Here are five lessons we learned from Thursday night’s 33-28 loss to the Chicago Bears.
1. Cut Down on Turnovers – It’s very tough to win in the NFL when you turn the ball over four times like the Chargers did Thursday night. The sudden changes gave the Bears great field position and allowed them to earn points without having to move the ball very far. Two fumbles, an interception and a botched punt led to three scoring drives for the home team, and according to head coach Mike McCoy, that is simply unacceptable.
“That’s one area we definitely have to improve upon going on the road next week again. I’m very disappointed in the (amount) of turnovers we had…We’ve got to improve that.”
“We moved the ball well. We just can’t turn the ball over. Really, that’s the only negative I can find offensively. Obviously you want to score. But I thought the guys up front were solid. We got beat one time. The other time, the sack-fumble was 100% my fault. I was too deep. I looked at the picture and saw it right away. It was absolutely perfect by the left tackle. He’s running the guy by him 10-plus yards deep, and there I am standing there. But I can fix that. That’s already been fixed right now. And you start to see there’s the difference between a gimme touchdown to Vincent Brown or a sack-fumble.”
2. Special Teams Needs to Step Up– No matter how good your offense or defense plays, mistakes on special teams are game changers. The Chargers learned that the hard way Thursday night. After allowing a 45-yard opening kickoff return, it only continued to get worse after that as they muffed a punt, gave up a 100-yard kickoff return and had a critical punt blocked in the fourth quarter. McCoy reiterated the need for players to step up in the third phase of the game:
“I’m going to go back, evaluate, sit down with (special teams coordinator) Kevin Spencer and talk about what exactly happened. During the game, you see certain things happen. We make sure we look at the film close and see what exactly happened. What happened on the big return? (Marcus) Cromartie had a great tackle. That’s the effort you need on special teams. You have to play not to give up and believe. It’s a want to play special teams. You got to want to dominate the guy in front of you and say ‘You can’t be blocked’. It takes special people to be on special teams. That’s why it’s called special teams.”
3. Defense Did Better Than Score Indicates– They surrendered 33 points, but taking away a 58-yard run by Matt Forte , the Chargers defense had a strong game. They were put in a tough position all night long with Chicago’s average starting field position in San Diego territory. Still, they limited the damage many times to field goals which kept the Bolts in the game. Afterwards, McCoy defended his defense’s performance:
“The defense, give them a lot of credit. They kept us in the game. I know the points that they gave up, but there was poor field position the entire for the defense. It put them in a bind. They stepped up and answered the bell in sudden change situations there. They did a nice job…If the defense eliminates the one big run, they had a pretty decent day.”
“The way Ryan Mathews ran the football today was outstanding. We ran the football efficiently tonight, and I think the way he’s running the football that’s what we’re looking for…The future is now. We’re not worried about the past. This game’s now behind him and we’ve got to build off it. I talked to him a couple of times during the game (that) the way he was running the football, that’s the way he’s got to be. We’re not looking back. We’re going to keep moving on and he’s going to get better every week.”
5. Learn and Move Forward– Midway through the preseason slate, there is no time for the Chargers to dwell on the past. Instead they need to review the tape and learn from their mistakes as they prepare for next Saturday in Arizona. After all, that’s what training camp and the preseason is all about. Here is what McCoy had to say about focusing on improving the club:
“There are no excuses here. We’re going to move on. We’re going to learn from the film. We’ll go back and have a meeting tomorrow with the team, and we’ll evaluate the film as a staff and make whatever changes or improvements we have to do moving forward