San Diego Chargers: Losing to The Raiders Is Just The Start Of The Team's Woes

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IOctober 11, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Patrick Crayton #12 of the San Diego Chargers can't reach a ball while defended by Stanford Routt #26 of the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 10, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Prior to the 2010 NFL season, I had a chance to go over the schedule for the San Diego Chargers and predict how they were going to do.

I didn't believe that I was biased, as I've never really been a fan of the team, though I have followed them since I spent eight years of my life in San Diego and remain a San Diego Padres fan.

That being said, the schedule, at least the first six to seven weeks, didn't look all that challenging to a talented Chargers ball club. I couldn't imagine that they would lose more than one or two games to start the season.

Well, it seems as if my prediction was a tad off, and I appreciate the Chargers making me look bad. Not only have they lost three games so far this season, they've done so in its first five weeks.

Outside of Raider fan, and possibly some Denver and Kansas City fans, who saw the Chargers winning two of their first five games before this season started?

When Charger fans, for the most part, wake up, get their coffee, and turn on local sports radio, the anger will return and their faces will turn a bright shade of red as it did during the game yesterday.

They'll pick up their phones and they'll light up the phone lines on any station that will take their call, if only to voice their disapproval of what this team has done thus far.

They'll have all sorts of excuses as to why this team is playing so poorly. They'll talk about wanting to fire Norv Turner, they'll talk about why the Chargers have abandoned the run game, and there will even be some who don't think Philip Rivers is the quarterback the Chargers need to get to the Super Bowl.

But the one thing that will make the rounds around local sports talk radio throughout today is the special teams, or lack thereof.

The Chargers had two blocked punts yesterday that turned into nine first quarter points for the Raiders. It's also what cost them the game against Seattle, who had two kick returns for touchdowns, as well as Kansas City who had a punt return for a touchdown.

Three games, three losses, all with one thing in common. Heads are going to roll and if they don't, than there's a bigger problem at Chargers' Park.

For the second time in five games, Philip Rivers has thrown for more than 400 yards, but San Diego has lost both of those games (Seattle, Oakland). In both those games, the team seemed to have abandoned the run, something that's made this team successful over the years.

While rookie running back Ryan Mathews missed the game against Seattle, he's been back for the last two weeks but has still not been completely utilized in the offense.

Mathews, over the last two games, has carried the ball 18 times for a combined 114 yards and a touchdown, averaging more than six yards per carry in each of those two games.

Instead, the Chargers have elected to stay with Mike Tolbert who has carried the ball 28 combined times for 111 yards and two scores but had just 11 yards on 12 carries against the Raiders on Sunday, averaging 0.9 yards per carry.

The Chargers, when all said and done, ran the ball 26 times on Sunday, which was usually the average amount of carries per game LaDainian Tomlinson received during his tenure with San Diego.

While we know that Ryan Mathews is coming off a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the game against Seattle, I fail to see the reason for not getting him more carries over the last two games?

Is he not healthy enough? Can he not fully make a cutback on his ankle and does he not have the same burst of speed? Or is it more that they don't want to overwork him in his first NFL season?

Whatever the case may be, it seems the Chargers are more than OK handing the offensive reigns to Rivers and letting him throw the ball 50 times per game.

But if you want an interesting, and possibly telling, stat about Rivers trying to carry this team, this might be it: In the three games the Chargers have lost, Rivers has thrown the ball more than 30 times in each of those three losses. In the two wins, he's thrown the ball less than 30 times.

Want an even more telling stat? In losses, all coming on the road, to Kansas City, Seattle, and Oakland, the Rivers is averaging 44.6 pass attempts per game to 25.3 rushing plays.

In two wins, both at home, against Jacksonville and Arizona, Rivers is averaging 24.5 pass attempts per game to 34 rushing plays. So, on the road, the Chargers' quarterback is almost doubling his pass attempts while the team cuts back on their run game.

They've gone away from what's made them successful and tried to do something that hasn't worked. Blame their special teams all you want and yes, it's been far worse than awful so far this season, but there's something else entirely that the Chargers aren't doing.

I'm not blaming anything on Rivers himself because I know he's not the one calling every play from the sidelines. Who is going to blame a quarterback that has thrown for more than 400 yards in a game twice this season?

What this team needs to do is get back to what has worked for them in the past. If they're looking at the same numbers that I'm looking at, maybe the light bulb will go on and they'll realize that they can't be a one-dimensional team.

If they don't realize it and they continue to do the same ole same ole, their season might be over before it really ever got started.

One thing is for sure. The fans will be loud and they will be outspoken throughout this week. They'll have their complaints and they'll have their opinions. But when push comes to shove, will they really know how to fix what's gone wrong?

Or will "fire Norv Turner" be the outcry of the day?