Source: Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP)—Eliminated from playoff contention and with their coach and general manager possibly headed for the unemployment line, all the San Diego Chargers can do now is try to ruin rival Oakland’s season and avoid their first losing record since 2003.
The Chargers’ locker room had an end-of-season feel Monday, two days after San Diego was routed 38-10 by the Detroit Lions.
While the Chargers had shown life in winning their previous three games to stay in the running for the playoffs, their flop Saturday could cost coach Norv Turner and possibly general manager A.J. Smith their jobs.
San Diego is out of the playoffs for the second straight season after reaching the postseason five of the six previous seasons.
“It’s hard,” safety Eric Weddle said. “My first three years we always made the playoffs. The last couple of years we just haven’t done it. It’s frustrating. It’s hard to deal with. You work your tail off, but sometimes it’s not good enough. That’s why you’ve got to work even harder.”
Weddle said he expects the Chargers to play hard in their finale Sunday at Oakland, which still has a chance to reach the playoffs.
“I don’t want the Raiders to go. We have control over at least one more game, and who can go,” Weddle said. “We’re going to try our hardest to spoil their postseason and keep them out of it.”
The Raiders (8-7) can still win the AFC West or end up with the AFC’s second wild-card spot. Oakland has won three straight against the Chargers, including two in which the Raiders ran wild.
A defeat would leave the Chargers (7-8) with their first losing season since 2003.
It already might be too late for Turner and Smith to save their jobs.
The debacle in Detroit, which came six days after San Diego routed Baltimore, gave detractors another chance to question Turner’s ability to prepare the Chargers, especially with so much at stake. It also gave them a chance to question the makeup of the roster.
San Diego had no answers against Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who hooked up on a 46-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage.
“The first play of the game is indicative of how a lot of plays were in the game,” Turner said. “We had two guys covering one. I know he’s a great player but neither of our guys judged the ball very well; overran it. When I saw him throw the ball, I thought it would be an interception.”
Instead, neither safety Steve Gregory nor cornerback Quentin Jammer had a shot at it, only Johnson. The Lions led 24-0 at halftime and wrapped up their first playoff berth since 1999 while eliminating the Chargers.
Stafford was 29 of 36 for 373 yards and three scores, while Johnson had four catches for 102 yards and one score.
“The biggest question is how can you play so well against Baltimore, then not play well against Detroit?” Turner said. “A lot of it is matchups; a lot of it is the style of offense. We have not played well against a wide-open spread offense, whether it be Green Bay or the way Chicago played us and threw the ball. Defensively we’ve struggled against teams that spread us out and used three or four wide receivers.”
Turner’s job security has been an issue since a six-game losing streak derailed the Chargers’ season. Fans have grown increasingly hostile toward Smith, who hired Turner in February 2007 after Marty Schottenheimer was fired by team president Dean Spanos because of an icy relationship with the GM.
Spanos will have to decide whether to eat the final two years of Turner’s contract and the final three seasons of Smith’s deal.
Turner said he and his assistants will approach this week as they normally do.
“I’ve got a great respect for the coaches on our staff and the way they work at what they do and the way they work to prepare this team to go play,” Turner said. “Obviously, there’s speculation, uncertainty, but the only thing we can control is getting these guys ready to play, and we’re going to do that this week.”