14-2, best record in the NFL, top seed in the conference, home field throughout the playoffs.Â What does all this buy you?Â A 2nd round exit in the playoffs.Â They picked off Tom Brady 3 times.Â 3 times!!Â So what went wrong?Â I have identified the biggest problems that led to the Chargers blowing the game.
First, the Chargers turned the ball over far too many times.Â This includes a bobbled punt by Eric Parker, who tried to scoop the ball up and run with it instead of falling on it after the muff.Â It also included an interception by Marlon McCreeÂ that would’ve given the Chargers the ball leading 21-13 with under 5 minutes remaining.Â Unfortunately McCree fumbled it right back to New EnglandÂ when he tried to run with it.
Second, they committed far too many penalties.Â The Chargers were penalized 6 times for 64 yards.Â The worst of which wasÂ a personal foul by Drayton Florence.Â The Pats hadÂ a 3rd and 13 at the Chargers 29 – Brady was sacked, fumbled, andÂ the Pats would’ve been out of field goal range where it was recovered.Â The Patriots got 15 yards and kicked a field goal to pull them within 1, at 14-13.Â Â Marty SchottenheimerÂ wasn’t very happy about the personal foul penaltiesÂ following the game:
“The personal foul penalities were very disappointing because what you end up doing there is you put yourÂ ownÂ personal feelings about a matter you put that ahead of the football team.Â It’s things like that that you work to try and resolve particularly with a young player.”Â Â
Third, they had incredible field position in the 1st half andÂ couldn’t cash in.Â 5 of their drives started at their 35 or better, and all they got wasÂ 7 points despite the great starting position.Â They continuously were caught in no-man’s land between the 30 and 40 – unsure of what to do.Â
Fourth, their ends on both sides of the ball stunk.Â Their receivers dropped a ridiculous amount of passes (see Vincent Jackson) and their cornerbacks got burnt.Â Specifically, Quentin Jammer was toasted byÂ Reche CaldwellÂ - who prior to Sunday couldn’t beat a parking ticket – on a bomb down the sideline to set up the game-winning field goal.Â
Lastly, the clock management (by Philip Rivers) on the last drive of the game was horrendous.Â The Chargers only ranÂ 4 plays in 1:05 on their final drive (not counting the spike).Â Nate Kaeding clearly didn’t have the leg for a 54 yarder to tie the game – you can’t tell me they couldn’t have used an extra play to get closer.Â Â Â
Clearly, Schottenheimer’s going to take the brunt of the blame for this one, although if you review the aforementioned points, he is not responsible for a lot of the blunders.Â Gotta love his quote after the game:
“Anytime you’re in theÂ playoffs and lose – and certainly I have experienceÂ at it, there’s a disappointment.Â “