Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm Already Missing this Chargers Team

It's hard to talk about it while Peyton Manning is still out there throwing 1 yard touchdowns and on his way to the Superbowl, but we probably really need to go ahead and talk about this season.

The bottom line is that you have to be pretty happy about the overall return on a season that those "in the know" all claimed would be some sort of rebuild or the final nail in Phillip Rivers' coffin. Even I, who pegged us at 12-4 and winning the division (a feat not so far off had we not given up a few games we had no business losing), am tickled pink by what this group was able to accomplish this year. A 9-7 record and a playoff win on the road is nothing to scoff at, even if bitter dickwads want to continue to complain that we should have been eliminated by a silly ticky-tack penalty that went uncalled and that clearly if the refs hadn't been in the bag for us the Steelers would be taking their rightful place in the Superbowl on the strength of their wicked 8-8 record. Pfft. Win more games, Pittsburgh.

Obviously there are things that will stick in our craw about the season.

1) That crap penalty the officials did call on a field goal in the first game of the season that led to an opening Monday night loss to a team that went on to garner a 14 game losing streak. Where's the outrage on that one Sports America?

2) The mere fact that we once again were forced to open on Monday night for the 3rd time in 4 years. Get used to it, I guess. Fact is, we're pencilled in there going forward because they aren't going to punish the Seahawks or the Niners with that shit.

3) That last desperate TD pass by Jake Locker to steal a victory in Tennessee. Jake Locker?! That pass made everyone believe Locker was a viable solution in Tennessee for like four weeks!

4) Moving the Raiders game to 8:30 Sunday Night because freaking baseball! I'm not going to blame that loss completely on that move, but it was still pretty weak. I mean, it's not like they just this year realized baseball is a thing. Seriously, look at half the fields in football in September. There's a frickin' baseball diamond on there and it isn't because Russell Wilson is about to start hammering dingers at halftime! He was a two sport athlete, so it makes sense.

5) The Redskins game.

6) Ryan Mathews capping off an outstanding season by being injured once again and when we needed him most. Look, injuries happen, but if they're your thing, they're your thing, and I don't know how that doesn't factor into what we decide to do with him during the offseason.

7) The coaching staff inexplicably refusing to acknowledge that the running game wasn't going anywhere without a healthy Mathews and refusing to go down field until the final minutes of our playoff loss to the filthy Broncos. That's a tough pill to swallow. And I don't think it has as much to do with job interviews as it does with a stoic refusal to bail out on a gameplan that was not paying any dividends.

That's a long list. I hate to sound gloomy there, because I don't feel gloomy about this season. Damn if there weren't things to be happy about.

1) The draft. The jury's still out on Teo, but there's still time. Next year hopefully he'll have a full training camp and be up to game speed opening day. Fluker is a monster on the line and Keenan Allen is a superstar. Everything else is gravy in a draft like that.

2) Phillip Rivers proving a lot of fans wrong. It takes a line, people. And this season we managed to field one. Rivers looked like he's got at least five years left in him. No chants for Whitehurst from frustrated fans this year. Hopefully never again.

3) The police docket. I'm not sure if you noticed, but aside from one scrub LB getting tossed by the SDPD for a barroom scuffle after the last regular season game, no Chargers showed up on the police report this season as far as I can remember. No DUIs. No domestic disturbances. No champaigne bottles upside the skull. While we may miss the on field production of a guy like Shaun Phillips, I dare say we don't miss the locker room presence.

4) Rehabilitation. When the team was 5-7 and a lot of people-myself included-had all but written them off for the postseason, nobody even wanted Melvin Ingram to try to return for the season. Why risk aggravating a serious injury for a lost season. Well, Ingram came back, contributed to great effect, and apparently gave a struggling defense something to rally around. Things never got perfect on defense this year, but they definitely showed us something in those last few weeks, and much of that starts with Ingram's unlikely return.

4) Danny Woodhead.

That shifty little SOB. You gotta love him. Especially if you drafted him late in a PPR league. His output diminished some as Mathews came on late, but what a season he had. So many people like to refer to him as Sprolesish, but Norv never used Sproles the way this staff used Woodhead. No disrespect to the very deservedly beloved Sproles, but Woodhead's performance far eclipsed anything Sproles ever did with this team. Lock him up.

5) Ryan Mathews. It's only fair after blasting Mathews for being injured during our dimissal from the playoffs, to point out what a tremendous year Mathews contributed. Protected the ball well and achieved statistically on the same level as a guy like Shady McCoy. No matter what happened to close out the post, it would be crazy not to see if you can keep this guy in the stable.

6) Competitiveness. So many of our losses by a pittance. That's a sign of a team on the come. A field goal here, a stop there. We're a team getting better, and those things will start to go our way. Being in every game means something. It'll make these players hungrier. We have guys who've accomplished those things and guys that will yearn to do so after being so close. And I think this management and coaching staff will nurture that. It's a fabulous mix right now.

7) Discipline. This goes hand in hand with #3, but this team sure seemed focused on the fundamentals this year. Protecting the ball. Controlling the clock. At times it was frustrating to watch them do things by the numbers or too conservatively, but I can't help but feel that the idea was to lay a foundation for the future. In that respect, maybe this was something of a rebuild. A rebuild with a side of success, perhaps?

And for the first time in a long time I feel like there is success on the horizon. I'm not worried that our management will decide to throw the locker room into turmoil by making an example of our most talented players in off-season negotiations. I'm not concerned that our coach will merely update the cover sheet on the playbook to read 2014. I'm excited to see what new talent Tom Telesco will bring in. I'm excited to see the way the current roster responds to this years' accomplishments and I can't wait to see what new wrinkles the coaching staff will have in store for next season. Man, it's been so long since I could say "Wait til next year" like it's a good thing, but I feel like that right now.

Thanks for a fun season, Chargers. Thanks for making me care again. Go Bolts!!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

We Should All Watch the Game on Sunday

Okay, it is getting cray-cray around here. My esteemed cohort is predicting blowouts and people I don’t even know are vociferously defending this guy’s hairdo.

Look, I get it, everybody loves Eric Weddle. I’m in. I’m with you guys. He’s been real good. He made the Pro Bowl. He’s an undersized white guy and that is national media bait. And somehow that is not at all racist! Shit is off the hook. On Inside the NFL, they mic'd up Weddle and spent the whole Chargers-Bengals segment pretending we are a defensive team and it was actually pretty convincing. We are Cinderella. We are wildcard darlings. This is playoff football. And not Norv Turner Playoff football, but pre-Turner “This Could be Real” Playoff football.

Nick Canepa is seething, Kevin Acee is begging and the real sports jerks are actually talking about us. Of course, no one out there on the national landscape really believes we have a chance. Sure, they’ll pay lip service to our “nothing to lose” status and whacky Superbowl trends like the Philadelphia Prophecy, but in actuality, no one is putting their money where their mouths are. And why is that? Because, as I said a million times before so it must be true, people who get paid to talk about sports have no cajones. There’s no skin in picking the Chargers. If you pick us, and we lose, you look stupid. If you pick Denver, and they lose, well who could have seen that coming? They like who they like and it almost always coincides with the public sentiment as it’s reflected by Vegas. Allow me to illustrate. Most people are picking the beloved Seahawks to clobber the Saints this weekend. As evidence of this, they recall the regular season loss to the Seahawks that the Saints suffered already. Conversely, the same people treat San Diego’s regular season win in Denver as a complete anomaly.

The truth is, no one knows who’s going to win. But if I were to pick us, here’s why. Peyton Manning cannot put the game in any other person’s hands. Never has been able to. We will get after him and we will rattle him and he will continue to go out of his way to prove that it’s him and his stat sheet and his lousy playoff record against the world. If they want to counter our ball control, time of possession offense they would need to apply a healthy dose of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.  Peyton just can’t help himself, though. He’ll throw the ball inside the five and he’ll try to convert everything through the air. That’s the Peyton way, and that’s why he usually falls short in the post.

If I were to pick the Broncos, here’s why. Ryan Mathews will not be 100%. Mathews has become the bread and butter over the last 5 weeks. Moving the chains and making plays. When he went out against the Bengals it severely hampered our ability to convert the short downs. We need to be able to grind clock. We need to score TDs in the red zone. Mathews is an essential part of this. Can we beat Manning in a shootout? Maybe. But we’ve been better when we can keep it in the trenches as well.

Given those two options, I like us Sunday (of course I do). Peyton’s ego is a certainty, but Mathews is expected to play. Look for him to finally earn that second “T” for his last name.

As for Weddle’s grooming situation, maybe my problem is that he appears to have modeled his look after this guy.

One of the worst characters in one of the worst movies ever that I cannot stop watching. Seriously, if they had a channel that just played Prometheus and Point Break back to back 24/7 I’d quit my job and in a year they’d have to remove the wall to my house and surgically remove me from my couch before taking me to the hospital in a forklift. But hey, Weddle can do whatever the hell he wants if he helps us get a championship here in San Diego.

Go Weddle! Go Bolts!!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

We Did Not Back Into the Playoffs!

It's more like we were pushed over a lawn chair into the playoffs. This team, that even under previous head loser Norv Turner has typically been a strong finisher, reached the playoffs yesterday by way of several other more failier teams doing their thing, a missed field goal and some serious help from the officials on said missed field goal as well as one of the most ill advised yet successful punt fakes in league history.

All of this against the Chiefs practice squad.

Look, I'm as happy as anyone that we got in and I'm certainly not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it's difficult to look at the last two wins and like our chances to do much in the post. Against the Raiders, we settled for field goals against a team that gives up TDs like it's going out of style. And yesterday, this defense that had recently started to kind of acquit itself, made some guy named Knile Davis look like the second coming of Priest Holmes and probably pushed Chase Daniel into the starting quarterback market for next season. And again, they settled for a field goal to get into overtime instead of winning the game on a TD and it nearly cost us the season.

But we're in, and you can't win if you don't get in, so how can I complain? Well, I'm a natural complainer, that's how. It's too late in the season to keep making the same mistakes. You can no longer stumble along blindly, hoping the other team makes more mistakes than you or that the refs won't notice your illegal formation on a field goal coverage that very likely should have cost us the playoffs.  It's one and done now. We're off to Cincinatti, a team we couldn't beat in our house a month and a half ago and a team that hasn't lost in their own house all season. It's time to start putting the ball into the endzone. It's time to start tackling. It's time to stop making rookie mistakes.

Don't take all of my doom and gloom here the wrong way. At the beginning of the season I had us going 12-4 and handily making the playoffs. And 6 weeks ago I had all but written us off like most people, so I am absolutely thrilled to be here. If only for the fact that AJ Smith and Norv Turner both so smugly shrugged off our chances and tied themselves to truly horrific franchises during the offseason. Those two must be in dour moods this morning. Or for the fact that Nick Canepa put all of our silly playoff talk to rest weeks ago. What a glorious day for us angry villagers. No matter what foibles and warts this team shows, it is a team that is going in the right direction and I love it. It feels good to actually care enough to be disappointed again. This is a team on the rise and that feels good after so many years of decline. But, as I am a modern day American, I expect more and I expect it now, so we need to win the Superbowl.

Are you ready for some extra football?! Go Bolts!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

I'm Fashioning A Shiv Right Now

Okay, we've really been slacking here, but in our defense this season went off the rails pretty badly. I had to rethink everything I ever thought I knew about football. I mean, is it possible that my early prediction of a 12-4 season was biased in some way by some strange factor? My love of the team? My hatred of Norv and AJ? My desperate need to see a San Diego Chargers Superbowl Championship before they get the Hell* out of dodge? I don't know. I apparently know nothing.

What is there to say at this point? We're still technically in it? I'm still technically in it in one of my fantasy leagues where I started 0-7, but I'm not going to start popping champaign over it. I could mention how injuries on this squad have been ridiculous this year, but what's the point? I could read off a laundry list of key players who are out for the season. Denario Alexander, Malcolm Floyd, Jared Gaither**, Melvin Ingram***, Dwight Freeney, Your Mom and a ton of other guys who've missed time like it's alien abduction week on Desination America, but what's the point? No, I'm still hopeful that this team is heading in the right direction, or at least the "righter" direction, but to think this season is going to be the kind of pleasant surprise I was hoping for is silly. I mean, believe me, I'm still rooting and crying and breaking stuff and whatnot, but I've accepted our fate. I'm just going to go ahead and be thankful we're not the Falcons or their fans. Those people actually thought they were going to the superbowl this year. Ouch.

Anyway, that's all well and good and I'm glad we're all in agreement, but Chargers football is not what I'm here to talk about. What I want to discuss is Charlie Manson. Yes, that Chuck Manson. Charleston Manson's not being shanked to death in jail by now is really testing my faith in the system. Can we get somebody on that? A recent article states that some 25 year old woman wants to marry Chuck. Her name is Star. Obviously. Chuck gave her that name. Of course. But Chuck is like, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Fuck that shit. Not interested." Delightful! Charles Manson is almost as magical as Hitler. At some point, as a society, don't we have to look at 25 year old, perfectly healthy, not entirely unattractive women who want to marry a ridiculous homicidal weirdo like Chuck and say, "Nope, we're going to have to go ahead and put you down?" If she were a pitbull or a bear, she'd have been buried out back by now. I mean, what are the odds she's going to "snap out of it" and start contributing? This world. If there's any justice she will be knocked out by a group of any old teenagers anywhere playing a game that all teenagers play regardless of any apparent significant relative factors.

Thanks for allowing me to rant. Way too big a post for Facebook. Enjoy your football weekend. I think we clobber the Chiefs. Go Bolts!!!

*Why won't my phone capitalize Hell? It's a fucking place. And we're all probably going there.
**He will always be a Charger. That's the jersey they'll hang in the Hall someday.
***I know he might be coming back, but I don't know why.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Expletives Abound...

It's taken me a couple days to shake off Sunday's throat punch loss. What could have been a season defining win, turned ugly and awful in one fell swoop. While the sky still isn't falling, there was a real opportunity there for the team to establish themselves as not favorites to win the crown, but contenders that no one would want to play. Unfortunately, the series of events at the end of regulation did not allow for that to materialize.

We can rehash what happened on the final series of downs inside the one yard line all we want and second guess the play calling and the offensive approach, but that doesn't change the result. Should we have gone power formation and slammed the ball in on first down? Yes. Did we? No. Why? No one knows and Mike McCoy isn't tipping his hand either. Criticism was heaped upon him and the staff from all pundits and angles and while I'm sure that McCoy isn't pleased about the end result, hopefully this is a teaching moment and that sort of conservative approach is ushered out of the play book with extreme haste.

Many are blaming the refereeing for some atrocious calls, namely the phantom pass interference call, the phantom unnecessary roughness call, and yes the atrocious spot on the Woodhead non touchdown call. However, let's not lose sight of the Woodhead fumble that clearly went in our favor. Now, as much as I want to pile on the refs and blame somebody for the nauseating loss, this one falls squarely on our staff. Again, this was an opportunity to really define this football team. A last minute comeback victory on the road would have really boosted this team's confidence and I firmly believe would have given the young players even more
motivation for the rest of the season. Alas, after inside handoff for no gain, poorly executed and thought out fade route, and finally designed roll out for the least mobile quarterback in the history of football, the guys got on the team charter for the long ride home with the stench of defeat oozing from their pores. Sad. Really really sad.

Max and I dwelled on this for far too long last night continuing to question why the apparent fear of failure from inside the one yard line prevented us from giving the ball to our power running back, and or completely selling out for the victory in that situation. It was almost as if the vote of no confidence resurfaced at the most inopportune time for Mathews. It also appeared as if the comfort of overtime allowed those decisions to be made. What Max and I were unable to reconcile despite our many attempts was why that suddenly seemed to make sense. Why would the minute possibility of a Mathews fumble make overtime more appealing? Why not pound the ball into the end zone on four straight attempts? If you fail so what? You lose. But by not trying, we wound up playing for overtime where a coin flip and a tired defense were completely in play, and that thought process made sense to some. I'm truly at a loss.

So, now we get Denver, twice. Kansas City, twice. Miami and Cincinnati. That doesn't seem as appealing at 4-4 coming off a kick in the balls of a loss as it would at 5-3 with a  solid dose of bravado after squeaking out a victory across the country. I'd like to test the mettle of this team in the latter scenario, but we're forced to do it with the former. I guess this will be another telling moment as to where this team is. The team should feel like they won that game. I truly hope the staff can build on that and not let their failures trickle down to the guys.

Lost in Sunday's result is the fact that this team will make something of themselves and we are on the right road. However, the result from Sunday probably sealed our fate for the season and we'll in short order be thinking about 2014 rather than a cinderella playoff run in 2013. Unfortunate, but probably true. And that, in and of itself is what made Sunday so, so shitty. Sometimes, most times, being a Charger fan is tough tough business. This is one of those times.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Deja Vu All Over Again

That was a tough one. Especially because we didn't have to lose. The game was ours for the taking and we made some terrible choices that we are going to have to live with going into the decidedly tougher second half of our schedule.

All four of our losses have been difficult, but yesterday was atrocious. The defense kind of got hung with each of those previous losses whether that's fair or not. A lot of people would love to hang it on them again yesterday and it's hard to argue that. But I'm going to.  I'm certainly not the first to say any of this stuff, but I'm going to say it all anyway. If you have 1st and goal inside the ONE, with 21 seconds and two time outs, you win the game there or you lose the game there. That's it.

Danny Woodhead has been incredible for this team. Quietly even the MVP, probably. But one thing he has not proven to do particularly well is run at the goal line. And on a counter?! Just fuck that shit! Follow that up with two pass attempts that were very clearly meant to be no where near where a defender could get to them and thereby very hard for a receiver to get to, and it became clear we were playing for OT. From inside the fucking one!

At this point it's clear that the fear of a Ryan Mathews fumble has become a quite literally crippling fear of a Ryan Mathews fumble. There is no one else on the team who should touch the ball in that situation. He can go high, He can go low. He can move the pile. And what does a fumble matter anyway if you're going to go with that pussy ass bullshit? I haven't heard anything about Mathews being injured, but I honestly haven't looked to hard. I have no desire to read what's being written out there right now.

As far as those who want to pile on the defense, let me remind you all that the Redskins flipped the script on us on Sunday and controlled the clock masterfully. And still our defense was out there batting passes and doing their best. 24 points in regulation is not fantastic, but it's enough to give you a very good shot at the win and that is what we had. And then we handed it right back.

Final thoughts:

1) You're QB is 6'5". If you absolutely, positively refuse to let Mathews touch the ball at the end, maybe you let Rivers fall over for two feet to win the game.

2) I have so far been in the bag for this new coaching staff, but that counter to Woodhead was eerily reminiscent of the infamous Sproles-Lewis collision debacle that largely defined the Norv Turner area. Not okay.

3) A big "Fuck You" to whoever put that Keenan Allen drop on the cover of the UT. I, too, felt like that drop was devastating at the time, but the team rallied back from that largely due to the efforts of Allen himself. That drop ended up having almost nothing to do with the loss yesterday. Allen may be the very brightest spot on this young team right now, and why the local paper would try to get in his head like that is completely unfathomable to me. This is how you will know him.

4) The second half is a juggernaut. It's time to start overachieving.

Go Bolts!!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Wrap: Week 4. The God Awful Edition...

Ugh. Articulate I know. But really, ugh. What's really to say about the egg we laid in yet another albeit unexpected truly prime time slot. I hate to think that the late start had anything to do with that "performance" but that certainly wasn't the team of go getters we've sort of become accustomed to thus far this season. I'm not going to dwell on it for a couple of reasons, A) because I'd hate actually doing that, and B) it's Thursday night, I still haven't had the time to do a power ranking this season because my paying job trumps my volunteer job so this will be short and really fucking bitter. Ready, go.

Mistakes. Of them there were many. The secondary played well and truly awful in the first half. In the moment much wasn't made of Laserface's first pick due to it's wobbly flight and distance resembling a punt, though, the coverage unit was poor, and the first play from scrimmage went for a touchdown against the aforementioned poor secondary. So yeah, while it might have resembled a punt in the moment, it wasn't the good kind of punt. It was actually a turnover that was quickly converted to the maximum amount of points allowed.

The Royal fumble. I'm not going to get too down on Eddie because he has contributed much to this team in a very unexpected way in 2013. But, hot damned Eddie. That sucked. And also was quickly converted to the again, maximum allowable points in the form of another touchdown. Gah.

The Ryan Mathews Experiment. It's really time for this to end. They say it takes three years to evaluate a draft class. Well, considering this is year four, the longest run from scrimmage he's ever had is 39 yards, he's fumbled 13 times and lost 8 of them in 43 games played out of a possible 53, and he's likely to miss this week due to head injury, the grade on this one turned in. It's time to move on. The guy has proven to be exactly what he is. Not dynamic, not terrible, worried about fumbling constantly that his vision is shortsighted in that he must focus solely on not dropping the ball into the opponents bread basket. And yes, still injury prone. I know, a concussion is a concussion and I personally don't believe that this is a fragile moment that we've seen in the past, but the kid is hurt again. Unfortunately, he's not a very smart ballplayer and a brain contusion won't help his football IQ. The main issue I have here is that McCoy finally went with the guy in the way that Norv should have last year to see what we actually had in the draft pick that we traded fairly significant assets to move up and grab early. Norvy didn't do that so McCoy rightfully had to. Had Norv accomplished this last year, like both Max and I implored him to do, we could have already moved on. Better late than never I guess? Boo.

There is some rumor mongering at PFT that we're looking at making a move, or should be towards MJD in Jacksonville. Please let this come true. Please. Who do I need to beg for this to occur? Woodhead, while shifty and effective as a pass catcher out of the backfield, is not a feature back and that's where the Sproles comparisons should really parallel. He's a change of pace back that should not be handed delayed inside handoffs in critical fourth down situations inside the five yard line when a touchdown is needed. Good. We got that out of the way.

Laserface. Three interceptions. Bad day on the gridiron. What the hell is a gridiron anyway? I know he was pressing as we were down late, but the interception in the end zone was a pass that was thrown WAY too late, as Allen was open right off the line of scrimmage and PR held the ball about two seconds too long staring at an open receiver as if he couldn't believe how open he actually was, then delivered the ball far too late and the final nail was hammered home with intense malice. Gah. This was almost as egregious as the only other time I swore audibly at a volume my neighbors probably heard, when PR missed gates on the wide open bubble screen from inside the 10 yard line. The throw was so off line right from the start I swore before Gates awkwardly tried to adjust to a pass that should have hit him in the chest, but nearly killed someone else instead. I'm not going to harp on Laserface too much, but dammit, he left some plays out there that change the outcome of a must win game. GAH! It's so hard for me to suppress my desire to pepper  the hell out of this paragraph with expletives.

The positives. There are some. First, there is a lot of fight in this team. They didn't give up which is something that the old culture was devoid of. They simply ran out of time. Granted, they might have needed another week's worth of quarters to finally put it together but they never gave up.  Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen are pretty awesome guys to have on this team. Allen could be a star. No whammies. Finally, this may sound weird, but the second half defense deserves some credit. They gave up only three points, granted, they were three pretty big points but Pagano turned them loose and the finally started to get to Pryor. They were running fantastic blitzes and stunts and really righted the ship for the offense to get back in the game. However, once we were within the one score territory, Pagano called off the dogs and went back to the safe, conservative style and the winning field goal was born. Hey Pags, I feel like we're close enough to address you as Pags now, just turn the guys free. It's effective and certainly no worse to get burned being aggressive than sitting back and getting torched anyway. That was the most effective play you've coaxed out of these guys. They finally didn't look way in over their heads. Let her rip Pags. Nothing to lose.

Up next, the Colts. This is not a good opportunity for a win and mercifully we may be spared the violation of our eyesight by blackout. However, I'm confident that the game will be put on television though not sell out. You don't allow blackouts on nationally televised games. It's just not good for business. Seeing how we're supposed to get completely shredded by Andrew Luck anyway, we'll probably put up a 50 spot on them and win by 21. Don't hold me to that though, I'm not predicting that, I'm merely going against my gut that says we'll lose by the same margin. How's that for OPTIMISM suckers?! As always, things aren't as bad as they seem. We're on the right track. Go Bolts!