Moment #5 -- One of the Worst
Fumbling and ending up in Shanahan's dog house go hand in hand. Matters are only made worse when your fumble becomes the second score in 11 seconds for your opponent who also happens to be your competition for division supremacy.
That is what Brian Clark had to face after spending the first three weeks of the season inactive and the fourth week not even on the roster. After Rivers escaped the clutches of Crowder to score a walk in touchdown on the previous drive, Carlos Polk put a hat on the ball as Clark was running into the backs of his blockers. The result was a fumble recovery returned for a TD by the Chargers, and a quick 14-0 hole that was the begining of the end.
The thing is, Denver and SD came into the game playing catchup to oakland in the Wacky West, and so it was known that the winner had an opportunity to do irrepairable damage to the loser. SD was playing poorly at the time. Denver had homefield advantage. In what level of Hell does all of that translate into a 41-3 drubbing that could only be stopped by the mercy of the finite nature of 60 minutes?
The fumble itself was painful to watch. The blockers appeared lost, and the SD special teamers just bowled them over on their way to embarrassing Clark in front of 76,000 fans. Clark would blame himself for the fumble, saying he wasn't practicing sound fundamentals, and that he exposed the ball to danger. And after slipping in the endzone and geting chewed out by Cutler later in the game it was clear that it was his JOB that was in danger on that day. He was cut later and as the special teams unit went into a downward spiral, he was forgotten.
That is what it is like to get Clarked.
Have We Seen the Last of Poor Return Skills in Denver?
The answer to this question is irrevocably and clearly a yes. Eddie Royal is the antidote to our returner woes. There are some that regret losing Hixon only to see him produce and receive a SuperBowl ring for his troubles, but there is no doubt he wasn't producing, or even exhibiting solid skills while he was in Denver. I blame the Kevin Everett hit for his stunted growth, but it is immaterial at this point. The booby prize for losing him is better hands, faster speed, better moves and a vastly superior football psychology. Royal not only seems to have secured his place as a returner on this team, if for no other reason than showing no signs that he will have trouble at the position, but he has also begun to threaten the WR ranks for starting time. His biggest asset? He has sure hands. He was always tough and dependable in traffic, and it is his mindset that makes him so. But a guy that catches whatever comes his way and can be depended on to be tough in the face of adversity is the first guy you want competing for the privelege of returning kicks.
I can't guarantee TDs, but I can confidently say that offensive starting field position woes are a thing of the past.