Coach Mike McCoy (USA TODAY Sports)
The Chargers were minutes away from their second straight road win, one that would firmly establish them as a contenders in the wide-open AFC. Instead, Mike McCoy cowered down the stretch and his team followed suit, resulting in San Diego's second blown fourth-quarter lead of the season.
McCoy was in conservative mode from the jump. On San Diego's second drive, he decided to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 39-yard line. Then, on the opening drive of the second half, he punted away another fourth-and-1 opportunity, this time from midfield.
Those calls were guarded but understandable. What happened on the Chargers last offensive drive was downright cowardly. Nursing a four-point lead with just over six minutes remaining, San Diego called six straight running plays before punting. Not once did Philip Rivers (20-of-24, 184 yards, one TD, no INTs) get a chance to make a play and put the game away.
Facing a third-and-9 with just over two minutes left, the ball went to Ryan Mathews on a play designed to run time off the clock rather than move the chains -- a first down at that point would have won the game. So McCoy opted to put the game in the hands of his defense -- a unit missing a starting corner and both starting inside linebackers -- rather than his franchise QB.
So, who represented the Chargers in the game-deciding play? Instead of Rivers trying to win the game with two minutes to go, it was Crezdon Butler trying to win it in the final 20 seconds. Yes, the same Butler who signed as a street free agent earlier in the week. Predictably, Butler was beaten by rookie Justin Hunter and the Titans became the second AFC South team to steal one from San Diego.
There are reasons McCoy became gun-shy. LG Chad Rinehart (turf toe) and LT King Dunlap (concussion) had both been knocked from the game, which was no doubt on his mind when he turtled up. That being said, if he wants players to buy into "next man up" and "we have enough to win with," he needs to give them a chance to execute the plan and win the game. Instead, he channeled his inner Norv Turner and played not to lose ... and Chargers fans already know how that story ends.
--With Malcom Floyd down, Rivers found a new big target in Ladarius Green. The second-year tight end caught two passes for 48 yards. He had only 56 career receiving yards coming into the game.
--Eddie Royal had his first quiet game, recording just two receptions for 34 yards. He had a touchdown reception called back on an offensive pass interference penalty, which was compounded by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Rivers.
--Larry English recorded his first sack of the season, good for a 7-yard loss early in the fourth quarter. The Titans punted two plays later.
--Nick Novak had a 38-yard field goal attempt blocked at the end of the first half. The Titans had their special teams woes, as well, including a missed 43-yard field goal and a botched punt attempt.
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Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.