|Coach Norv Turner could be the first to go when the Chargers turn another page and begin to rebuild the team. (US Presswire)|
Let the rebuilding begin. The Chargers' 30-23 loss to the Broncos (7-3) on Sunday signaled it's time to light the fuse on the bomb that blows up this less than mediocre team.
It was well understood going into the season that coach Norv Turner and likely general manager A.J. Smith would be fired if the Chargers (4-6) failed to reach the playoffs.
QB Philip Rivers even admitted after the loss it was inappropriate to talk playoffs. San Diego has now lost five of its last seven with the two wins coming against the Chiefs (1-9). Rivers somewhat retracted on Monday when he said the Chargers still had a realistic shot at a wild card.
The Chargers may only be two games back in the wild card hunt, but they are an even .500 (21-21) since their last playoff appearance in 2009. It's highly unlikely the winning formula is going to magically appear in Week 12 against the Ravens (8-2) and carry all the way through to achieving team's stated goal of winning the Super Bowl.
If your goal is to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, then the moment you are confident your leadership is not capable of reaching that goal is the moment they should be shown the door.
The O-line is slow, stiff and porous. Rivers was sacked four times for 34 yards, and the running game managed only 53 yards on 26 carries. With no time for Rivers to throw and an inability to run, the offense mustered just three first downs through its first 12 possessions, including six consecutive three-and-outs. San Diego scored touchdowns on two of its final four drives, but the Broncos defense had relaxed and the game only appeared close because the Chargers defense scored nine points.
Rivers threw two more interceptions (14) and is on pace to throw 22 INTs this season. It's unfair to compare the current struggles of Rivers to former Chargers QB Ryan Leaf. Rivers is superior in every facet of the game and is the leader on and off the field that Leaf could never be. But to understand how bad Rivers has been, it's worth noting Rivers has now thrown 34 interceptions in 26 games. Leaf only threw 36 INTs in his miserable four-season career (35 games played). Leaf also played with a horrible O-line. He was sacked 31 times in 11 games in 2000 when he threw a career high 18 picks. Rivers has been sacked 26 times in 10 games this season. Previous game's grade: C
Second year CB Marcus Gilchrist had the best game of his career with six tackles (five solo and one assist), a pass defensed and a tipped pass that was intercepted by FS Eric Weddle and returned for a TD. OLB Shaun Phillips sacked Peyton Manning in the end zone for a safety. Due to the two defensive scores, the Chargers only trailed 17-9 early in the third quarter. The defense, however, failed to contain Manning when it counted most, and the Broncos went on to score a touchdown and two field goals in three of their final four drives. The defense has performed well, but with a struggling offense they too will need to find a way to play a complete game for the Chargers to win. Previous game's grade: C
Special Teams: C
The third unit again had a mixed bag performance. K Nick Novak didn't attempt a field goal but did pull off a successful onside kick that was planned to start the second half. The ball began to fall off the tee just before the kick, which led to a fortuitous bounce and was recovered by special teams captain S Darrell Stuckey. P Mike Scifres played with an injured right ankle, but averaged a phenomenal 54.8 yards on nine punts. Scifres landed three punts inside the 20, including one that was downed by Stuckey on the 2-yard line and led to the safety. However, the line failed to pick up MLB Nate Irving, and he got to Scifres for the second blocked punt in two games. The Broncos recovered Irving's block on the Chargers' 31-yard line and converted great field position into a field goal. Previous game's grade: C
Norv Turner is touted as being an offensive genius, but the Chargers' offense again was lackluster in a game that was a must-win for the team to have any chance at capturing the AFC West. Turner admitted on Monday that it's late in the season for his squad to be figuring out how to play four complete quarters. “Sure it is,” Turner said. “That is where we are at. That is who we are.”
A blatant mistake by Turner was not playing RB Ryan Mathews for the first two series. Three of five of Mathews' career 100-yard plus rushing performances have come against the Broncos in five previous matchups. Turner justified starting RB Jackie Battle over Mathews because Mathews (stiff neck) had missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Mathews went on to lead the rushing attack with 15 carries for 47 yards. Battle finished the game with four carries for minus-three yards. If Mathews was capable of carrying the rock later in the game, he was capable of making the start. Previous game's grade: D