Over the next few months, Cheap Seats will be examining the term “Martyball,” dissecting its definition, misperception and ramifications. During the coach’s tenure in Chargerville, critics cite the Chargers tendency to give up leads in the fourth quarter as proof of Schottenheimer’s conservative offensive strategy.

Marty took a lot of criticism after the Chargers only loss this season, a tough 16-13 defeat after the Baltimore Ravens came from behind in the fourth quarter. Schottenheimer took shots from the media and fans for his conservative play calling in the fourth quarter.

Truth is, a lot of his team’s drives near the end of the game started deep in his own territory, which usually necessitates a run play or two give the offense space from their own end zone.

Also, look at the match up. The Ravens defense remains one of the best in the game (number 2 in the NFL right behind S.D.’s number one rated defense), while Baltimore’s offense rank 13th out of 16 AFC teams. You can’t blame Marty for letting his top-rated defense make plays against a less-than-mediocre offense. Unfortunately, the Chargers came up against a wiley veteran QB in Steve McNair.

In last week’s win over the Steelers, the Chargers demonstrated great balance, throwing the ball 37 times and running it 31 times. The Chargers improved to 2-0 this season when throwing more than 25 passes in a game. Since 2002, the Chargers are 21-27 when throwing 26 or more passes in a game and 15-5 when throwing less than 25 passes in a game.

So the numbers point to one simple fact. You need to run the ball to win in the NFL. But with pro defense getting bigger, stronger and faster every year, you also need to maintain a balance between running plays and pass plays.

Part of the problem is Marty’s level-headed response to criticism. I’d like to see the media and fans come down on Bill Parcells like they’re all over Marty every time the team loses a close game. Ain’t going to happen. Parcells would rip the reporters in two with his sharp tongue. Conversely, Schottenheimer has a mellow Midwestern attitude, shrugging off Martyball accusations with a sly smile.

– CHRIS NIXON

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