Source: USA Today
The questions coming at coach Norv Turner are ones he didn't anticipate just yet.
But the reality of the Chargers' 34-20 loss to the Bengals on Sunday is this: They are eliminated from the playoffs after making the postseason four consecutive years.
Turner said he's been asked: "Where do you guys go now and what do you do?"
"Well, you have a game to play, and some had made the comment it's a meaningless game," he said. "My answer is, I've never been involved in a meaningless game."
Those tracking Turner's head-coaching career in Oakland and Washington would beg to differ.
So the Chargers point their jet toward Denver on Sunday, hoping to at least end the season on a positive note.
But make no mistake: This is among the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
And make no mistake II: The Chargers are going all out to win Sunday, and that includes playing quarterback Philip Rivers.
"I think we would all have to tie Philip down and fight him to keep him from going out there and playing," Turner said. "It's an important game to him; he has had an unbelievable season, and he is one of the great competitors you could ever be around."
But those around the Chargers know that their season is sunk.
San Diego promised to build on a dismal showing in last season's playoff loss to the Jets. Instead, the Chargers didn't even make the postseason.
Turner was not ready to chat about the season as a whole. That will come after Sunday's game.
"We will get into this next week when we wrap this thing up," Turner said. "I prefer to talk about this game, the Denver game ... then we'll get into the whole season."
Rivers said his mind-set is no different this week despite the Chargers falling from the playoff picture.
"We are going to play in it to win and get to 9-7 and finish above .500," he said.
That's not much of a goal, but really, it's all the Chargers have left.
—The Chargers were thankful that running back Mike Tolbert was able to leave their locker room under his own power after being carted off the field on a stretcher. What was thought to be a neck or spinal injury was reported as a sprained shoulder. Tolbert lay motionless on the field for some time, which had many fearing the worst. "To see him walking around and active the way he is now is encouraging," C Nick Hardwick said. "We were all a little nervous at the time."
—Among the more comical plays Sunday was cornerback Antoine Cason getting burned on a long touchdown reception when Cason was ill-prepared for the snap.
"We didn't get the play in fast enough, and they quick-snapped us," Quentin Jammer said. "They lined up while we were still in the huddle. When we came out, they just snapped it and took off running. We were in trouble from that moment on."
—Quarterback Philip Rivers, since becoming the starter in 2006, had never missed the playoffs before this year. "It's tough anytime you are eliminated from the postseason," Rivers said. "I haven't dealt with this since I've been playing (in San Diego). This game ultimately was the final straw. This wasn't the game necessarily that put us out (of the playoffs). We lost six other games along the way and put ourselves at 2-5. That's a tough hill to climb. We felt we could do it, but we didn't get it done."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—TE Antonio Gates (toe, foot) will not practice this week play Sunday against the Broncos.
—WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) is increasing his work. He has a chance to play Sunday.
—WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring) was running on the side with the trainers Sunday, and depending on how he feels Tuesday, he could go this week.
—ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) could be out this week as he continues to battle his injury.
—OLB Shaun Phillips, the team's leading sacker, had only one unassisted tackle Sunday.
REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS
PASSING OFFENSE: C — Philip Rivers likely had his worst day of the year. And really he had one coming the way the Chargers have leaned on him so much this year. He completed 27 of 40 passes for 256 yards and a score, and he had a critical interception late that helped seal the Chargers' fate. San Diego allowed only one sack, so it wasn't the pressure. It more a crosswind and just an off day from Rivers.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The Chargers ran for just 64 yards, and part of that was the loss of Mike Tolbert early in the game. Ryan Mathews did average 4.6 yards on 12 carries, and he had his longest rush of the year (23 yards) for a score. Run-blocking was decent.
PASS DEFENSE: F — Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes, despite having two youngsters at wide receiver. The Chargers were hoodwinked by Palmer, as he took turns burning Eric Weddle, Quentin Jammer, Paul Oliver and Antoine Cason. The pass rush was non-existent, as Palmer was able to go through his reads and find the proper target.
RUSH DEFENSE: C — Not too bad here, although the Bengals did get past the 100-yard mark. Cedric Benson was held to a 2.2-yard average and no scores, with a long of 11 yards. The Chargers did all right without starting inside linebacker Stephen Cooper.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Mike Scifres had an off day, and that included his first punt, which was mis-hit for 24 yards. The Bengals ultimately turned that field position into their first touchdown. Darren Sproles turned in a 45-yard kick return. Coverages were solid.
COACHING: F — The Chargers were clearly unprepared, uninspired and nearly unwatchable in the early stages of the game as the Bengals raced to a 13-0 lead. And a double-reverse in inclement weather on the first play — huh? The Chargers never recovered from that — and not scoring a touchdown from the Cincinnati 1 with a first down. The defense was asleep — see Cason on the final Bengals touchdown. Palmer, not the most mobile quarterback, wasn't sacked once.