Stupid is as San Diego does

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 24, 2010



San Diego suffered another enormous Norv-ous breakdown in Week 7 with a typically frustrating 23-20 loss at home to a Patriots team that could barely move the ball for large stretches of the game.
 
Coach Norv Turner's Chargers are the Forrest Gump of the Gridiron: physically gifted, but a little thick upstairs. But while life rewarded Gump for his earnestness, the football Gods are not as kind to a team that insults their sport every time it steps on the field.
 
The futility of Chargers football has turned into one of the biggest statistical stories of the 2010 season – and perhaps in recent football history. Only an equally inept effort this year by the Cowboys prevents the Chargers from sitting all alone in the corner of the 2010 NFL season with a pointy dunce cap on their head.
 
That other Forrest Gump of the Gridiron, the Cowboys, gets to open up its box of underachieving chocolates tonight against the Giants. (See our preview here.)
 
In the case of the Chargers, we talked in great detail about the "big-sizzle, little-steak" lack of substance of San Diego football two weeks ago right here, after their 35-27 loss at Oakland.
 
We continue to be befuddled, bemused and bemazed (yup, we just invented a word) at how poorly this team plays week after week.
 
Bottom line: few teams in history have been so prolific statistically yet so inept on the scoreboard as San Diego, which is now 2-5 in the wake of its pathetic loss to a 5-1 Patriots team that's the mirror opposite of the Chargers: with the exception of Tom Brady, New England is once again a collection of low-wattage stars who play smart situational football and do all the little things right to win the game.
 
You might remember the details of the San Diego-Oakland game back in Week 5: the Chargers dominated every statistical indicator that day, including a massive 506-279 advantage in yards. Yet they still did all the little things wrong to lose the game.
 
San Diego's loss to New England was another textbook example of a team so stupid it couldn't spell win if you spotted it the W and I.
 
The Chargers once again dominated statistically: in this case, they outgained the Patriots 363 yards to 179 yards; they averaged 5.1 yards per play to a dismal 3.1 yards per play for the Patriots; Phillip Rivers easily outpassed Tom Brady, 336 yards to 159 yards; and San Diego held the ball for 34:25 to 25:35.
 
Yet the Chargers once again lost in embarrassingly stupid fashion. Here are six situations from Sunday that make San Diego the dumbest team in the class of 2010 – pending Dallas's performance Monday night.
 
Wilson fumbles in the first quarter
San Diego tight end Kris Wilson set the tone for San Diego in the first quarter, when he caught a pass deep in his own territory and fumbled at the 22. New England linebacker Jerod Mayo recovered and, three plays later, Tom Brady threw a short touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots had done little but suddenly held a 7-3 lead – a lead they would never relinquish despite being largely manhandled in the trenches.
 
It was the first of three lost fumbles and four turnovers by the stupid Chargers. The Patriots did not commit a single turnover.
 
Goodman stupidly puts the football on the ground
OK, so Wilson fumbles. Sh*t happens, as Mr. Gump once said. But when you voluntarily give up the ball because you don't know the rules ... well, that's truly stupid. 
 
And that's what happened when another San Diego pass catcher let down Rivers on San Diego's very next drive. The prolific passer threw to rookie Richard Goodman for what seemed like a huge 25-yard gain through the heart of the New England defense.
 
The rookie receiver rolled to the ground – completely untouched – and left the ball on the ground as he jumped up to celebrate his reception.
 
New England safety James Sanders pounced on the football.
 
Apparently, Turner's training camp does not include the part where they teach rookies that, in the pros, you're not down until you're touched down. The fact that they sign players who don't know rules that most 11-year-old NFL fans can recite is a separate issue altogether. 
 
Hester stupidly gives up on a lateral
OK, so anybody can make a mistake and, you know, just give up on the football and leave it lying there on the field waiting for the defense to pounce because they don't know the rules.
 
Hey, it might happen to a team once every couple years.
 
Or, in the case of the Chargers, it might happen to you on consecutive first-half drives. U-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e.
 
The Chargers turned a frustrating first half into a true comedy act that would have made Laurel & Hardy proud on their very next possession after the Goodman fumble.
 
San Diego marched all the way from its own 19 to the New England 32 on seven plays and were poised to recapture the lead.
 
Rivers then attempted a swing pass in the right flat to Jacob Hester that missed the mark and went over the running back's head. The pass clearly went backwards – so it was a live ball! But Hester didn't realize it or didn't care. He simply stopped running.
 
New England linebacker Rob Ninkovich did not stop running until after he scooped up the ball and raced down the left sideline all the way to the San Diego 8.
 
The Chargers tough D dominated on the ensuing drive: the Patriots were knocked back 14 yards on three plays. But even when you hold an opponent to a 3-play, -14-yard drive, it's hard to keep them off the scoreboard when they take over at your own 8.
 
Stephen Gostkowski booted the first of three successful field goals to lift New England to a 10-3 lead despite being dominated statistically.
 
Chargers stupidly trail at half despite dominating
Gostkowski kicked another field goal with a big assist from San Diego's troubled special teams and New England punt returner Julian Edelman, who returned a boot 34 yards from his own 14 to 48 yard line.
 
The short field allowed the Patriots to take a 13-3 lead into the half despite being utterly dominated by San Diego: New England gained 1 yard of offense in the second quarter.
 
Kris Brown stupidly boots the ball out of bounds
The Chargers stormed back in the second half, and trailed 23-20 with 4 minutes to play in the game following Mike Tolbert's touchdown.
 
Brown made a classic bone-headed team blunder on the ensuing kickoff. A guy paid big bucks to split narrow uprights from 50 yards away couldn't even get the ball to land within the 53-yard-wide expanse of the field. That's right, at a critical point in the game, Brown booted the ball out of bounds.
 
You know when they say a pitcher or quarterback is so inaccurate he couldn't hit the side of a barn? Well, that's Brown: he couldn't hit a 53-yard-wide barn.
 
So New England took over at their own 40, instead of their own 20 (or even deeper).
 
It could have been a critical turn of events: the Patriots could not even gain a single first down on the ensuing series. In fact BenJarvus Green-Ellis was steamrolled on 4th and 1 from his own 48. We can only wonder how the series would have unfolded if the Patriots, struggling badly to move the ball on offense all day, had been forced to punt from the shadows of their own goal post.
 
Louis Vasquez is stupidly flagged for illegal procedure
Despite all the mistakes, gaffes, miscues and mental errors, the Forrest Gump of the Gridrion was still in position to send the game into overtime in the final seconds. Brown lined up to kick a 45-yard field goal. No gimme, for sure, but well within range of a pro place kicker.
 
And then, here at the biggest Moment OF ... THE ... GAME! ... That's right offensive lineman Vasquez was whistled for illegal procedure before the attempt was taken.
 
Like we said, a 45 yarder is no gimme. A 50 yarder even less so.
 
Brown stupidly channels the spirit of Nate Kaeding
Naturally, it all ended badly. It was like a tragedy that you just know ahead of time will only end badly, but you'll stick around to see the end anyway.
 
Brown channeled the spirit of San Diego's classic playoff shank artist Nate Kaeding and pushed the ball just a few inches too far to the right:. It actually bounced off the upright.
 
Of course it did.
 
You just knew, especially after the penalty, that the Chargers were going to whiff. Hell, that's how it always ends for this franchise that always "talks most, says least."
 
We suggest the team adopt a new motto: "Stupid is as San Diego does."

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