No Offense, But Chargers Are Without One : NFL: It was a familiar scenario: The defense played well, the offense didn't and a late drive--this time by the Colts--led to defeat.


The reviews aren't even mixed for the Chargers any more. They are a bad team.

They have lost twice as many games as they have won including a 10-6 torture test to the Colts in the Hoosier Dome Sunday.

But at least the Chargers still know how to mix their metaphorical sports cliches with the best of them.

"We've just got to pick our pants up and go back out and play," said cornerback Elvis Patterson, moments after Indianapolis wide receiver Bill Brooks had undressed him on a crossing pattern for the 25-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with 1:54 remaining. That score dropped the Chargers to 4-8 and kept the Colts' playoff hopes alive at 6-6.

Patterson admitted Brooks was his responsibility in man-to-man coverage. And Charger defensive coordinator Ron Lynn admitted he wasn't sure why an opponent had put together a long drive late in the final period to beat the Chargers for the second consecutive week.

"I wish I knew," Lynn said. "It would be one thing if this was the only time this has happened."

It also happened four weeks ago when Seattle scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds remaining to beat the Chargers, 10-7.

Neither Patterson, Lynn nor anyone else associated with the Chargers could put their finger on why this team has suffered its last six defeats by six, one, seven, three, three and four points.

But despite Patterson's mistake Sunday and Lynn's uncertainty about his unit's fourth period failings, the Chargers demise, the rumors of which are not greatly exaggerated, is not the fault of the defense.

The numbers, please:

The Charger defense has allowed just 11 touchdowns in the last 10 games.

The Charger defense hasn't allowed any opponent to score more than 20 points since Week Two.

The Charger defense limited four-time NFL rushing champion Eric Dickerson to 30 yards on 17 carries. It was Dickerson's lowest rushing total this year. And in his last four games against the Chargers Dickerson has failed to score.

The Charger offensive line committed six holding penalties, including three on one particularly ghastly fourth period drive that ended with a botched 24-yard field goal attempt when holder David Archer mishandled a perfect snap from center Mark Walczak. ("I take full responsibility," Archer said.)

The Charger offense has scored six touchdowns in the last six games. Gifted wide receiver Anthony Miller has produced five of those.

But it was Miller who, according to the officials, committed an offensive pass interference penalty in the fourth period that nullified an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jim McMahon to running back Darrin Nelson.

"It was a wrong call," Miller said. "They said it was an illegal pick. It wasn't. The guy (official) just didn't have anything better to do than throw a flag."

Nelson's touchdown and the extra point would have given the Chargers a 10-3 lead. Instead they had to settle for a three-point edge on a 38-yard field goal by Chris Bahr, his second.

The Colts answered with an 87-yard, six-play drive that took less than two minutes.

By then, Henning had seen enough. "I'm not sure that if we played all day out there, we'd have won that game," he said.

In short, Henning was unhappy with referee Gordon McCarter and his seven-man crew.

Henning has never seen a holding call he liked. Nor did he think much of the interference call on Miller. "Anthony was just trying to get an inside release," Henning said.

Try telling that to defensive backs Keith Taylor and Eugene Daniel, the two men Miller so effectively screened from covering Nelson.

But Henning was especially incensed with what he thought was the failure of line judge Ron Baynes and replay official Chuck Heberling to determine that Tom Ramsey's incomplete third period swing pass to Dickerson was a lateral.

The Chargers would have recovered and scored on the play. But the whistle blew the play dead. Review of the replay upheld Baynes.

One play later Henning wasted a timeout to ask for a "clarification" of Baynes' ruling which he said he never got. "I wanted to clear up a cloud," Henning said. "I wanted our players to know exactly what the circumstances were."

Henning used up his second timeout seven minutes later to decide whether to kick or go for a first down on fourth-and-one at the Colt 21.

More bad news for the Chargers: They got the first down and lost it on a false start by guard Broderick Thompson. Bahr then missed a 44-yarder.

The net effect of which was that McMahon had only one timeout left when the Chargers took over at their own 31 with 1:49 remaining.

It didn't matter. Two incompletions and a sack forced the Chargers to turn the ball over on downs.

McMahon finished with 18 completions on 32 attempts for 173 yards. But the Colts sacked him five times, the most the Chargers have allowed all year. Indianapolis starter Jack Trudeau, relieved briefly by Ramsey when he injured a finger, completed 14 of 24 for 153 yards.

The Colts' only other score came on a 22-yard Dean Biasucci field goal in the dying moments of the first half.

Charger Notes

H-back Joe Caravello was lost with a sprained right knee in the first quarter. Caravello did not return. After the game he was more unhappy about the Chargers' losing ways than his injury. "No comment," he said. "I've already made comments on games like this six or seven times. It's the exact same thing." . . . The Chargers passed for 23 yards in the first half. During that same span Colt running back Eric Dickerson rushed for 19 yards on 12 carries. . . . Indianapolis lost left tackle Chris Hinton to a hamstring injury in the second period. . . . The Chargers (4-8) are tied for last in the AFC West with Seattle. . . . New Charger punt returner Phil McConkey returned eight for 75 yards. His longest was a 20-yarder. . . . Former Charger Chip Banks started at left outside linebacker and had one tackle. . . . The first 10 possessions by both teams resulted in a punt, a punt, a punt, a punt, a punt, a lost fumble, a lost fumble, a punt, a punt and an interception. . . . Dickerson needs 67 yards rushing next week against the Patriots to become the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in seven consecutive years. . . . The Chargers have failed to score a touchdown in their past eight quarters against the Colts. Indianapolis shut out the Chargers, 16-0, last year. . . . Time of possession favored the Chargers 37:34 to 22:26. The Chargers out-gained the Colts 314-264 yards. "We overcame some things (two lost fumbles) and seemed like we had control," said Charger Coach Dan Henning. . . . The Colts converted only two of 14 third downs. . . . The Chargers' special teams, coached by beleaguered Joe Madden, played poorly again. Asked to assess them, Henning said, "Too many penalties."

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