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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

San Diego Padres (71-77) at Arizona Diamondbacks (73-74), 9:40 p.m. (ET) - Kansas City Star

By Sports Network

The Sports Network

Updated: 2012-09-19T15:26:37Z

It's not too late for the Arizona Diamondbacks to crash the wild card party, as they target a third straight win and a series triumph over the San Diego Padres Wednesday in the middle portion of a three-game set.

The Diamondbacks earned a rare win over the Padres in last night's 3-2 decision from Chase Field and now sit 4 1/2 games off the last postseason spot in the National League. Ian Kennedy was on point through eight innings of work and allowed one run with six strikeouts and a pair of walks.J.J. Putz gave up an unearned run in the ninth before grabbing his 30th save."It was a classic case of him getting better as the game went on," Padres manager Bud Black said of Kennedy.Miguel Montero had two hits and two RBI, while Paul Goldschmidt drove in the other run for the Diamondbacks, winners in seven of their last 11 games.On the injury front for Arizona, center fielder Chris Young aggravated a right quadriceps injury that had sidelined him since Sept. 3. Young left in the first inning and is day-to-day."I knew I had to go 100 percent, that's the only way you have to test it out," Young said on the club's official website. "You have to go full speed. I'm more disappointed than anything and frustrated."Hoping to pitch Arizona to a series win will be Trevor Cahill. Cahill has won back-to-back starts and is coming off last Wednesday's 3-2 win over Los Angeles in which he fanned seven batters and allowed two runs in seven innings of work. Cahill evened his record at 11-11 in 29 starts with a 3.92 ERA.Cahill, a right-hander, lost to San Diego on Aug. 26, when he lasted only 3 2/3 innings and gave up four runs and eight hits. In four career starts against the Padres, Cahill is 1-2 with a 2.55 ERA.San Diego had won two straight and nine of 11 games before last night. Eric Stults pitched well in the loss and surrendered three runs and five hits in six innings."They had a different approach ... they were sitting more off-speed, especially early in the count," Stults said. "They were a little more aggressive.Yonder Alonso had two hits and knocked in a run for the Padres, who are seven games off the pace for the final postseason berth in the NL with 14 games remaining in the regular season.Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin did not play because of a sore left Achilles tendon and could miss Wednesday's game. Maybin left Sunday's win over Colorado with the problem. Will Venable got the start Tuesday and went 0-for-3 with an RBI and a strikeout.Outfielder Carlos Quentin is still bothered by a sore right knee.The Padres will send Edinson Volquez to the mound Wednesday and he has won three of his last four starts, including a 6-4 victory over St. Louis the previous time out last Tuesday. Volquez managed to hold on for the win even though he yielded three runs, two of which were earned, in 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander is 10-10 in 29 starts to go along with a 4.24 earned run average.Volquez defeated Arizona on the road in a 5-4 triumph on Aug. 26, when he hurled seven innings of two-run ball. He is 1-0 in three starts against the Diamondbacks this season and 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in six career starts.San Diego is 10-6 against Arizona this season, going 6-1 at Chase Field. The Padres had won seven straight in the desert before Tuesday's loss.

Ryan Mathews Should Be the San Diego Chargers' Primary Back with No Rotation - Bleacher Report

When I heard Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune mention that the San Diego Chargers were interested in acquiring Jackie Battle, I balked. I took one look at the stats and said "forget it."

The game against the Tennessee Titans made me rethink my position.

When Le'Ron McClain took a handoff and rumbled 17 yards for a first down after watching Curtis Brinkley run wide all day (poor Ronnie Brown is still trying to get to the hole at this point), I was interested to see what the big guy could do.

Then I see big 'ol Battle continuously rumbling for big yardage, looking like Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert running out the clock on the Denver Broncos circa 2009. This man looked dominant and far too big and strong for the Titans to deal with.

The debate now rages on. Should the Chargers give Battle a large chunk of Ryan Mathews' carries?

No.

There are a lot of fans livid over the number of games missed by Ryan Mathews, but there is a big advantage to having Mathews on the field for all three downs when he's healthy. Mathews can effectively run any play in the Chargers playbook, Battle can not.

Here is a rundown of the Chargers running backs:

Curtis Brinkley

A less talented version of Mathews who frequently misses holes and doesn't take what he can get. The opposing defenses would like to see him in the backfield as often as possible, unless he decides to stop dancing.

Sorry Jackie, Ryan Mathews is the Pro Bowler here.

Ronnie Brown

Only a threat to catch screen passes out of the backfield. No longer has the explosion to be a force running the ball. He's a good pass protector, so the opposing defense is on the lookout for the screen. If he happens to run the ball, it's an easy stop.

Jackie Battle

A load running the ball, so bring your big-boy pants. Not a huge threat catching passes out of the backfield so far in his six year career.

No need to defend the perimeter run, because most defenses can outrun him to the edge. If the Chargers bring him in, it's most likely going to be a run or play-action pass.

Ryan Mathews

Explosive player who is an equal threat catching passes out of the backfield or taking a handoff. Usually gains over 100 total yards from scrimmage without being overtargeted. Defenses must defend the entire field when Mathews is in the backfield.

Mathews adds a different dynamic to the offense. He forces the other team to pay extra attention to him. Tight end Antonio Gates also requires extra attention.

The combination of these two players hogging the defense's attention opens up things for Malcom Floyd and the other wide receivers. Quarterback Philip Rivers also enjoys the extra hesitation from defenders.

With Mathews out, the Bolts offense is far more predicable. You would think that defenses would be easier to fool if you heave a long pass with Battle in the backfield, right?

That may work once or twice...the entire year!

Also, remember your history.

When San Diego lost the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots, switching out Michael Turner and Darren Sproles helped the Patriots bring in specialized personnel to deal with each guy. Sproles was a huge threat on screens and draw plays, whereas Turner was a huge threat on regular running plays.

San Diego Chargers offense vs. Atlanta Falcons run defense.

Patriot veterans like Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison had an easy time figuring out the plays the Chargers were going to run, especially in the red zone, because the Bolts had a package of plays for each player.

There was no such package for LaDainian Tomlinson. Any play could come at any time, which meant that any defensive formation was possible with L.T. on the field.

Remember the Broncos' disastrous cover-zero blitz in 2006?

No defense would have made that mistake with Sproles on the field (besides the fact he was injured), because taking quick passes to the house are his specialty.

Remember how frustrated Michael Strahan was in 2005 when the New York Giants had no idea if L.T. was going run, catch or throw the ball? The man was ready to hurt somebody, he just didn't know who.

Strahan couldn't hone in on anything and just about lost his mind. There was no Sproles or Turner specialty package.

L.T.'s specialty was everything. Defenses didn't get to use 50 percent of their brain when he was on the field. They had to use 100 percent and, at times, that wasn't good enough.

Mathews has L.T.-like ability. Any play the Chargers call, he can run it.

Battle and Brown are specialty backs, while Curtis Brinkley is clearly a backup. The number of plays they can run with great effectiveness is limited. Defensive coordinators around the league know it, which makes their job far too easy.

Ryan Mathews is a complete back who should not be taken off the field unless he's taking a breather or Battle is running out the clock. Why let defenses off the hook?

Keep them guessing and keep them stressing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Diamondbacks 3, Padres 2 - CBSSports.com

San Diego Chargers-Atlanta Falcons: Mathews & Co. Sizing Up Falcons Defense - Bleacher Report

The words 'small' and 'quick' came to mind as I watched the Atlanta Falcons defense walk around and confuse the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning as if Eric Weddle was on the field.

The next thing that came to mind was a vision of Ryan Mathews teaming with Jackie Battle run over the Falcons' undersized defense. The San Diego Chargers usually don't have a problem with speedy defenses unless they turn the ball over.

The Chargers' biggest concern when it comes to an opposing defensive force is a big nasty defensive tackle who can ignore Norv Turner's tricks and wreak havoc.

Thank goodness for the Chargers, there is no Ndamukong Suh on the Falcon's roster.

It's the same story from me. The Chargers have to run the ball and not turn it over to beat the Falcons. Here's a team that was in a battle with the Kansas City Chiefs until the "Chefs" served up some home cooking with two key second half turnovers.

Then they nearly blew a huge lead to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos after receiving four first-quarter turnovers. A dropped fourth-quarter pass may have been the only thing that saved the Falcons from falling victim to a classic Manning comeback.

The Falcons have lived on gifts during the first two games, and the Chargers can not play their usual Santa Claus role. As good as the Falcons have looked, they've pulled away from their first two opponents because of turnovers. They didn't physically dominate or overwhelm anybody.

I'll parrot myself every week. Even at the expense of big plays, the Chargers can not turn the ball over. If the running game is working and the back's fingers aren't buttered up, the risk of turnovers goes way down.

San Diego Chargers Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Defense

The Chargers will run the ball whether they are successful, but I'm interested to see if they actually make some positive gains early on. It seems feasible.

Even with the big leads they built on turnovers, the Falcons have given up 270 yards rushing in only two games. At that rate they'll give up 2,160 yards rushing.

Winning teams usually don't give up 2,000 yards rushing in a season. Last year, the only team to give up that many yards and have a winning record was the Detroit Lions, who made a quick playoff exit after giving up 167 yards on the ground to the New Orleans Saints.

If that hole in the the Falcons' defense is legit, the Bolts need to ignore their tricks and punch the Falcons in the face...

...assuming Mathews is 100 percent of course.

Tennessee Titans vs. San Diego Chargers Defensive Recap - Titan Sized (blog)

Sep 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (99) sits near the misters during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

The Tennessee Titans suffered their second straight blow out loss, this time to a San Diego Chargers team playing without future hall of fame tight end Antonio Gates. That didn’t matter however because backup tight end Dante Rosario scored 3 touchdowns.

Jackie Battle, another backup, had 2 short touchdown runs late that nailed the coffin on Tennessee’s night.

San Diego controlled the pace early and they did a great job of keeping the Titans on their heels. That combined with fantastic field position (thanks to the Titans offense) and the Chargers went up 14-0, fast. Through the second and third quarters the Titans played much better. So let’s break down the good vs. the bad during Sunday’s game

The Good:

There are a couple positive things to take away from this game. Despite being put in bad positions constantly throughout the game, the defense did a pretty good job of limiting big plays. They kept the ball in front of them and the line consistently got pressure on Phillip Rivers.

Tennessee recorded 4 sacks in only 38 dropbacks. They caused 3 fumbles, but the ball just did not bounce their way. Alteraun Verner had a beautiful interception on a deep pass to Floyd, but didn’t have much of a return.

I was happy with McCarthy’s replacement, which was Witherspoon sliding over from the weak side backer position while Zach brown filled in. Speaking of Zach brown, he had 10 total tackles and a sack. That is a great game for a rookie making his first start. He showed the ability to dissect run plays and even blew up a couple blockers. I was impressed to say the least.

The Bad:

Tight ends continue to destroy the Titans. Michael Griffin and Robert Johnson were out of position on Rosario’s first two touchdowns. On the first one, Johnson was focused on the outside receiver and became stiff and planted allowing Rosario to get open with a scramble by Rivers. On the second touchdown Rosario put a move on Griffin.

Now on this play it is impossible to know if Witherspoon was supposed to have the back of the end zone allowing Griffin to set up for the post, nonetheless a quick double move by Rosario was all Phillip Rivers needed to rifle it in there. I have watched this play 30 times and I am almost certain that Griffin had outside coverage while the linebacker was supposed to drop back, but the offensive play call was a pick and go which made the backer hesitate just enough. Rivers is too good of a quarterback for such a vanilla zone in the redzone, let alone five yards out.

What happened to all the new wrinkles Tennessee was supposed to run this season? What is the reasoning behind Robert Johnson playing 35 yards deep center field, does he really have that kind of range? The answer is NO.

As the game went along, so did the defensive line’s energy. The heat combined with being on the field for 45 minutes was all they could handle. The depth at defensive end is a glaring weakness.

The Titans talked all off season of the emergence of Tommie Campbell as the outside nickel corner, but he hasn’t really seen the field this season outside of special teams. I can not put a finger on the reasoning behind this, but I am a bit worried when Ryan Mouton is on the field, or even dressed to play, for that matter.

“Big play” Babs received an extension this off season, but Robert Johnson has started in his place in each of the first two games. Johnson is not equipped to play strong safety, and neither is Griffin. They are both center field type safeties with good range but poor tackling.

This tandem is our weakest link on defense and teams will attack the Titans in ways that will exploit it all season. Some serious adjustments need to be made to the back seven if Tennessee wants any chance of beating the Detroit Lions next game.

My Grade: C

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Tags: Defense, Tennessee Titans, Titan Sized

San Diego Padres (71-76) at Arizona Diamondbacks (72-74), 9:40 p.m. (ET) - Kansas City Star

By Sports Network

The Sports Network

Updated: 2012-09-18T14:57:36Z

A pair of teams with a glimmer of hope to make the playoffs clash Tuesday in the desert, as the Arizona Diamondbacks kick off a three-game series with the NL West-rival San Diego Padres at Chase Field.

The Diamondbacks are 4 1/2 games off the last wild card spot in the National League and the Padres sit six games off the pace.Arizona salvaged the finale of a three-game series versus San Francisco with Sunday's 10-2 pounding of the Giants. Patrick Corbin struck out five batters and allowed two runs in eight innings, and Josh Collmenter hurled a scoreless ninth inning to close it out.Justin Upton finished 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, while Aaron Hill added two hits and two runs batted in for the Diamondbacks, who have won three of their last five games. Upton has three homers and seven RBI since Sept. 8."I wasn't squaring the ball up earlier in the season, but stringing together a couple of good days has been nice," Upton said.Ian Kennedy will take the mound for the D-backs Monday and he is 13-11 with a 4.21 earned run average in 29 starts this season. Kennedy is 2-0 in his last three starts and has won seven of his last 10 decisions, including last Tuesday's 1-0 win over Los Angeles in which he tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings.The right-hander has faced the Padres three times this season, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA, and is 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 10 career starts against them. Kennedy has made 12 starts at home this season and is 6-3 in that time.San Diego has won nine of its last 11 games and just went 7-2 on a nine-game homestand. The club won two of three matchups with Colorado over the weekend and won the series with a 12-11 triumph on Sunday.Yonder Alonso drove in Everth Cabrera with a single in the bottom of the ninth for the win and finished 4-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Cabrera had two hits, two runs scored and three RBI for the Padres. Logan Forsythe ended with four hits and a trio of runs scored."You can't take anything for granted, no matter what the score is," Padres manager Bud Black said.Andrew Werner started for San Diego and gave up five runs in five innings for the no-decision. Joe Thatcher got the last two outs of the game for the win.Eric Stults gets the nod for the Padres tonight and is unbeaten in his last 11 trips to the mound (5-0). Stults is coming off last Monday's 11-3 decision over St. Louis and scattered three runs in 5 1/3 innings for the win. He is 6-2 with a 2.54 earned run average in 15 games (11 starts) this season and 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA against the Diamondbacks in 2012.Stults, a left-hander, has faced Arizona six times (4 starts) in his career and is 3-1 with a 4.33 ERA.San Diego is 10-5 against Arizona this season, going 6-0 at Chase Field. The Padres have won seven straight in the desert.

San Diego Chargers Ryan Mathews Set to Return against the Falcons - Bleacher Report

If there's one thing we know about Norv Turner's San Diego Chargers, it's that whatever ails the team early in the season will be fixed by the 10th or 11th game of the schedule. At that point, the team becomes pretty hard to beat.

That's been too late the last two playoff-free years.

So far this season, I've seen one glaring weakness. You know what it is, the Chargers know what it is and opponents know what it is. The Chargers can't run the ball.

That handicap may go away quicker than anyone expected with the impending return of Ryan Mathews and the freight train-like display of Jackie Battle against a withering Tennessee Titans defense.

I had a discussion on YouTube about whether the running problems would go away once Mathews returned. Some viewers thought that the issue would remain, I feel the issue will quickly disappear.

Against the Titans, La'Ron McClain and Battle proved that the running back helps out the offensive line just as much as the offensive line helps out the running back. Averaging 5.5 yards on 16 carries, those two big guys saw the hole and hit it like a sledge hammer with no nonsense.

Meanwhile, Curtis Brinkley averaged 2.4 yards on 18 attempts, and it wasn't just because the Titans were fresher during the bulk of his carries.

What can you say about good 'ol Brinks?

He makes more cuts than a butcher shop, his runs break wider than a Nate Kaeding field-goal attempt in the playoffs and he switches directions more often than Kim Kardashian switches men.

Will the return of Mathews shore up the Chargers running woes?

Will the return of Mathews shore up the Chargers running woes?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Give it time

That needs to stop immediately.

While Brinkley has more physical talent than McClain and Battle, his decision making is questionable. It seems like he bounces every run outside whether there's a need for it or not. Anyone who has followed Norv knows that most (or at least a good number) of his running plays are designed to go inside.

If the offensive line is blocking to create a hole in the inside of the line, they are pushing the defenders outside. If the running back decides to run outside, then a), the offensive linemen are going to be surprised (leading to holding calls), and b), the defenders will then have a straight line to attack (leading to one-yard gains or less).

It takes a special talent with both exceptional vision and Hall of Fame acceleration to be able to get away with bouncing runs outside as often as Brinkley does it. Then again, Barry Sanders is the all-time NFL leader in yards lost.

Brinks will be out of the league before he gets close to that record. He just needs to learn his limits and maximize his ability.

I missed the opening drive against Tennessee, but from the second drive on, Brinkley made a hard cut on all but one run.

What happened on that one run? He gained 12 yards, so hopefully he sees the correlation.

Norv Turner had to repeatedly tell Mathews to stop making more cuts than necessary before he actually responded. He may need to give Brinkley the same treatment.