The banged-up San Diego Chargers entered Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans without both starting inside linebackers Donald Butler and Manti Te’o, starting cornerback Shareece Wright, starting wide receiver Malcom Floyd, and starting right tackle D.J. Fluker. Making things worse, the team lost starting left guard Chad Rinehart and starting left tackle King Dunlap during the game.
The injures forced them to completely reshuffle their offensive line late in the game, rely on special teamers at linebacker, and play a cornerback signed off the street last week in crunch time. The result: another blown fourth-quarter lead and heartbreaking loss.
The Chargers got conservative on offense late in the game, likely due to being shorthanded along the reshuffled offensive line. With three starters out, two players – Mike Harris and Jeromey Clary – playing out of position, and backup guards thrust into the starting lineup, the Chargers ran the ball eight times on their nine fourth-quarter plays. Despite the fact that Philip Rivers threw only four incompletions all game, the Bolts kept the ball out of his hands likely fearing that the offensive line wouldn’t be able to hold up against the Titans pass rush. If the Bolts are expected to buy into Mike McCoy’s system, he’s going to need to trust his players to do their jobs and allow them to try to win the game.
On defense, the Bolts allowed 170 yards rushing, including big runs by Jake Locker, who rushed for 68 yards on five carries. Special teamers Bront Bird and Reggie Walker starting inside certainly had a lot to do with the open running lanes available to Locker and Chris Johnson. Additionally, thrusting newly-signed cornerback Crezdon Butler into the lineup late in the game shouldn’t happen at all if the team had better depth. Butler got beat by rookie Justin Hunter for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left in the game.
The good news is that Floyd is in the only one of the many injured players who is expected to miss a long period of time. The others could return in time for this Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Chargers will certainly need them.