A Buster Davis slip here. A Malcom Floyd slip there. By the time the skies dried Monday, the soggy field was in such condition, not even quarterback Philip Rivers' most heralded comeback attempt could find its necessary footing.
No matter. The field was not to blame.( Tue Sep 14 07:01:08 PDT 2010 $__output )
In the muggiest of evenings at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chargers found clarity in knowing they were the ones who had been compromised.
Any pretenses of the Chargers being a complete football team were washed away in their season opener, as the special teams unit faltered to such drastic levels, four failed tries at the near-goal line in the closing moments seemed only to offer justice to a miserable 21-14 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Repeatedly, the punt coverage team appeared hapless while handling its first meaningful game without Kassim Osgood, the special teams ace who departed over the offseason to the Jaguars after seven sensational seasons.
Mike Scifres drilled punts that, in any of those previous years, seemed likely to have been pinned inside the 5-yard line. Instead, Scifres, who had two touchbacks in all of 2009 while battling a double hernia and abdomen tear, was charged with three on Monday.
For the punts that were returned, the coverage team looked doubly inept.
Rookie Dexter McCluster returned a second-quarter punt 94 yards untouched for a momentum-swinging touchdown. It was the longest punt return allowed in Chargers history and provided only the latest glimpse to the unit's woes.
Earlier in the quarter, rookie Javier Arenas had returns of 36 and 24, the first of which ended by way of a touchdown-saving Scifres tackle.
“We think (special teams) should be a strength for us, and it's something we'll look hard at,” coach Norv Turner said. “We didn't tackle very well. We did get spread out. There's a seriousness ...and a focus you have to have, and we've got good young guys playing on that, and for some of them it's their first experience. They just have to understand that those plays are the most critical in terms of field position.”
The Chargers were largely sound in the other two phases of the game. Save a 56-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles up its heart, the defense was stout. The offense, often rattled by the raucous crowd, nearly salvaged the contest on its final drive.
Rivers completed 5 of 6 passes for 65 yards to work the Chargers to the 4-yard line with 1:14 remaining, but a couple receiver slips and an overthrow of Floyd thwarted the would-be tying score.
Of course, the game should have never needed such heroics. The special teams must find improvement and, with Osgood's Jaguars up next, find it fast.