CB Quentin Jammer (Donald Miralle/Getty)
Norv Turner faced a difficult dilemma with his team’s season hanging in the balance. Trailing 20-17, San Diego faced a fourth-and-2 from the Colts 29-yard line with 1:35 left to play. Rather than trying to extend a potential game-winning drive, Turner made the conservative call and cost his team a chance at a much needed victory.
Norv Turner has seen too much football to make such a boneheaded call. By sending out Nate Kaeding for a 47-yard field goal, Turner resigned himself to the following best-case scenario: Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning gets the ball in a tie game with 90 seconds to play and one timeout in his pocket.
Oh, and Manning is operating against the NFL’s worst pass defense, a unit which has already conceded game-winning drives to Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers this season.
On the flip side, look at the best-case scenario if the Chargers go for it on fourth-and-2: San Diego moves the chains and drives for the go-ahead score, leaving Manning little to no time to operate afterwards.
Such a notion is hardly farfetched, as the Chargers offense had scored a touchdown on its previous drive and had just marched 50 yards in 1:15 leading up to the two-minute warning.
Regardless of Turner’s decision, the worst-case scenario remained unchanged: The Chargers suffer a backbreaking loss that cripples their playoff hopes.
As has been exhibited time and time again this season, no coach is better at bringing worst-case scenarios to fruition than Norv Turner.
The Chargers made a smart move by starting Matt Wilhelm over Tim Dobbins against the pass-happy Colts. However, there is another move that should have been made: Starting OT L.J. Shelton over Jeromey Clary. As discussed in this week’s Behind Enemy Lines, Clary lacks the foot-speed to keep up with DE Robert Mathis. That mismatch was apparent as Mathis racked up 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Hail to Hester
Jacob Hester saw his most extensive offensive action of the season, subbing for Mike Tolbert, who injured his shoulder during the game. Hester was dynamite on San Diego’s fourth-quarter touchdown drive, catching three balls for 16 yards and the score.
Close the Gates
The Chargers have utterly neglected Antonio Gates over the last two contests. After catching just two balls against the Steelers, Gates was limited to three grabs for 28 yards against the Colts. Five Chargers finished with more receiving yards than Gates, including No. 2 tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (29).
Quentin Jammer intercepted his second pass of the season, undercutting an underthrown pass intended for Marvin Harrison. Jammer was sensational again, leading the team with 11 tackles. Jammer has been the team’s MVP through the first 11 games with his steady positioning and unwavering leadership.
When Manning took the field for the final drive, he must have been ecstatic to see that Antonio Cromartie, circa 2007, was nowhere to be found. Cromartie intercepted Manning four times in two games last season, yet continues to do nothing but collect a pay check in 2008. The Chargers miss Drayton Florence in the worst way.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003.