San Diego Chargers: A Break-Even Team, or Is There More?

Jonnie ForbesCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2008

When the fourth-quarter clock reads 00:00, hindsight starts getting clear immediately. Moments after immediately, it becomes 20/20.

After six games into the season, hindsight should show the Chargers all they need to progress beyond mediocrity. But will it happen?

Currently at 3-3, there are two games in the loss column that just as easily could've been wins. The passionate fans can point at bad officiating and maybe dumb luck on those two games. But the fact remains that while those games were lost in the final seconds, it was the Chargers' defense that allowed those opponents to score enough points to even be in a position to win in the final seconds.

Shawne Merriman is perhaps the most missed man in Chargerland. With his pressure on the quarterback amounting to 16.5 sacks last season, opposing offenses are finding it easier to move the ball without number 56 lurking about.

The Chargers are fourth in the AFC in points allowed, and that stat can be directly attributed to the missing Merriman formation.

Conversely, the Chargers lead the AFC in points scored at 178, and are even one point ahead of the No. 1 NFC team, the Arizona Cardinals. When you normally think Chargers offense, you think LT. But a nagging toe injury, combined with nearly all of his carries being telegraphed to opposing defenses, has lead to his current 3.7 yards per carry average.

No, it's Philip Rivers' 14 TD passes that has accounted for more than half the Chargers Points-For statistic. That stat dovetails perfectly with the fact that two-thirds of the Chargers' losses were literally lost with the defense on the field.

But Rivers cannot do it alone. There has to be a running game to balance Rivers' throwing game. Darren Sproles is exciting coming out of the backfield, but even he only averages five yards per carry. The O-line has to explode off the line to create running opportunities. Force defenses to further clog the middle, to open up the sides for end runs and screen passes.

So what does hindsight tell the Chargers' coaching staff? The Chargers can score points; the Miami game not withstanding. Globally, the defense has to find some raw intensity that can force opposing quarterbacks to rush throws, which can lead to more interceptions. They have to find the smash-mouth element to stop the run; which leads offenses to more rushed passes and more in-completes and interceptions.

The Chargers are not a break-even team. There is more. They just have to find it.