The Run is Over

Yesterday’s 30-23 loss to the Denver Broncos epitomizes what the Chargers have become. There was a time period from 2006 until last season that the San Diego Chargers were considered as talented if not more so than any team in the NFL. Poor coaching, overrated quarterback play, and poor drafting later, you now have a below average team struggling to remain relevant.

Everyone knew from the start, except for A.J. Smith of course, that Norv Turner is a bum of a head coach. Sure he is an excellent offensive coordinator, but it has become clear to the ever optimistic person that Norv Turner cannot be a head coach in the National Football League.

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Photo by: Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

The most shocking regression of the Chargers team is how bad Philip Rivers has become. He is no longer good, he stinks. You can count on him to turn over the ball every game. Not just every now and then, but every single game. Yesterday he fumbled the ball three times, only losing one of them to the Broncos and threw two interceptions, all in a loss. That is about his normal day of work right now. Very impressive.

After getting an interception return for a touchdown by Eric Weddle in the first quarter, Denver took all of the momentum back in the second quarter when they rattled off 17 unanswered points. San Diego was dead and buried before the second half even started. They were down 30-16 before scoring a late touchdown as cosmetic points. On the final possession, Rivers was sacked and lost a fumble to end the game as he walked off the field nonchalantly.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, their season has come to a close with the loss to Denver. There will be major changes with this team, but they will have to finish off the final string of games before those changes are finalized.

A Culmination to a Collapse

The San Diego Chargers had become known for their second half surges. Well all of those good adjectives like most talented team, second half team, and franchise quarterback can now be thrown right out the window. The Chargers are one of the most poorly coached teams, because Norv Turner is still the head coach for unknown reasons. And Philip Rivers is no longer a franchise quarterback, in fact he has become a liability.

The Chargers are not completely dead yet, but a loss today would all but end their season. After that Monday Night disaster against the Broncos, the wheels have completely come off on this team, and they have floundered ever since. The Chargers and Philip Rivers have had a lot of success in Denver over the years, but all of that has changed. They will need a virtuoso performance this afternoon to steal a win and even out their record at 5-5.

Keys to the Game: The Chargers are going to need to get on the board early and keep pressure on the Broncos throughout the game. If they fall behind, the Chargers are liable to fold, like they have done all season. San Diego has been in such a lull the past few weeks that it seems unthinkable that they could jump out to a fast start, but that is what they will need to do to wake up.

Create some turnovers. In the previous game between these two teams, the Chargers were able to take advantage of some early mistakes by the Broncos. This led to some early points, but they were unable to produce anything after that with turnovers of their own and sloppy special teams play.

Ryan Matthews needs to have a great performance. Matthews is as talented as just about anyone at the running back position, but he has had trouble staying healthy and has a penchant for fumbling the ball. He will need to have over a 100 yards rushing on the day with a score or two for San Diego to pull this one out.

Injuries: The Chargers have suffered many injuries throughout this season. Unfortunately those injuries continue to occur, starting with left tackle Jared Gaither who has missed quite a few games this season and is doubtful for the game this afternoon. Defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin has been ruled out, but Ryan Matthews who missed some practice due to a neck injury, practiced Friday and is listed as questionable. If the Chargers have any intentions of winning this game, Matthews will be playing.

The Denver Broncos have been fortunate all season with the lack of injuries they’ve had to sustain. This week they will be without cornerback Tracy Porter and possibly guard Chris Kuper as well. Elvis Dumervil is questionable, but I would expect him to play in a division game like this one.

Final Analysis: Unless something unforeseen happens, the Chargers have snowball’s chance in hell in this game. The Broncos will repay San Diego for the torment they have suffered at the hands of the Chargers over the past five years. Denver 32 San Diego 20.

The Turning Point

The San Diego Charger’s game in Cleveland could be the most important one this season for the Chargers. If they happen to lose this game, I would think there is little chance that they could win this division or a wild card spot, unless they are able to win it at 9-7. Including this game today the Chargers still have to play the entire AFC North, which may be the strongest division in the AFC. San Diego is going to need to win all of their games against the bad teams left on their schedule and steal a couple against the good teams to set themselves up for a playoff push.

After the terrible loss to Denver on Monday Night before their bye, it is unkown whether this team is going to bounce back. Norv Turner is going to have his team up to the task because although the Browns only have one win, they are a feisty bunch that brings everyone they play to the brink. But as Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.”

Keys to the Game: Philip Rivers needs to return to his Pro Bowl self. He does not need to be the best player on the field today to win the game this afternoon. But he cannot be turning over the ball five times. In fact he should not turn the ball over at all against this team. Rivers has seemingly regressed as a player over the last couple of years. Has he really or has the players and the team’s defense eroded. If that is so he still needs to play better than what he he has. Good quarterbacks need to hide the deficiencies of their team.

This defense must tighten up on their coverages this week. Last week Peyton Manning ripped them up in the second half. Quentin Jammer has to play much better than what he did in that game, because he was embarrassed on a couple of plays. Brandon Weeden has surprisingly been pretty good over the last couple of weeks. After a rough start to the season, Weeden has settled in as the starter and has played effectively enough to put Cleveland in positions to win. Having Shareece Wright back in the lineup should give the secondary the depth that they have been missing all year.

Injuries: Shareece Wright and Jared Gaither are probable. And receiver Eddie Royal is questionable. The bye week has definitely allowed the Chargers to regain their health.

As for Cleveland, they are decimated with injuries. What is surprising is that there is a strong chance that Trent Richardson will play after being able to practice throughout the week. Injury prone receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is questionable and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin is ruled out.

Final Analysis: This game comes down to the most important factor in the NFL. Motivation. In the parity laden NFL, there is not a lot that separates each team in this league. Today’s game is much more important for the Chargers than it is for the Browns and I believe the Chargers will play like that as well. San Diego 28 Cleveland 13.

 

Norv Turner and A.J. Smith Connected at the Hip

No one really understands how Norv Turner is still the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He has seemingly been on the media’s hot seat ever since his 13-3 Chargers lost at home in the 2009 Divisional Round to the 9-7 New York Jets. Since that time his Chargers teams have been less than impressive, but he has been able to hold on to his job, while under performing with a very talented team.

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Photo by: Ric Tapia/NFL.com

There two explanations for why Norv Turner is still the head coach of the Chargers. One being that Philip Rivers likes Norv Turner and San Diego does not want to upset their franchise quarterback, who by the way, is beginning to look less and less like a franchise QB.

The other more plausible reason for Turner’s tenure lasting so long is that A.J. Smith likes him and uses him as a sort of puppet head coach, with Smith really calling the shots. Smith has been the most vocal general managers in the NFL and being so vocal has not done him any favors, just made him look bad in some instances.

If the Chargers do not use their bye week productively and make a strong playoff push in the second half of this season, it is very likely that this will be the final year of Smith and Turner together. I would not be surprised if both men were let go if the season does not end well. A playoff win or two will be the only thing that saves these guys from unemployment.

Towelgate Continues to Unfold

Jay Glazer made it known on Monday that the San Diego Chargers were being investigated for using an illegal sticky substance during their last game against the Denver Broncos. That substance was on a towel that the players used to wipe on their hands or gloves. According to the NFL, there is nothing allowed that adds tack to a player’s uniform or gloves, that is not already on the gloves.

This towel that San Diego was using, could have belonged to the manufacturer Gorilla Gold, who have stated that they had been providing these “Grip Enhancing” towels to football teams for years. The resin that is used on these towels does not leave any residue on the ball, so it is quite easy to understand how the referees may have not noticed this beforehand.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, this extra stickiness has not exactly helped their receivers. San Diego’s receivers have dropped too many passes this year and now considering they may have been using this Gorilla Gold to improve upon that, makes it look even worse.

The NFL has yet to decide on how to discipline the Chargers for this infraction. I would not expect too harsh of a penalty Perhaps a simple fine, but the NFL has been inconsistent in their fines before.

A Monday Night Nightmare

Everything seemed hunky dory for the San Diego Chargers when they went into the half up 24 zip. Well that feeling did not last for long, because over the next thirty minutes, they could not play or look any worse, especially Philip Rivers. Philip Rivers over the last year and a half has turned into an absolute bum. The current Philip Rivers can be described in two words, turnover machine.

You would not be able to tell by the scoreboard, but the Chargers really did not play that great in the first half either. Most of San Diego’s 24 unanswered points were scored on terrible misplays by Denver. Whether it was a muffed punt by newly signed returner Trindon Holliday, or a fumble on a kick return and a bunch of pass interference calls against Denver, the Chargers were catching a lot of breaks. But they did take advantage of those breaks, which you cannot fault them for doing. However, at some point the Chargers had to stop relying on the bounce of the ball and make some plays for themselves.

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Photo by: Stan Liu/Icon SMI

San Diego’s first three scores were all done after a turnover. Two fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown by Quentin Jammer. Those 17 points were some of the easiest scores you will get in a football game. Not to mention that the interception for a touchdown occurred just after Denver receiver Eric  Decker caught a pass 20 yards down field from anyone on San Diego, but tripped up and was downed 30 yards short of the endzone. Decker is going to have to watch out for that turf monster the next time.

The old saying for luck is that “You make your own luck.” But it appeared to me that the Chargers were not necessarily making their own luck, but instead they were being granted it. Now had they just played better in the second half and won the game, it would not be fair to rip them for such an offense, but being that they did lose, those flaws became much more obvious.

To start the second half the San Diego defense allowed Peyton Manning to carve them up on the opening drive. And Manning capped the possession with a 29 yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. At 24-7 the game was still well in hand for the Chargers, but little did they know that the turnover parade was about to begin.

On the ensuing drive, the Chargers were putting together what looked like a game sealing drive. Then Philip Rivers was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was returned 65 yards for a touchdown by defensive back Tony Carter. This touchdown completely turned the game around. Leading 24-14 the game had suddenly become close, and the Chargers players were tightening up.

San Diego punted on their next drive. And the Broncos drove the ball again, for another touchdown. Denver was only three points down and had all the momentum. Plus it is always good to have the opposing quarterback on your side as well.

Philip Rivers threw another interception, which was the first of three consecutive drives ending in an interception. Rivers made some terrible decisions on those drive and is starting to make you wonder if he is the right quarterback for the future. Including this season he has three years left on his contract. The key component is how much of that is guaranteed. I am not trying to say that it is time to show Rivers the door, but if he continues down the path that he paved last season, you have to start asking yourself that question.

Fortunately for San Diego they have a bye next week. They will need to regroup and prepare themselves for the lowly Cleveland Browns in two weeks.