San Diego Chargers at St. Louis Rams
By: Mitch Light | 10/15/10, 6:00 AM EDT
Most fans probably aren’t too surprised the Rams are 2–3. What is surprising is the Chargers have the same record, with all three losses coming on the road, due mostly to special teams breakdowns. The Chargers were 7–1 on the road last year, a big reason why they finished 13–3. They’ve struggled against loud crowds in Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland, and now they’ll be playing in a dome. The Rams are trying to regroup after being routed 44–6 by the Detroit Lions. The Lions were the only team the Rams beat in 2009.
Keys for the Rams
• Sam Bradford needs to play better. Granted, he’s a rookie, but he threw two interceptions and failed to produce a touchdown in the loss at Detroit. Bradford vowed to fix what he said were little mistakes that hurt the Rams. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Bradford bounced back during practice and that he should play well on Sunday.
• Bradford will be without his top target. Wide receiver Mark Clayton tore the patella tendon in his right knee at Detroit and was placed on injured reserve. Former Missouri star Danario Alexander was signed from the practice squad to fill Clayton’s spot on the active roster. Fans should expect to see Alexander make his NFL debut. Bradford still has Danny Amendola, who leads the team with 33 catches for 303 yards.
Keys for the Chargers
• Get their special teams fixed. The Chargers made a handful of personnel changes after having two punts blocked at Oakland, leading to a safety and a touchdown. They’re already on the fifth long snapper of the season. Ethan Albright was released after snapping in two games because he struggled in coverage. The new snapper is rookie Mike Windt, who snapped for the Bengals during the exhibition season. Special teams coach Steve Crosby’s job is safe, meaning it’s all on the players.
• Find a defensive rhythm. Quarterback Philip Rivers has shown that he can move the offense like clockwork, especially since most teams have no clue how to cover star tight end Antonio Gates. The defense, though, is still finding its way. Oakland could barely get the snap off in the first half last Sunday, then got its act together and went on two long touchdown drives that stole the Chargers’ momentum. The Chargers have parted ways with outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who was barely contributing because of injuries.
The Chargers should win. Then again, they thought they should have won at Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland, not exactly the NFL’s murderers’ row. The Chargers have been able to fix the various “issues” that pop up, as coach Norv Turner calls them, and will likely do so this week. Chargers 21–10.