I can’t imagine how Mike McCoy was feeling last night after putting up his first win as a head coach, but the San Diego Chargers newbie looked happy on the sideline. In fact, the entire team looked happy, not only happy relieved. This is a team that has been put back together from the ground up. New coaches, new players, new playbook and a brand new attitude.
Weeks one and two did not have me thinking that the possibility of my 14-2 prediction over the offseason was even remotely feasible. Game three showed me that I might just be on to something. What was different? The plays, the attitude, the discipline, the focus. Yes, I said focus, something that the Turner lead Chargers lacked. I’m starting to see the greatness that was being under developed blossom and it looks amazing. Let’s break it down by squad.
Offense: I gotta say, the first drive had me dropping expletives left and right, but I did not lose faith. Perhaps the Chargers first team heard me tell them to pull it together because that is exactly what they did. Philip Rivers and company showed they have what it takes to demolish a team that had already handed losses to Green Bay and Dallas. That’s right, the Cardinals are not the Raiders, they are a great team, with talent all over the place, could it be that the Chargers do as well? I saw Rivers read the blitz, signal to Mathews and then call for quick snap. He handed the ball to Mathews on the right side, defenders were blitzing on the left. It was just another sight change in a series of excellent calls by Rivers to set up an impressive 92-yard touchdown drive. A little wobbly here and there, but the job was done. After that, the offense was in sync calling the no huddle again and again, keeping the pace fast and the Cardinals defense looked unprepared. It wasn’t just Rivers who was getting the job done in a new way, Tutu, Gates, Mathews, Whittaker and Woodhead played like they have been a team for many seasons. Communication was key. Even when Rivers left the field and handed the ball to Whitehurst the momentum kept going. There is some sort of synergy happening with this team that we have not seen in years. Is it possible that the dark cloud has finally lifted and it allowed the Bolts to post 24 points.
Defense: Hello, Dwight Freeney! Holy moly, this guy is all that and a bag of chips. When you combine Freeney, Weddle, Philips (who pulled off the weirdest fumble recovery for a TD I have ever seen), Stuckey (blocking a punt!) you see a group of guys who are in it to win it. The Cardinals only put seven points on the board and that is all due to the defense reading their plays and consistently shutting them down. It was a beautiful thing to watch after suffering through plays like the 4th and 29 of last season. Something is going on here too. I think the word I’m looking for is intensity. The entire group was intense, for 60 football minutes, and it showed.
Special Teams: While not exactly perfect, the special teams were a much improved group than the last two games. There were still bobbles and fumbles and shoestring tackles, but there were no huge unfixable mistakes. Keenan Allen is definitely starting to show why he deserved his spot on the team. I love to watch him with the ball, he can cut like no other Charger on the field. His 44 yard punt return showed that, unfortunately it was called back because he had been pushed out of bounds but he looked a lot better than his performance last week in Chicago where he dropped the ball on punt return.
“It was great to see as a football coach,” said McCoy. “We challenged everyone this week to take the next step, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
I think so too Mike, I may just not need to reinstate the punch list this season.