half, the Chargers looked like a different team than the one that went six-for-nine on third downs and converted their only fourth down try.
Philip Rivers can't point to one reason why the stats went sour on the game's most crucial plays. He only knows his offense didn't execute.
"We just couldn't convert," said Rivers. "They (the Texans) had something to do with that. It was some of their doing, and some of ours."
The Chargers were the masters of their own third-down fate in the first 30 minutes, though. The offense extended drive after drive and looked better than the Texans -- a playoff team last season that excelled on third down last season.
The Texans were the NFL's stingiest defense on third down a year ago, holding opponents to a measly 28.2 percent conversion rate.
That never phased players like Danny Woodhead, though. The new Chargers running back impressively caught two third down passes for first downs on the Bolts' second scoring drive.
The second, a catch that ended just short after Woodhead dove for the marker, set up fourth and short. McCoy instantly called for his offense to return to the field, and Ryan Mathews vindicated his call with a tough run up the middle.
The Bolts cashed that conversion in for seven points just minutes later.
"The effort was there," McCoy said. “We need to just keep building off that.”
McCoy will have plenty of positive teaching moments to choose from when he looks at the first half tape. He dialed up some perfect plays to stay on the attack in the first half, and his offense often delivered. More importantly, they turned third downs into scoring chances when they reached scoring range.
It all changed in the second half.
Eddie Royal was hit hard enough to pry away a pass on third and nine. J.J. Watt tipped a pass heading for an open Antonio Gates. And when the Texans tied the game at 28 apiece, Royal dropped a drive-extending corner route.
“You just want to win the ones in the fourth quarter, and at the end of the day we didn’t do that,” Royal said. “We left a lot of plays out there.”
After the first drive of the half ended in a touchdown, the Chargers faced four third downs. They punted all four times.
"It comes down to not finishing a football game," McCoy said. "We didn't move the ball effectively enough on the last couple possessions. We just didn't finish it."