I never thought that I would see something like this during the Philip Rivers era.
While the loss against Denver left me with a stomach-punched feeling of epic and historic proportions, this loss counts just as much in the standings. Peyton Manning got hot at the right time. Philip Rivers went ice cold. That loss was half Chargers ineptitude, half Broncos determination (roughly speaking).
This loss was 99.9 percent Chargers ineptitude.
The Brandon Weeden-led Cleveland Browns were as atrocious on offense as the Chargers were. They drove 70 yards for a touchdown on their first drive, thanks to Trent Richardson and horrible tackling technique from Atari Bigby. They only accumulated 180 yards total in their other nine possessions, resulting in zero points. They never even got back in field goal range.
The Chargers, however, were not to be outdone on this day.
The lackadaisical spirit and general disinterest Norv Turner has instilled in this team really came through in this contest. Great job by you, Norval.
Philip Rivers continued to regress, as he completed just 18 of 34 pass attempts and amassed only 154 yards through the air. It is important to note here that seven of his completions went to Ronnie Brown, two went to Ryan Mathews, and one went to offensive lineman Jeromey Clary (on a tipped pass for negative-8 yards).
This means that only eight of his passes went to receivers and tight ends—you know, the people who generally get the most balls thrown to them. Malcolm Floyd was the only wide receiver to catch a pass in the game for San Diego, and his longest reception was 14 yards.
Breaking news—the coroner has announced that the San Diego pass offense is officially dead.
You can't put all the blame on Rivers, though. The receiving corps is dreadful. It really is.
Letting Vincent Jackson walk may very well turn out to be the worst decision of General Manager A.J. Smith's tortuous tenure. It's a simple problem, really. No one is getting open. You wonder why Rivers is forced into so many bad throws? Go back and watch some of his interceptions.
You have to put the onus on him for throwing passes into tight coverage or while he is straddling the sideline, but what else is he supposed to do? Norv refuses to use an effective run game (even when they are leading) and expects Rivers to throw for 350 yards every game.
It just doesn't work that way anymore.
The running game was slightly better. Ryan Mathews rushed 24 times for 95 yards, but he once again coughed up a fumble. At least it wasn't in the red zone, and it didn't cost the Chargers any points, but he has been unable to shake the fumble bug so far in his career.This was his 11th fumble in 31 career games.
To put that in perspective, Maurice Jones-Drew has 14 career fumbles, but he has been in the league since 2006.
I have very little to comment on in terms of the defense. How do you criticize a defense that gave up seven points? You can't really ask for much more.
They did a great job against Weeden and were able to contain Richardson for most of the game. Eric Weddle continues to grow as a dominating free safety, and much-maligned 2011 draft pick Corey Liuget finally seems to be getting it together as a defensive end. They both had spectacular games on Sunday.
Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer are both very capable cornerbacks, Shaun Phillips still has that killer drive, and even rookie Melvin Ingram has looked good during his limited field time. For the first time in a long time, the Chargers' defense isn't the problem.
Except for Atari Bigby—the gift that just keeps on giving.
The Chargers added the long-time Packers strong safety this offseason, and through seven games, I'm not sure that I've seen him do anything well.
On Sunday, he let Trent Richardson score on an atrocious missed tackle, where he looked more afraid to be contacted than anything else. If he makes the tackle, the drive likely ends in a field goal, and would have been the only score of the game for Cleveland, although there is some speculation that goes along with that. You never know for sure.
Anyway, late in the game, Bigby also dropped a sure-fire pick-six. Weeden's pass was deflected at the line and fluttered straight to Bigby, who, of course, muffed it, and let it fall harmlessly to the ground.
This was inside the Browns' 10-yard line, mind you. At the very least, he makes the interception and the Chargers are in position for a go-ahead field goal. In my eyes, he is the clear weak link on this defense. Everyone else has been playing fine.
The real goat of the game however, was Robert Meachem. Not only did he fail to record a single catch, but he dropped a perfect ball from Phil Rivers after he had broken from his defender. He has nothing but space in front of him, and surely would have scored on the blown coverage. Instead, the ball again found the turf and the Chargers had to punt.
Just one play—one big play made here or there—and the Chargers could have been up ten points or more in the fourth quarter.
They just can't make those plays anymore. I'm convinced they just don't have it in them.
Everyone keeps talking about how talented this team is, and how terrible it is to see them underperform. I completely disagree.
They aren't that talented. They have terrible receivers, a weak offensive line, a mistake-prone quarterback on the decline, and a young running back who struggles with health and ball control issues. Please direct me to where the talent is on that roster.
People are also saying that this game was a season-ender for the Bolts. Again, I will disagree.
Can you really assure me with 100 percent confidence that two of these teams will end better than 9-7?
The Chargers are not the worst team in football, and they have a lot of easy games left on the schedule. I still expect them to beat Kansas City at home on Thursday. They also still have Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Carolina, the New York Jets and Oakland again. This season is far from over, and I still believe in the obligatory hot streak.
I just hope that when it comes to Norv Turner, the end isn't so far away.