Norv Turner’s job was in serious jeopardy coming into a Thursday night game with the Kansas City Chiefs. Turner himself said, "You're coaching on a week-to-week basis. I'm coaching to do the best job I can to get our team ready to play Kansas City" (via ESPN).
The San Diego Chargers were 3-4 and on a seemingly annual early-season slide. A fourth loss may have been the last straw.
Turner didn’t flinch, and he calmly led his team to a 31-13 victory, possibly saving his job in the process. The Chargers won convincingly, there were very few blemishes and they are still in the AFC West race. Turner’s job looks safe, but the Chargers still have work to do to return to the playoffs.
The Chargers' last two victories have come against the Chiefs by point margins of 17 and 18 points. The first victory didn’t stop the Chargers from collapsing in the second half against the Saints and Broncos or prevent a total stinker after the bye week in Cleveland.
Philip Rivers has thrown a total of seven incomplete passes in the two games against Kansas City, and the Chiefs have turned the ball over 10 times.
To put that in perspective, Rivers had 47 incomplete passes during the three-game losing streak between the victories against Kansas City. Opponents turned the ball over a total of four times in those games.
It’s not hard to have an impressive game against one of the worst teams in football, and it would be a mistake to put much stock in a win over a 1-7 team. The Chiefs are bad; so bad that they haven’t led for a single second this season.
It was simply an opportune time for the Chargers and Turner to face such a bad team (or inopportune time if you want Turner fired).
The blemishes that did pop up against the Chiefs are the same ones that have plagued the team all year. The biggest was an ill-advised pass from Rivers that was intercepted by Eric Berry in the end zone at the end of the first half.
Rivers’ mistake cost the Chargers seven points and allowed the Chiefs to stay in the game. The Chargers went into halftime after the mistake leading 10-3, and the Chiefs would get the ball first in the second half.
The Chiefs punted on the opening drive of the third quarter, but Eric Weddle fumbled the return to give Kansas City another shot. The defense would hold and force a field goal, which Ryan Succop promptly missed from 39 yards out. Kansas City would get a field goal on its next drive to make it 10-6 going into the fourth quarter.
After opening the game with a seven-play touchdown drive, the Chargers slogged through three quarters before breaking through again in the fourth quarter with an eight-play touchdown drive to make it 17-6. The way the Chiefs had been playing, 11 points was a commanding lead.
Sure enough, the Chiefs unraveled from there.
Two penalties on the ensuing kickoff backed the Chiefs up against their own goal line, Matt Cassel fumbled and the Chargers fell on it to take a 24-6 lead.
On the next drive, Dexter McCluster tipped a pass in the air, and Demorrio Williams intercepted it, returning it for a touchdown to make it 31-6. The Chiefs would score a meaningless late touchdown to make it 31-13.
The Chargers let a bad team hang around until the fourth quarter, and the Chiefs were so inept they couldn’t capitalize. The Chargers will not be so lucky against good teams, and probably not against average teams either.
There’s still plenty of work to do in San Diego.
The problems with the passing game, running game, pass rush and pass coverage need to be corrected if this team is going to be considered a playoff contender.
The Chargers have nine days before they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. Turner will be right back on the hot seat if these issues aren't addressed.