The Good, the Bad and the Uncertain

Chargers Mackenzie Hoambrecker FG winner

In our weekly segment we break down game tape watching it two and three times to determine what worked, what didn't and what is still up for grabs.

What worked:

Otis Leverette. Block a field goal attempt, cause a fumble and have six tackles. Not a bad half and five seconds (the blocked kick came with five seconds to go in the first half). Simply put; he was all over the place. Three tackles were around the line and one came on the opposite side of the field from his left defensive end spot. He showed hustle and next time he forces a fumble, the Bolts will pick it up.

Zeke Moreno as the starting middle linebacker. There is no more competition. Moreno has the spot. Need help understanding? Just check out his play in this game and throughout preseason thus far. He is dominating the point of attack and finding the holes in the line by hiding himself nicely and exploding on the ball carriers. For those who seem to think he makes plays but not until the runner is downfield – only one tackle he was in on went more than four yards and three of his seven were for no gain or a loss.

Field goals. Steve Christie went 2-2 on field goals and kicked a 46 yarder that had plenty of room to spare. He also kicked a 36 yarder true just before halftime to bring the Chargers even with the Texans, 10-10. Christie worked on his leg strength this offseason and it shows so far.

In just his second attempt ever in an NFL game, Mackenzie Hoambrecker kicked a 53 yard field goal. That matches the longest kick Christie has had in his last five years. Hoambrecker then topped that first kick with a game winning 36 yard field goal with :20 seconds to play. Hoambrecker continues the trend of winning games as he won over half of the games he played with Northern Iowa and is now 100% in the NFL for winning games.

Andrew Pinnock in short yardage. The Chargers need help in this area and gave the rock to Pinnock anytime they were close. Sometimes he was lined up at fullback, while other times he was at halfback. Pinnock went three for three in the game when the Bolts faced third and three or fewer yards. Last year two of those would have been stuffed.

What didn't:

Drayton Florence everywhere. Three kickoff returns and he averaged just 16 yards per return with a long of 19. He failed twice to follow his lead blockers and ran into a wall of Houston coverage. Not one juke, or spin or twirl and he went down easy.

His pass coverage was just as weak. A week ago he showed speed and the ability to close. This week he was a step or two behind. He did not look crisp all day and one play in run defense he got beat to the corner and could not take down Tony Hollings who whipped around him for a nice gain of 13. A week ago he had that tackle.

Second half run defense. In the first half the San Diego Chargers defense allowed just 3.1 yards per carry. Tony Hollings had gained just five yards on four carries, a 1.3 average. Stacey Mack had 9 carries for 29 yards, a 3.2 average. From halftime on, Hollings averaged 3.5 yards per carry and Mack averaged 5 yards per carry. Not horrible numbers but a significant drop when the second and third team defenses entered the game. Consider the guys at the bottom of the depth chart are trying to make the roster and you get the picture.

Defending Andre Johnson. This guy is good. In one game he cemented the reason why he was chosen third overall. Five catches for 81 yards and one touchdown. He took one slant and made Sammy Davis look silly and Kwamie Lassiter overpursue. He used his body well to shield the ball and showed a nice burst after the catch gaining 40 of his 81 after the catch. Eight times the ball was thrown his way and only one incompletion had a possibility of being caught. Johnson beat everyone, from Vernon Fox to Drayton Florence (who he beat handily).

Bears watching:

Everyone quickly jumped on the Mackenzie Hoambrecker bandwagon, but what remains to be seen is if Hoambrecker can be consistent from week to week. Just a week ago, Hoambrecker hit the right upright with a field goal attempt and fans were calling for him to be lynched.

Steve Christie quietly kicked two field goals, one from 46 yards out that had some distance to spare. Christie said he worked on his leg strength this offseason and while the new may be the future, the old will not go quietly. As Christie said, "I will do my best to hold of Mackenzie."

Third running back. Dahrran Diedrick got action with the first team offense and he may have an advantage as he takes on defenders head on. He does not, however, offer vision as he routinely puts his head down and runs with a forward lean. That gives him the advantage of getting an extra yard or two, but on one particular play he had daylight to his right and instead ran without his eyes and went down after a gain of two. He needs to keep his head up if he wants to keep a spot on the team. Diedrick did catch the ball well out of the backfield, a huge plus coming from Nebraska.

Nick Maddox did not get many chances and he is still prone to going down a bit too quickly, but he offers a nice cutback style and shows good vision to get extra yards. Limited work since Seattle could work against him. He is better than Diedrick at picking up the blitz, and in the NFL that is a key component of a running back.

Penalties. Sure the team only had five penalties for 30 yards on Saturday and won the penalty battle against Houston, but when they happened is just as crucial as limiting them. Another Eric Parker punt return, 88 yards this week, was brought back by Quentin Jammer. Although the call was only a 10 yard penalty, it cost the Bolts 88 yards and a touchdown. A 4th and three became a 4th and eight when Cory Raymer did not see Cleo Lemon stamp his foot to hike the ball early. Lemon luckily completed his next pass to put the team in field goal range. Terry Charles and Dondre Gilliam cost the team ten yards when they committed false start penalties. Again they were saved… this time by Hoambrecker who nailed a 53 yard field goal. Take the penalties away and the Bolts are still driving the ball as it was 4th and 9 when they decided to kick the field goal.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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