The scoreboard may not indicate it and the stats might not point it out either, but the way the San Diego Chargers lost to a reeling Miami Dolphins team on Sunday was their worst dropped game of the season.
What this game highlighted more than anything with the Bolts is their inability to correct the mistakes that have plagued them all season long. This team has butchered the art of tackling on the regular this season, but it’s hard to remember a game where the team struggled this badly. Dolphins tight end Charles Clay in particular made the Chargers look foolish with at least four broken tackles en route to the end zone on a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
And it’s not just one guy, either.
Players across the board continue to take poor angles and fail to wrap guys up at the point of contact. Gang tackling has been basically nonexistent for this team as they have preferred to go for the kill-shot as opposed to make the sound, fundamental take-down. This current three-game losing skid for the Bolts coming out of the bye week has exposed their flaws when it comes to a lack of defensive toughness, and that’s one of those things that takes a complete fundamental change to alter – which is pretty much impossible mid-season.
Head coach Mike McCoy was clearly frustrated with what he saw from his team on Sunday as he told U-T San Diego:
“The mistakes we talked about at halftime – on the first drive offensively and defensively, we made the exact same mistakes we were trying to clean up.”
Now mathematically the Bolts are still very much a part of the cloudy AFC playoff mix at 4-6. They still have four of their remaining six contests at home with four big AFC West tilts left on the schedule as well. But this loss to the Dolphins was more about the lack of desire and a real question of will for a Chargers team that has battled psychological issues for a while now. Taking on a team in Miami with an ongoing saga was supposed to cure what ailed this team not further illuminate the issue at hand.
While the schedule still affords the opportunity at redemption it also gets much more difficult with the easy games out of the bye now behind them. Now two battles with the Kansas City Chiefs along with a road trip to the Denver Broncos and home clashes with the playoff bound Cincinnati Bengals as well as the suddenly hot Oakland Raiders and New York Giants makes the remaining task somewhat daunting.
Leave it to a veteran to properly sum things up as tight end Antonio Gates said:
“You want to be a certain type of team. You want to find an identity, if you will. You look at those 10 games, somehow, we created an identity. Whether or not you like it, whether or not it’s positive, negative, it doesn’t matter. You created one. That’s who you are at this point in the season. As of right now, we just can’t make these mistakes and assume we’re going to overcome them because we haven’t been able to do it throughout this year.”
Whether this loss brings this team together for an inspired late-season run or divides them and sends the season into an ugly downward spiral is the elephant in the room. Let’s hope coach McCoy and the veterans in the locker room can help galvanize this team down the stretch or his first season in San Diego with so many bright spots will look awfully dark during a long offseason.