SAN DIEGO — Al Saunders walked into his weekly Monday meeting with the media, sat down, and began to sift through the wreckage left in the aftermath of Sunday's 34-3 loss to Seattle.
As expected, he wasn't the bearer of much happy news.
"The films bore out everything we saw in the game on Sunday," said Saunders, the Chargers coach. "They beat us on offense, defense and special teams. We never got control of the game from the opening kickoff."
That was the overview.
But what about some of the other numbers?
Like the final score, they weren't very pretty, either. But one stood out.
Seventeen yards rushing.
As in, that's how many yards the Chargers gained on the ground against the Seahawks.
As in, remember that Saunders says it takes a good defense and balanced offense to win football games. How balanced were the Chargers Sunday? They did not use one running play in the second half.
"Our running game was not very good," Saunders said. "It's something we've wanted to get better at and something we have to get better at in order to be a consistent team."
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Chargers' running game Sunday was its failures in short-yardage situations.
On its first drive, the Charger offense faced third-and-one at the Seattle 43. Curtis Adams ran left and lost one yard. On fourth-and-two, Gary Anderson was supposed to run right but center Don Macek had the ball scrape against the Kingdome carpet on his snap and quarterback Mark Herrmann couldn't handle the ball. The Chargers recovered but had to turn the ball over on downs.
In the second quarter, on third-and-one from their 45, the Chargers sent Anderson up the middle. He was stopped for no gain.
"That concerns me," Saunders said. "We've got to make those plays to keep the ball. We've got to have those first downs."
The Chargers, though, had only six first downs Sunday--and only two in the second half, when they didn't run at all.
On three third-and-short plays in the second half, the Chargers passed--and all three passes fell incomplete.
In all, San Diego made only two of 10 third-down conversions against Seattle. The week before, against the Raiders, the Chargers converted just 2 of 14 third-down plays into first downs.
"We only made one third-and-short in the first half, and that was on a pass (to Anderson)," Saunders said. "I don't like the way we have progressed in our running game."
So, what to do? Adams had only 12 yards in 5 carries against the Seahawks (Tim Spencer was second with four yards gained in three carries) and no Charger runner has gained more than 79 yards in a single game this season. Anderson did that in 16 carries against St. Louis in the second game of the season.
Furthermore, no Charger runner has shown the ability to make a big play--the longest run by a back this season was Anderson's 25-yarder against St. Louis. Since the strike, the Chargers' longest gain on the ground has been 16 yards, by Anderson against the Raiders and Spencer against Cleveland.
"I don't think it's a matter of changing around the personnel," Saunders said. "I just think we're going have to spend more time and give some more attention to our running game."