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The Setup
The Cards had lucked out against the Raiders (winning by the skinny skin skin of a missed Oakland FG). The Chargers were coming off a gut-wrenching loss against the Seahawks, with 2 long kickoff returns by Leon Washington undermining what should have been a dominating San Diego win.

The Cardinals were miraculously tied for the NFC West division lead. The Chargers - true to form - were winless early in the season. The same question existed for each team: "Who were they?" Were the Cards better than their performance indicated to date? Ditto the Chargers? Were they better than their record?

The Bottom Line:
Answer: The Chargers are the real deal - much better than their previous record would suggest. The Cardinals are "The Great Pretenders. By the end of the third quarter, San Diego had opened up a 38 to 7 lead (with no end in sight - frankly, I was willing to lay odds that they'd break the 50-burger level by game's end, but mercifully, this didn't happen.

In this game, the Cardinals exceeded their pitiful effort in Atlanta in terms of ineptness. Starting QB Derek Anderson was benched prior to halftime and stayed bench for the rest of the game, allowing Max Hall to get some game experience (although most of it negative).

I'm going to start pointing fingers, so let's start with the Head Coach (whose decisions left us without a capable starting QB and no backup plan for replacing him should things go wrong). Then there's DC Billy Davis who came up with a really creative defensive game plan:

Let's make certain nobody covers Antonio Gates -  especially on 3rd & long. (When you add to this, the reluctance of his players to keep ballcarriers, time and time again, from gaining an extra 3 or more yards after contact, he might strongly consider a career-change - sooner not later).

Just one man's opinion but, in terms of performance, focus and  effort, the Niners exposed more than a few Cardinal veterans (who could rightfully be accused of "stealing money"). No doubt I'm going to upset a lot of Cardinal fans, coaches and players with what I'm about to say, but I'm calling out the following Cardinal players for sitting on their big fat reputations (& wallets): How many times did D-Dock jump? How many times did A-Dub flub covering Gates? How many times did Calais C bite on a fake and fail to hold outside contain. How many times did Joey P run himself out of plays? How many times did Alan Faneca allow his man to anhilate Anderson or Hall? And, finally, show me any area - just one - where Anderson showed any improvement in any aspect of his game?

Who are we? A .500 football team who could just as easily be 0 & 4.

Game Recap

1st Quarter

  • Cards received and marched from their own 25 to the Charger 22, where Hightower swept around right end for a TD - except that Mau'ia was flagged for holding. But Anderson sucked it up and came right back with an interception. (points off the board). Chargers scored 8 plays later on a 33 yard pass from Rivers to (who else?) Gates (We got the thrill of watching A-Dub trail after the play).  Chargers 7 - Cardinals 0.

  • Cards went nowhere and SD ran off two plays into the next quarter.

2nd Quarter

  • Four plays later, Toler stripped the ball from Sproles (who had caught a pass in the left flat). Kerry Rhodes scooped it up and was escorted 42 yards for the Cards' only TD of the game.  . Chargers 7 - Cardinals 7.

  • On the next possession, long gainers involving Sproles, Tolbert and (our A-Dub's good buddy, Gates) was capped by a 5 yard run by Tolbert where it seemed as if the entire Cardinal defense ran directly away from the hole as fast as they could. Chargers 14 - Cardinals 7.

  • Cards went nowhere. Chargers took over on their own 35. Nine plays later, Rivers hit (who else?) a wide-open Gates for a 26 yard TD.  Chargers 21 - Cardinals 7.

  • 3 plays later, an Anderson pass intended for Komar wound up in the hands of Phillips who took it 31 yards to the house. Chargers 28 - Cardinals 7.

  • Hall in for Anderson. Two sacks later, we punted. SD ran off one more play before halftime. Halftime Score: Chargers 28 - Cardinals 7.

3rd Quarter

  • Chargers received the 2H kickoff and marched from their own 16 to the Cardinal 20 in 11 plays, but the Card defense actually stiffened and Kaeding was just a smidge wide right from 38 yards. Cards promptly went 3 & out. (Hall sacked once). Starting from their own 38, the Chargers were able to move within FG distance, and Kaeding was good from 48 yards. Chargers 31 - Cardinals 7.

  • On the next series, Hall was able to pick up a 1st down, but on the next play he was sacked and gave up the ball on his own 15. Matthews ran it in on the very next play. (Are we having fun yet)? Chargers 38 - Cardinals 7.

  • AfCards then went 3 & out to close out the quarter (Hall sacked one more time).

4th Quarter

  • SD moved from their own 36 to the Cardinal 29 where Kaeding added another three (from47 ). Chargers 41 - Cardinals 7.

  • Cards started from their 12 and went 3 & out. Niners then went 3 & out. Starting from their own 36 (after a 19 yard return by Roberts) Hall marched the offense to the SD 27, where a sack moved us back to the 35. Feely's 53 yard attempt was (surprise!) good. SD then ran out the clock. Final Score: Chargers 41 - Cardinals 10.

Bright Spots

  • Hightower's nullified score and the Rhodes fumble return was just about "it."

The Dark Side
(I'll get more specific tomorrow).

  • Total team-wide breakdown in every aspect of the game.

Last Word:
We It's hard to fathom that - after embarrassing losses to Atlanta and now SD, we're still tied with Seattle for 1st place in our division.
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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 10/03/2010