Local fans whined and cried as the “new look” San Diego Chargers capped the first week of the NFL season looking pretty much like last season’s outfit under the team’s old management,
Worse yet, the League announced Tuesday that its officiating crew “made an error” when penalizing 330-pound defensive tackle Cam Thomas for roughing a player unable to defend himself.
When growing up on the sandlots, the play was better known as “canning the center,” although such antics are now frowned upon. Except, Thomas simply switched gaps on the rush to block a field goal and made less contact than walking down The Strip on New Year’s Eve.
“Sorry about that, Chief,” said the NFL, sounding more like Don “Secret Agent 86” Adams of Get Smart fame.
The Houston Texans, instead of three points, registered a touchdown on the next play. Chargers QB Philip Rivers throws a Pick-6 to linebacker Brian Cushing, who promptly ties the game on – what a play! – an 18-yard interception return. The Bolts then yielded a field goal at the gun to drop a heart-breaker.
The sky may have fallen, but hey, at least San Diego covered the spread in getting four points from the bookies.
First-year head coach Mike McCoy fielded the same questions predecessor Norv Turner attempted to dodge: why the Lightning Bolts can’t defend third down and double figures or hold a lead. Last season, San Diego led seven times at halftime only to hand it all back.
However, McCoy and Tom Telesco – the NFL’s youngest head coach-general manager tandem – need to demonstrate they are not yogurt-covered raisins that were Turner and GM A.J. Smith. This duo must show the world they are fresh, healthy grapes (an Analogy of the Week nominee).
Frankly, who even thought San Diego had any chance of winning this Chris Berman special? So if the scoring line had instead been 7-0, 14-7, 21-14 and 28-21 before Randy Bullock kicked a 41-yard field goal the gun in lieu of a blown 21-point lead, would the view be far different?
Houston proved they have the depth and desire to contend for the AFC. No change there. But San Diego showed signs they are not a bad team which typically losses close games (i.e. Oakland, Cleveland, et al). They can be one that can climb above the .500 plateau in a bid to re-tool from Smith’s ghastly mistakes.
The revamped secondary saw bright spots in newcomers SS Marcus Gilcrest and CB Shareece Wright, so Houston picked on the other corner, Derek Cox, throughout the second half.
Meanwhile, the saga of RB Ryan Mathews continues. He caught a TD pass from Rivers just 15 seconds into the game – a franchise regular-season record for quickest score – then disappeared from the offense in the second half. So, maybe, McCoy is smarter than we thought.
The last time Manti Te’o was seen on the sidelines was two weeks ago, when his Punahou High team from Honolulu, Hawaii, visited San Diego for a game with Helix High (famed alumni like Reggie Bush, Alex Smith, basketball’s Bill Walton) on Aug. 31.
Perhaps the Bolts are hiding him and there is no real foot injury (although former Chargers linebacker and local radio personality Billy Ray Smith said he had the same injury when playing at Arkansas, so he believes Te’o is indeed hurt).
It’s too easy to say the Chargers will mirror their 2012 squad. But the fans are ready to grumble.
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