Halfway to what?
The Chargers certainly aren’t halfway to the playoffs. They are 2-6 at the midpoint of the season.
Yet if they hadn’t befouled the air with a stale 16-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, they would trail AFC West Division leaders Seattle and Denver by only one game.
Halfway to the worst record in the NFL and the draft’s first prize of UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman?
Probably not. Atlanta and Kansas City both have worse records than the Chargers after 8 games. Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh all have the same record with arguably tougher division schedules ahead of them.
“Things can’t get worse,” Charger free safety Vencie Glenn said afterward.
The Chargers have lost 4 in a row and have scored only 6 offensive touchdowns in their last 8 home games. This has not gone unnoticed.
The crowd of 37,722 was their smallest at home in 5 years. The Colts’ shutout was the second against them in their last 4 games. And it marked the first time in 12 years the Chargers have failed to score at home twice in one season.
As the Chargers straggled toward their lockers after the last play, small pockets of paying customers resurrected that throaty chant you used to hear in college basketball before they instituted the shot clock: “Boooorrring. Boooorrring, Boooorrring.” The Chargers, it would appear, are halfway to nowhere.
The Colts (3-5) needed 4 minutes 57 seconds of the first quarter to score on the Chargers. That’s when Dean Biasucci kicked the first of his 3 field goals, a 20-yarder. He also had field goals of 44 and 51 yards. Indianapolis added a 25-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Gary Hogeboom to Matt Bouza out of the wishbone formation late in the final quarter.
Eric Dickerson rushed for 169 yards in 30 carries as the Colts dominated time of possession, 36 minutes to 24. Charger quarterback Mark Malone completed 13 of 30 passes for 121 yards against a pass defense rated last in the NFL going into the game. The 453 yards allowed by the Chargers were the most they have given up all year.
“We got our hind ends knocked off at the line of scrimmage, and they were able to do whatever they wanted to do,” said Ron Lynn, Charger defensive coordinator .
Not even the loss of its starting quarterback, rookie Chris Chandler, to a concussion in the second quarter bothered Indianapolis. Chandler departed after completing 9 of 17 passes for 123 yards. Hogeboom, who didn’t take a practice snap all week, completed 11 of 19 for 132.
The final score would have been worse if Leonard Coleman, a former Colt defensive back, hadn’t intercepted 2 passes by Chandler in the end zone. Glenn picked off another.
On the game’s only touchdown, Indianapolis caught the Chargers in an all-out blitz with cornerback Elvis Patterson man-to-man on Bouza. “He had inside coverage and he got beat to the inside,” Lynn said. In other words, Patterson wasn’t where he was supposed to be. It has been that way with him much of the year. Even Charger Coach Al Saunders, a man who could put a positive spin on an earthquake, was unhappy.
“We didn’t improve this game,” he said.
“I’m disappointed, just like we all are,” said Steve Ortmayer, the team’s director of football operations. Ortmayer wouldn’t discuss it any further.
Which was probably the Chargers’ best call of the day.
The Chargers’ inability to pass for more yards was the hardest pill to swallow. Tampa Bay’s Vinny Testaverde wasted the Colt secondary for more than 460 yards last week. So Indianapolis responded against the Chargers by playing a soft deep zone much of the afternoon.
“As soft as they were playing, we couldn’t have thrown the ball deep if we had wanted to,” Malone said.
Instead, the Chargers tried to work underneath the zones the way they had so successfully in scoring 28 points at Miami last week. But dropped balls, penalties and missed assignments enabled the Colts to stay in the zone.
“At halftime I could only remember one play that their defense was responsible for stopping us,” Malone said.
“Lack of concentration,” said Charger wide receiver Anthony Miller, when pressed for an explanation on the dropped passes.
Miller caught 2 passes for 30 yards. Jamie Holland and Gary Anderson, playing for the first time in 3 weeks, had 3 apiece. Anderson led all Charger running backs with 70 yards in 14 carries. The Charger defense had no sacks.
“There’s no sense in pouting and saying we’re the pits,” Glenn said. But, said Malone, “I feel really sick to my stomach.”
Colt running back Eric Dickerson became the eighth running back in NFL history to pass the 9,000 yard rushing mark. . . . The Colts beat the spread for the first time this year. . . . The Chargers have scored 2 offensive touchdowns in 4 home games this season. . . . The Charger offense didn’t get past the Colt 35-yard line until late in the final period. . . . Charger punter Ralf Mojsiejenko had his worst day of the year, averaging 36.7 yards on 6 punts including a 17-yard shank. . . . Indianapolis converted 6 of 13 third downs. It came into the game with the worst third-down conversion record in the league.