The Bolts tried their best, presenting the Chiefs an opportunity for the come-from-behind victory with less than two minutes to play. Kansas City, however, would have none of it, gifting the game right back to San Diego on their final possession.
Despite less-than-satisfactory play, the Chargers are 2-1 for only the second time in five seasons under head coach Norv Turner.
It’s unclear whether this team can actually learn from its mistakes. If it can, here are the six lessons they should take to heart from this “victory.”
If this wasn’t obvious before, it is now.
Ryan Mathews needs to be the Chargers featured back. He rushed 21 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs. He also caught four passes for another 51 yards.
By far, he was the best player on the field for either team.
In the Chargers' first three games, Mathews has gained 118, 126 and 149 total yards. That's an improvement in each successive game. He is the Bolts’ most consistent yardage gainer and has yet to turn the ball over.
Without a healthy Gates in the lineup, teams have been able to focus on preventing San Diego’s deep passing attack. Rivers went 1-11 with two interceptions on pass attempts of 15 yards or more against the Chiefs. That is a direct result of Gates not playing.
Swing passes to check-down backs and short crosses have been successful for the Charges, but their patented long bombs to wideouts have been conspicuously absent this season.
That has led to long drawn-out drives ending with turnovers instead of touchdowns as the Chargers cannot stretch the field as easily as has been their penchant in the past.
With any luck, the All-Pro will be able to get back to his old self between now and the bye week. The Chargers won’t be able to do without his services beyond that point as they will travel to New York to take on their recent nemesis, the Jets.
In Week 1, it was Nate Kaeding and Luis Castillo. In Week 2, Antonio Gates, Bob Sanders, Corey Liuget, Mike Tolbert, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd went down. Now in Week 3, Quentin Jammer, Jacques Cesaire and Antonio Garay have all picked up knocks.
While not every injury is serious enough to keep each and every player out of games, enough of them are and the total number of them is staggering.
Only the decimated Indianapolis Colts had more personnel missing from practice this past week than the Chargers.
Does that sound like a broken record?
Chargers players seem to go down thick and fast each and every year. It’s tough to place the blame for injuries on a specific coach or trainer.
Yet, when putting on a Chargers uniform consistently offers a better-than-average chance of getting hurt, one has to start wondering if the organization is really doing all they can with their strength and conditioning.
Three games into the season and Rivers has thrown six interceptions—two in each game. Coupled with five fumbles (two lost), and the Bolts look more like stupefied stooges than a potential playoff team.
In Rivers’ defense, his first pick to Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis was clearly a missed pass interference call. To add insult to injury, the Chargers were called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the same play when an official ran into a Chargers player standing too close to the field of play while running down the sideline during the runback.
Regardless, getting flagged for that infraction just proves how distracted the Chargers really are.
When it comes to lack of focus, no one Charger comes to mind more than Norv Turner. With time running out in the game, his lack of clock management came to the forefront once again.
The Chargers had the ball at the Chiefs 34-yard line and were looking to convert a 4th-and-inches. Kansas City had no timeouts remaining and the clock showed 1:35 left in the game. With 22 seconds left on the play clock, the Chargers snapped the ball and failed to convert with a quarterback sneak. The Chiefs took over with 1:26 to play—they should have had only 1:04 had the Chargers used all their allotted time.
In what fantasy world does Turner live?
He acted as if his intentions were to give the Chiefs the best possible chance at winning as opposed to doing everything he could to ensure his team's success.
Fortunately, the Chiefs suffer from an even greater case of idiocy than the Chargers as they gifted the game right back to the Bolts when Matt Cassel threw his one and only interception of the game two plays later.
Perhaps the Chargers motto should be “Better lucky than good.”
The Chargers offensive line got beat by the Chiefs four-man rush early and often.
Rivers spent so much of this game on his back, he looked more like a surgery patient on a gurney than a quarterback.
It was Ryan Mathews who kept Rivers vertical more than anyone, and it wasn’t due to his blocking skills.
The running back’s success rushing the ball continually kept the Chiefs pass rush honest and was the only thing preventing Rivers from being carted off the field on a stretcher.
If the offensive line can’t do a better job in pass protection in future games, it’s going to be a long, hard season for the Bolts.
There is a limit to how much physical abuse one man can take before something major goes wrong with his body. If the Chargers are forced to play without Rivers, they will have a clean shot at giving the Chiefs a run for their money as the worst team in the NFL.
The Chargers are known for slow starts under Turner, and they have certainly done nothing to change that perception though the first three weeks of this season. The one saving grace for them is the early season schedule.
The Bolts' next two opponents are a combined 1-5. The 0-3 Miami Dolphins come to town next week and then the Chargers go to Mile High Stadium to take on the rebuilding Denver Broncos. Both of those games are winnable and it is not inconceivable that the Chargers will go into their bye week posting a 4-1 record.
If so, that would put the Bolts in the very unique position of recording their first fast start in a long while. All they would need then is to turn on their patented second-half afterburners, as they are known to do, and finish the season with a flurry.