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Friesz Suffers Through a Miserable Half : Chargers: Quarterback says ankle injury affected his accuracy, but he came back strong in the second half.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chargers quarterback John Friesz said he was mentally prepared to play Sunday night. Physically, Friesz had his doubts until two hours before game time, when he realized he could push off his badly-sprained left ankle.

But in the first half, many still had their doubts whether Friesz should have stayed in the trainer’s room and let Bob Gagliano take over the team.

Friesz suffered through his worst half as professional, completing zero passes in eight attempts.

That’s right, zero.

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Including sacks, the Chargers passing game totaled minus-19 yards. The offense had a total of five yards.

But Friesz came back in the second half to show why the Chargers have so much faith in him. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 150 yards, and if not for Courtney Hall’s holding penalty, which nullified a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Derrick Walker, he might have led the Chargers to a 14-9 victory.

Although Friesz acknowledged his ankle affected his play all night, he didn’t question his decision to play.

“It came down to, if my injury was going to hurt the team, I wouldn’t have played,” Friesz said. “If I was going to be a detriment, I wouldn’t play.”

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Friesz said the colors silver and black had nothing to do with his decision.

“I didn’t matter who it was,” he said. “I don’t have a thing for playing against the Raiders. Obviously, I was excited to be playing on ESPN.”

But even the excitement of playing before a national-television audience for the first time could not make the pain go away.

“The main thing the injury caused was the inaccuracy,” said Friesz, who played with a plastic cast that was inside of his heavily taped ankle. “I didn’t transfer my weight. My arm was low. Because of the support (the trainers) needed to give me, (the ankle) was unable to be very flexible.

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Through most of the first half, Friesz was underthrowing his receivers--throwing mostly off his back foot.

“My weight was back,” he said. “The ball was low on all those crossing routes. I didn’t throw one decent one all day--not that I’m blaming things on my ankle.”

But Chargers Coach Dan Henning blamed the ankle for many of Friesz’s problems.

“I wouldn’t say he was 100%,” Henning said. “During practice, we didn’t think he was as accurate as he’s been during the year.

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“So I would say he was off. I wouldn’t give it a percentage. He wasn’t at his top. I think he played pretty good.”

He was sacked three times and he didn’t scramble once, but Friesz said that’s nothing new.

“Do you ever see me (evade rushes)?, he said. “My drop wasn’t as deep. It wasn’t as quick, but for the most part it wasn’t significant. The ones I got hit on were pretty quick pressures. I’m not sure I would have been able to get out of it anyway.”

Did the ankle ever get bad enough that he considered pulling himself out?

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“No, I never thought about it,” he said. “I knew that we would get it going.”

But if his ankle was 100%, Friesz hinted that things might have been different.

“I felt like I saw the game real well,” he said, “As far as what they were doing, where to go, but the accuracy wasn’t there.

“Mentally, I stayed in the game plan all week. I probably knew it better than a lot of game plans to make sure that I was ready.”

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But for whatever reason, the game plan wasn’t working in the first half. One first down was all the Chargers could muster.

“I don’t think the passing game problems in the first half were anybody’s fault in particular,” he said. “I probably made some poor decisions. I had some accuracy problems, but there were some breakdowns in protection that contributed. I’ll take the lead of it, but it was a combination of things.”

There were a fumble by Marion Butts, holding penalties and a couple of drops by Anthony Miller.

“From the first series of the game, they never stopped us,” he said. “We turned the ball over. Everything that went wrong was self-inflicted.”

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It all added up to a lot of frustration.

“The defense kept us in the game the entire time with the turnovers,” he said. “But we just couldn’t do anything with it. It’s very frustrating for everybody on this side of the locker room not be carrying your weight in the first half.”


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