To say that the San Diego Chargers didn’t pass their first of four upcoming AFC West tests against the Denver Broncos on Sunday would be a fair assessment. Clearly the Bolts wanted to get the win for their head coach Mike McCoy who was facing his former club for the first time since getting the San Diego job this past offseason, but it could be argued that the Chargers at least proved a worthy adversary for Peyton Manning and company. The biggest takeaway from this game, however, has to be just how irrelevant statistics can be sometimes.
San Diego controlled the clock by a staggering margin on Sunday with 38:03 of possession to Denver’s measly 21:57. The key part to that time spent with the ball in hand, however, is just what did the offense ultimately do with it to finish off drives. That is where the Broncos passed the test and the Chargers failed miserably.
Scoring points when in position to do so has been a bugaboo for the Bolts already this season. Just last week San Diego lost their tight tilt with the Washington Redskins due to their inability to punch the ball in over the goal line on a first-and-goal from the one-yard line. All of the time of possession in the world is wonderful when you have points to show for it, but settling for field goals just isn’t going to cut it.
The scoring drives for the Broncos lasted just 57 seconds; 2:27, 1:25, and 3:26. Combined that is just 8:15 off of the game clock, but what team wouldn’t gladly hand the ball back to an opponent if they were able to add a total of 28 points to their score after just 8 minutes and 15 seconds? The other 51:45 of game time resulted in just 20 points for the Chargers so Denver could have theoretically just taken a knee on all of their other possessions and still secured a comfortable victory over the Bolts.
It may seem like using the ground game and actually possessing football is a step in the right direction for this Chargers team, but that is a very deceiving notion as well. The problem is lead back Ryan Mathews is still having trouble finding consistency and seeing lanes to run through. Whether you blame that on the offensive line or not is irrelevant, but the fact is his final numbers of 14 carries for 59 yards look solid on first blush but quickly disintegrate upon further examination. When you subtract the fact that one of those totes went for 35 yards on its own his other 13 attempts for a measly 24 yards aren’t all that impressive.
As much as Charger fans want to see the old Philip Rivers under center the fact remains that at least some of that previous success has to be attributed to the receivers. And the sad reality of that currently is San Diego simply lacks adequate weapons to allow Rivers to be successful on a regular basis. There’s no doubt Keenan Allen has the potential to develop into an outstanding receiver, but he is just a rookie and is not physically imposing in the least. Expecting him to take over a game at this stage of his career is complete lunacy.
Even if the injury bug hadn’t bitten so hard this year with both Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out for the year, this receiving corps doesn’t have the horses to allow San Diego to keep up with the Broncos. Antonio Gates is starting to show his age, Eddie Royal is a situational weapon at best, and Vincent Brown has yet to show the game-breaking potential many projected him to have a season ago.
Until San Diego can consistently turn lengthy drives into touchdowns instead of settling for field goals the playoffs may be merely an unattainable dream for this squad. There are still three big AFC West clashes remaining that will ultimately decide their fate, but the Chargers clearly have some work to do before they can be considered true contenders.