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Uncharacterstic Plays Too Much to Overcome
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The San Diego Chargers did so much right for long stretches of the 2013 season which made it frustrating to so many of the players to commit such uncharacteristic plays against Denver for the majority of the game.
“Give credit to them because they had a good game plan and switched it up a little bit,” said Ronnie Brown. “We started out slow and didn’t make enough plays. We just didn’t do the things we are capable of. We didn’t do the things we are accustomed to doing. Whether that was getting into third and shorts or converting third downs, we weren’t able to do that and offensively that set us back. That was uncharacteristic and something we hadn’t done in the latter part of the season. But hats off to those guys.
During the five-game winning streak, the team played the brand of complementary ball Head Coach Mike McCoy constantly preaches. On Sunday they were unable to do so. After the defense forced a key turnover early in the second quarter, the offense was unable to muster a sustained drive. They set up a long 53-yard Nick Novak field goal, but the special teams unit couldn’t pinch in with points as Novak slipped as he kicked. The resulting miss gave Denver strong field position, and they made San Diego pay by marching down the field for a 14-0 lead.
Overall, the offense was out of synch for a large portion of the game. The best team in the league at converting third downs managed to make only four of 12 attempts. Known for dominating time of possession with long drives, San Diego actually lost the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Bolts found their groove, but by then it was too late, and Philip Rivers lamented that fact after the game.
“We didn’t take advantage of our possessions,” he said. “The defense forced) a turnover right there at mid-field and we didn’t do anything with it. We got a break with that face mask in the first part of the game and didn’t do anything with it. We just didn’t convert on first downs. And we didn’t manage first and second down all that great. We weren’t in a good rhythm and when you’re going against that offense—I mean, our defense did a good job to keep them to 14—but that’s no place you want to be in this environment against this team. They outplayed us today, especially in the first half. When you dig a hole like that, it’s hard to overcome.”
The team also made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes. For instance, against the Cincinnati Bengals they made the opposition pay for being careless with the ball, but on the first Broncos drive of the game, Shareece Wright dropped an easy interception. Denver made the Bolts pay by cashing in an early touchdown and they would retain the lead the rest of the way. The Chargers also had five neutral zone infraction penalties on the day while entering the game having only three the entire season. McCoy after the game said you can’t give Peyton Manning that many free yards and possessions with those types of self-inflicted mistakes.
To the credit of the Chargers, everyone accepted responsibility for their own shortcomings, not placing the finger toward anyone else. A great example of this is D.J. Fluker, who said it was unforgiveable to give up sacks even though he was hobbled by an ankle injury.
“The way we executed and communicated wasn’t up to par, but I take responsibility because part of that was my fault,” said the rookie. “I should never give up sacks, especially like the ones in the first quarter of the game. We came to life eventually, and it was about how much effort we put into it, and I take blame for (my shortcomings).”
Eventually the Chargers played the brand of ball they are used to, but it proved to be not enough. The end result was the end of the Bolts season.
“I just think we came out flat and it was not what we wanted to do,” said Keenan Allen. “We couldn’t capitalize on third downs in the first half. We tried to turn it around but it was too little too late.” Read