Pete and repeat were on a boat...
Yes, it happened again. The Chargers lost a game in the final minute, falling to the Raiders, 23-20. Although this game went into overtime, it shouldn't have and was essentially lost before regulation even ended. The Chargers were ahead for most of a game where neither offense looked interested and both sides made far too many mistakes. But once again, when it mattered most, the opposing team did what it needed to get the "W."
In addition to the Chargers now sitting at 4-11, they have not beaten anyone in the neighborhood (0-5 in the AFC West).
The fact that head coach Mike McCoy keeps repeating, "We have to find a way to win," is just annoying. At some point he has to realize Frank Reich is not the man for the job. It doesn't necessarily mean Reich is not a good offensive coordinator; he is just not good to coordinate this offense. When you have all of the ingredients to create something gourmet but can only serve up fast food, you have a short-order cook on your hands, not a chef.
The Chargers had nothing to lose Thursday and still Reich's play calls were not worthy of a win.
Granted, critical drops by the receivers are not Reich's fault, but when your only success comes from Danny Woodhead plays, you have to know experienced defenders are going to figure that out and exploit the heck out of your play calling.
Now is the time to test the waters with different formations and players. Challenge yourself as a coach and trust your franchise quarterback will do his best to help you find other offensive solutions. Yes, I get it, this offense has been plagued with injuries, but the Panthers have also had several injuries to key players and look at what Ron Rivera has done with that team. Yes, McCoy is correct, the team does have to find a way to win. However, that starts with the coaches.
The offense did start fairly solid, marching the ball downfield to score with the offensive line playing better than they have. More encouraging was a little confirmation that came after yet another injury to the O-line.
Late in the game, J.D. Walton came in for the injured Orlando Franklin and immediately made a difference and made me take notice. Granted, Walton is a veteran who has played for the Broncos and Giants, but he is typically a center and playing in a new position has proven to be a challenge for San Diego's linemen. However, Walton jumped in at left guard and thrived. When he was unsure where or if Rivers or the running back were lined up behind him or if Rivers was set to start his cadence, you could see Walton looking back from his three-point stance -- not ideal, but he made it work.
Not only did Walton hold his own, he was extremely quick off the snap and played with a dominant attitude. Setting the tone is something the line has been unable to do consistently with the exception of center Trevor Robinson.
For example: Late in the fourth quarter it was third-and-11 and the ball goes to Woodhead. Walton strikes his man off the line then heads right and made the key block that allows Woodhead to pick up a big first down.
A few minutes later, when the David Johnson coughed up the ball and is was scooped up by Benson Mayowa, it was Walton that laid chase and stopped the touchdown. Yes, the 6'3", 305-pound lineman beat everyone else on the Chargers offense and made the tackle on the 3-yard line. That's hustle! Granted, the Raiders ended up scoring anyway, but it showed that Walton is hungry, extremely aware of where the ball is at all times and plays to the whistle. This is a big addition for the offensive line if he continues to play this way.
Dontrell Inman continued to prove he has the goods to be Malcom Floyd's replacement in 2016. He finished with eight catches for 82 yards and a 7-yard touchdown catch. He even played a little D' when times got tough late in the game for the injury-ridden secondary. I would like to see Rivers test out Inman's deep-ball ability, because when Floyd, is gone the Bolts are going to need someone to fill that gap.
The entire defense played well and the combination of Melvin Ingram, Manti Te'o and Denzel Perryman is going to only get better as long as Te'o stays healthy. These three thrive off each other, challenge each other and the combination is the recipe for every quarterback's nightmare. Yes, Perryman's penalty in overtime gave the Raiders life on a second-and-forever, but it was a questionable call in my opinion.
In addition, Perryman's hit sent a message that this guy will make you pay dearly for coming over the middle. When you can create scenarios where ball carriers are looking for certain defensive players, you create hesitation. When you make offensive play callers play away from certain defensive playmakers, you limit an offense. And when you can spread out that kind of effect, you are winning on defense.
Just look at what Jason Verrett did with Amari Cooper Thursday night ... it was like Cooper wasn't even in the game.
Injuries and Josh Lambo. The injuries are consistent and Josh Lambo isn't, and both are proving to have dire consequences.
As for the injuries, I know this discussion is becoming a nuisance, but when you have to start using wide receivers as safeties, you know you are onboard a ship that Leonardo DiCaprio is on. The defensive backs were the casualties Thursday with Verrett (hamstring), Eric Weddle (groin) and Darrell Stuckey (knee) all sidelined before the end of regulation.
As for Lambo, many fans are questioning if the Chargers pulled the trigger too quickly in opting to keep Lambo over Nick Novak, who was picked up by the Texans after the Chargers released him. Thursday was Lambo's fourth straight game with a missed field goal. The red flag is waiving.
Salvation is just one week away! The Chargers will end this debacle of a season next Sunday when they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos for their final game of the 2015 season. The Chargers only happiness might come from stealing the Broncos' playoff dance card with a win, but one might question if that is worth losing their place in line for the 2016 draft.
More importantly, this is the final show before some offseason changes are made (we hope, anyway), so this is the game to get some questions answered.
What are your thoughts on the state of the Chargers? Discuss in our message boards!
Jody Taylor is a retired women's pro football player and former media relations director for the Women's Professional Football League. She has been published in Sports Illustrated, CNN, Time and several sports media outlets covering the WPFL, Arena Football League and NFL. She is the founder of Sixty5 Media in San Diego and coaches for the NFL's Flag/Play 60 program in San Diego. Follow her @RealJodyTaylor