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Chargers at crossroads after just 4 games

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=txchargersbye&amp;prov=st&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>

    By Bernie Wilson

    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://prod.static.chargers.clubs.nfl.com/assets/images/imported/zip/2009/10-October/wk4-SDG-PITT/100409_SDvsPIT_MN_108--nfl_medium_540_360.jpg"><img class=" " title="The Chargers rallied to score four touchdowns in the final 17 minutes Sunday night but were unable to dig out of the early hole they found themselves in and dropped a 38-28 decision in Pittsburgh Sunday night. (Credit: San Diego Chargers) NOTE: mandatory photo credit and link to www.chargers.com The Chargers rallied to score four touchdowns in the final 17 minutes Sunday night but were unable to dig out of the early hole they found themselves in and dropped a 38-28 decision in Pittsburgh Sunday night. (Credit: San Diego Chargers) NOTE: mandatory photo credit and link to www.chargers.com " src="http://prod.static.chargers.clubs.nfl.com/assets/images/imported/zip/2009/10-October/wk4-SDG-PITT/100409_SDvsPIT_MN_108--nfl_medium_540_360.jpg" alt="Shawne Merriman (Chargers.com photo)" width="246" height="173" /></a></div>

    SAN DIEGO(AP)-The San Diego Chargers already are at a crossroads just four games into the season.

    Some might even suggest they're in deep trouble.

    Physically beaten up by the lowly Oakland Raiders in the opener, the Chargers have limped to a 2-2 record going into their bye weekend.

    Being .500 at this point might not be that big a surprise, considering that the Chargers played three straight playoff teams from last year, including the two teams that played for the AFC championship.

    The factors that make it look bad, though, are the way the Chargers lost at Pittsburgh last Sunday night and the fact that Denver is a surprising 4-0, two games ahead of the Bolts in the AFC West.

    In losing at Pittsburgh for the third time since mid-November, the Chargers fell behind 28-0 and surrendered 497 total yards to the defending Super Bowl champions.

    "It hurt, man, because for one, we had the chance to prove to the world what the San Diego Chargers are about," tight end Antonio Gates(notes) said. "For the first half, it was just embarrassing. It wasn't San Diego Chargers football."

    The Chargers didn't totally lay an egg. Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes in the last 16 1/2 minutes - including two to Gates - and Jacob Hester pried the ball away from punt returner Stefan Logan and returned it for a score.

    "We had the chance to see the character of the guys," Gates said. "It's easy to just give up at that point and lay down to a very, very good team, and our guys continued to fight and continued to battle and gave us a chance. We didn't put away the victory, but they gave us a chance, and I think that was impressive. I'm always a firm believer that you can find something positive out of it."

    The Chargers are dealing with a number of injuries. Still, they've always boasted how they've built their depth by awarding numerous long-term contracts. One of general manager A.J. Smith's mantras is "line ‘em up three deep and let ‘em compete."

    Run-stuffing defensive tackle Jamal Williams(notes) is out for the season with a triceps injury, and center Nick Hardwick isn't expected back from ankle surgery until the second half of the schedule.

    LaDainian Tomlinson missed two games with a sprained ankle, a span that coincided with the Chargers plunging to last in the NFL in rushing. That would make Marty Schottenheimer gag if he were still the head coach. Plus, the Chargers are paying Tomlinson and his backup, Darren Sproles, approximately $6 million each.

    "Every team has to handle those things," coach Norv Turner said. "I think our guys have managed our situation extremely well. There's no one in our organization, no one on the coaching staff, no one on the team, you know, I think, that feels we're not capable of playing with the guys we have. The injury thing is not an issue to me. The issue is getting our guys to play at the level we're capable of playing."

    Smith, who prefers to stock up via the draft rather than in free agent signings, didn't return several calls seeking comment about the state of his team.

    Asked if he's happy with the depth Smith has provided, Turner replied: "As I said, you go through different times with your football team. We know that this league you're going to have injuries. I'm going to continue to say it: We have enough good players to go out and win."

    Whether they can rebound beginning when they host the Broncos on Oct. 9 remains to be seen.

    The Chargers won the division at 8-8 last year, thanks in large part to Denver's historic collapse, when they lost their final three games. Many thought the Chargers could wrap up the division by Thanksgiving, yet here they are, behind Denver already.

    "One thing that gives us a chance is that we're still in the hunt in the AFC West," Gates said. "We never said it had to be pretty, and it wasn't pretty last year. As long as you have that you have some type of stability where you can go out and continue to work hard.

    "The window of opportunity is not the same for us," Gates said. "Obviously it closes as you lose. But as of right now we still control our own destiny. We've got a chance of Denver being either 4-1 or 5-0, where we still have a chance to win a game, then come back to prove that we're the AFC West champs."

    Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said the bye week is good both for getting players healthy - including himself - and for developing a "nasty attitude" on defense.

    "Nobody has a crystal ball or answer for what's going on, but one thing we've got to do for sure is play better," Merriman said.

    Merriman returned to the lineup after knee surgery sidelined him for the final 15 games of 2008, plus two playoff games. He's been in and out of the lineup this season as he works to regain full strength, and has been affected by a groin injury he said he got from overcompensating for the knee. He's yet to get his first sack.

    That 14-2 finish in 2006, which wasn't good enough for Schottenheimer to keep his job because of friction with Smith, seems light years away. Although the Chargers were 11-5 and made it to the AFC title game in Turner's first year, they've been .500 ever since.

    The Chargers are 10-10 in their last 20 regular-season games, and 11-11 in their last 22 overall, counting last season's two playoff games.

    However, one startling number they can't like is that while they're 6-1 in the division the last two seasons, they're 4-9 against everyone else.

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