Source: USA Today
Reeling from a disappointing defeat to the Jets, the Chargers are picking up the pieces and trying to look forward to Monday night's game against the Chiefs.
But they do so after getting mugged in the Meadowlands, thanks to their sloppy play and manner in which they took care of the ball.
The Chargers are always eager to be part of any conversation regarding the AFC's top teams. Trouble is, whenever they play one of the conference's elite, it seems they fall short.
On Sunday, quarterback Philip Rivers' two fourth-quarter interceptions led to 10 points and allowed the Jets to roar back for an unlikely win.
"Every week you have an opportunity," coach Norv Turner said. "You're on the road and you're playing a team of the Jets' caliber. If you (give) yourself a chance to win, you want to go win the game."
Wanting and doing are two different things. Thing is, the Chargers, with a season-high 13 penalties and a season-low amount of second-half energy didn't deserve to win. The Chargers were as responsible for the result as were the Jets.
"We can sit here and think of a bunch of reasons why," Rivers said. "The bottom line is that we came out playing really well. We just didn't finish the game. If we would have played the second half like we did the first, it would have been a two-touchdown victory. But we didn't. Those are ifs and buts. We are 4-2, and there is a long way to go."
But the short story is things are getting tight in the AFC West. The Chargers will be fighting for first place when playing the Chiefs. Kansas City was left for dead after a 0-3 start but has since won three straight.
The Raiders are also in the mix, and maybe even the Broncos with Tim Tebow at quarterback.
There's a long way to go, all right, and nothing is going to be easy with the Chargers entering the teeth of their schedule. That is among the reasons Sunday's loss was so disheartening, with the Chargers knowing they need to bank all the victories, what with the Packers and others looming on their slate.
"We need to keep growing as a football team," Turner said. "I continue to emphasize it with our guys."
Those guys need to lift their chins from their chests. If not, considering the list of teams left to play, the Chargers could find themselves in a hole almost as quickly as they found themselves atop the AFC West with a 4-1 start.
—Tight end Randy McMichael was having none of that tip-your-hat nonsense to the opposing team after a defeat. McMichael went on a postgame tirade after the Chargers coughed up Sunday's game against the Jets with a rash of penalties and costly turnovers.
"We had them, and we took our foot off the gas," he said. "I'm not giving credit to anybody. This is our fault. Their secondary isn't anything. The guys in this locker room, we lost the game. The San Diego Chargers beat the San Diego Chargers. Nothing to do with the New York Jets. It's embarrassing, but it is what it is."
—The Chargers won't know until later in the week, but there has to be some concern on the availability of left tackle Marcus McNeill for next Monday's game. The Pro Bowler left Sunday's game early with a neck injury, tried to return, but eventually excused himself from the game. McNeill underwent neck surgery in 2009.
"I decided to play it safe," McNeill said. "I didn't feel like I had any strength in it."
—One highlight from the dreadful game, in the Chargers' eyes, was the return of tight end Antonio Gates. Gates, who had been out since Sept. 18 with a foot injury, started and caught five passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
"They monitored how many reps I was going to take," Gates said. "We came in with a game plan, and we tried to execute it well. I felt wonderful. Some plays came my way, and I was able to make them. I felt fine, and I feel fine now, but we'll take it a day at a time. I think it was good that we got into a game situation so we could see how much more I could put on my foot and how many more reps I can take."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—ILB Donald Butler continues to impress in his first year as a starter. The second-year pro did a great strip-and-sprint on Jets TE Dustin Keller to give the Chargers their first score Sunday, returning the fumble 37 yards. Butler also had a team-high eight tackles.
—RB Mike Tolbert proved his worth by scoring on a second-quarter, 1-yard run, then sprinting onto special teams, where he made a possible touchdown-saving tackle. Tolbert is a little banged up with hamstring and hand issues, but those ailments won't keep him out of Monday's game.
—CB Antoine Cason's memory will be tested after he was torched for three touchdowns by Plaxico Burress. He needs to forget about it fast, with the surging Chiefs coming up next. Cason is unlikely to lose his starting job, but his play will come under increased scrutiny.
—OLB Shaun Phillips had two sacks Sunday, but they came with a cost, as he hobbled off the field late in the contest. Phillips has been bothered by a tender hamstring; it's his foot that is hurting him now.
—RB Ryan Mathews has a tough time getting through a game without getting a nick or two. That was true Sunday when he left the game with a thumb injury. Mathews, though, should be good to go next Monday.
REPORT CARD VS. JETS
PASSING OFFENSE: D — Philip Rivers has become a turnover machine, committing two more — in the fourth quarter — to give him 11 on the season. Rivers threw behind Vincent Jackson for one pick and made a bad decision on the other. The pass-blocking was OK, but the receivers did have trouble getting open, which often had Rivers holding the ball too long. TE Antonio Gates' return was a plus, although he was only able to be in the mix occasionally. The key here is Rivers. What has happened to one of the most accurate passers in the game?
RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The Chargers couldn't run the ball with consistency late, otherwise, they wouldn't have coughed up an 11-point, third-quarter lead. Ryan Mathews was so-so with 39 yards on 13 carries. Mike Tolbert was the leading rusher, but he managed only 58 yards, although his 5.3-yard average is worth noting. The run-blocking wasn't bad — especially early on.
PASS DEFENSE: F — Three touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress is all you need to know here. Mark Sanchez carved up the secondary when he had to, in particular Antoine Cason, who was burned on all three scoring receptions. Quentin Jammer also picked up two pass-interference penalties to help the Jets' cause. Shaun Phillips had two sacks, but a closer look reveals yet another tepid pass rush, as Sanchez had more than enough time to make his reads and find the open man. The pass rush has been inconsistent all season, and Sunday was no different.
RUSH DEFENSE: F — Shonn Green hadn't rushed for more than 100 yards in more than a year, but he picked on the Chargers' run defense the entire afternoon. San Diego's thin and inexperienced line is not keeping blockers off the linebackers, and that is causing teams to gobble up significant yardage on the ground. For the second straight week, the Chargers allowed 162 rushing yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Not much went wrong here, save two of the Chargers' season-high 13 penalties. Richard Goodman is hitting the hole hard on kick returns but has yet to have anything to show for it. The coverage teams were solid, save a kick return that might have been a touchdown if Mike Tolbert didn't make a tackle.
COACHING: F — The Chargers, coming off a bye, had an extra week to prepare for the Jets, but it sure didn't look like it. A tsunami of penalties and an overall lack of execution when needed did them in. Some strange play-calling on the last drive didn't give San Diego much of a chance to stage a rally. And why defensive adjustments weren't made in regards to Burress is baffling. The Chargers were fine with putting Cason on him with no help, and the results were terrible. This was not the team's, or the coaching staff's, finest hour.