Source: USA Today
A leaky vessel isn't good in San Diego — on or off the water.
"It's tough," quarterback Philip Rivers said, "but I think we have the guys to keep the boat afloat."
The Chargers set sail searching for another way to rebound after absorbing their fifth straight loss Sunday to the Bears.
They fell two games off the pace in the division — the first-place Raiders also have the tiebreaker — with continuing signs affirming things are bleak.
If there is any solace, the Chargers do reside in the AFC West. If there is a chance, it comes Sunday against the visiting Broncos, the first of three remaining games against division foes.
That, and a belief that is being seriously tested, are all the reeling Chargers have going for them.
"Nobody is going to quit, I know that," Rivers said.
The Chargers look at a Broncos team coming Sunday that is zooming in the other direction. Led by Tim Tebow — he almost led the Broncos to a win against San Diego on Oct. 9 — Denver will test the Chargers' run defense.
That was one area that held up well Sunday, but not much else did. It's tough to win when allowing seven straight third-down conversions.
Coach Norv Turner will feel some additional heat, as will the team. In his fifth year directing this ship, there has been little smooth sailing.
The team missed the playoffs last year and has its compass pointed in that direction this season.
"There's a lot of messages I send our team, and it's between me and them in terms of what we have to do and the things we know we need to do," Turner said.
Are the right things being said? That's debatable.
—It wasn't all doom-and-gloom in the Chargers' latest loss, their fifth straight, as a patchwork offensive line kept quarterback Philip Rivers upright. Three opening-day starters were out with injuries.
"The O-line was great," said Rivers, who wasn't sacked in a game for the first time this season. "That's where everybody on the outside was concerned, and we knew the guys would step up. I mean, I don't know that I was hit but once, maybe."
—The Chargers have become road kill, proving it again in Sunday's loss at Chicago. They have lost four of five road games this year; they went 3-5 away from Qualcomm Stadium last year. What gives?
"I don't think it has anything to do with on the road," coach Norv Turner said. "I think it's where we are as a football team right now, and we were playing a very good football team."
—Wide receiver Vincent Jackson showed again why he's earned the team's franchise tag last offseason. He caught a game-high seven passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. His long catch of 47 yards was highlight-reel worthy. "I think we hit some plays we worked on this week, a couple we left out there," Jackson said.
Added Rivers: "When Vincent does what he is capable of doing, he's making big plays down the field."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—OLB Shaun Phillips should test his ailing foot this week, and he hopes he can return after missing four games. Phillips is the team's best pass rusher.
—LT Marcus McNeill, who didn't play Sunday, is coming along slowly after suffering his second neck sprain this season. McNeill, a Pro Bowler, underwent neck surgery in 2009.
—WR Malcom Floyd continues to miss time with his chronic hip injury. Floyd has yet to test it in practice, and he has missed three games.
—RG Louis Vasquez could test his high ankle sprain later in the week and possibly play Sunday after skipping the game at Chicago.
—OL Scott Mruczkowski sustained a concussion Sunday, and he needs to pass tests before being cleared to return to practice. With the Chargers' health issues along the front line, Mruczkowski was a nice fallback for depth.
REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — A couple of touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards against a stingy Bears defense is usually good enough. But Philip Rivers threw two more interceptions — both in the fourth quarter — which derailed any comeback bid. He did have strong stretches of play. The pass protection was keen, and Vincent Jackson made plays downfield. But a quarterback must take care of the ball, and Rivers failed in that category once again.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D — Ryan Mathews continues to have ball-security issues that are going to decrease his carries. His third-quarter fumble helped swing the game; he averaged but 2.8 yards on 13 carries. The run-blocking was up-and-down.
PASS DEFENSE: D — The lasting image is the Chargers' secondary getting twisted this way and that way, as Jay Cutler consistently had enough time to go through reads — no pass rush — to pick on the back end. Antoine Cason is among cornerbacks who continue to struggle.
RUSH DEFENSE: B — A bright spot here with some good inside play that didn't let Matt Forte to the third level. He average was only 2.9 yards, and the Bears gave him 20 carries. The secondary was good in run support, as the top two tacklers were from CB Quentin Jammer and FS Eric Weddle.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D — The Chargers kept kicking and punting in Devin Hester's direction, and the results were predictable. The coverage teams allowed 181 return yards, often giving Cutler short fields to work with. Richard Goodman had a 44-yard kick return for the Chargers.
COACHING: F — Norv Turner attacked the Bears deep and had his run defense make an unexpected appearance. However, it wasn't enough, as his play-makers keep turning the ball over and the defense can't get off the field. There were some time-management issues and few others bumps, but it's becoming clear Turner's message isn't sinking in and/or this underwhelming roster is playing to its potential.