SAN DIEGO -- Once upon a time I thought the San Diego Chargers were a disappointment. Not anymore. Now they're just an embarrassment.
They miss kicks. They miss blocks. They take stupid penalties. They drop passes. Heck, they even drop the football without being hit. In short, they're a mess, and seven weeks into the season they're dangerously close to playing themselves out of the AFC West race.
|More on Patriots-Chargers|
Yeah, I know, it's the AFC West, and history tells us that anything is possible here -- like two years ago when the Chargers rallied from 4-8 to win the division. Or last season when they overcame a 2-3 start to lap the field, winning their last 11 regular-season games in the process.
But this is not last season. This is a year that keeps getting worse, with the Chargers inventing ways to lose each week. To the laundry list of blocked punts, blocked kicks, kickoff returns, and punt returns we now add a game-tying field goal that ricochets off the right upright -- after, of course, the Chargers take a 5-yard walk-off for moving too soon.
Bad teams find ways to lose, and there's no getting around it: The Chargers are dreadful right now. They're 0-4 on the road where they were 7-1 in 2009 and just a lost a 23-20 game at home to New England despite a furious fourth-quarter rally that, predictably, fell short.
But that's the personality of this year's Chargers. They fall behind, rally and lose, and as impressive as they were in the last 10 minutes Sunday, here's the bottom line: They're 2-5 and stuck in last in the AFC West, a game behind -- tell me this is a bad dream -- the Oakland Raiders?
Each week is Groundhog Day with these guys, with the Bolts caught in a three-game downward spiral where they don't wake up until sometime in the second quarter ... if that. A week ago, the Rams had them down 10-0 after one. The week before that, it was Oakland that was up 12-0 after the first 15 minutes. On Sunday it was New England jumping to a 7-3 to advantage after one period.
Do the math, and you have a club on the wrong end of a 29-3 score after one quarter, and that's not how you win, folks.
This isn't, either: The Chargers lost three more fumbles, which brings their season total to 12 -- including five in the red zone. A year ago they lost seven all season, and now you understand why people here are angry. This should be a good team, but it's not -- and it's not because instead of trying to beat up opponents it's beating itself, with Sunday the latest example.
"It's a lose-lose game, and this lose-lose thing is frustrating," said linebacker Kevin Burnett.
I'll second that. I mean, even when New England tried to shake the Bolts out of their doldrums -- first mishandling an on-side kick, then botching a questionable and risky fourth-down call -- the Chargers managed to screw it up, making just enough mistakes to bury themselves.
Welcome to San Diego, people. This stuff just keeps happening, and, I don't know, maybe that's what this club is. What I do know is this: If the Chargers are going to make anything of themselves or this season they can forget about relying on Philip Rivers to bail them out each week. He can't do it alone, and he tried against New England -- throwing 50 times for the second time this year.
But enough is enough, guys. It's time to shape up, and shape up now -- otherwise, suffer the consequences.
|New England Patriots|
|Most of the credit for their win should go to their opponent, since the Chargers made multiple errors unbecoming to a professional team. It was only a late missed 50-yard field goal by K Kris Brown that allowed the Patriots to escape with the win.|
|San Diego Chargers|
|In the first half the Chargers had a four-series sequence that all ended in turnovers because of mental mistakes. It may have been the worst four series in franchise history, and that includes a lot of bad teams. This team is supposed to be good, but they canít keep themselves from committing the type of mistakes that would anger a high school coach.|
|By Dan McLellan|
Submit your grades on Facebook
"Obviously, it's a team that's struggling," said losing coach Norv Turner, "because we're not capable of taking care of the football. It's something we've taken a lot of pride in around here for a long time, and it was one of the best things we did last year as a football team when we won 13 games. Obviously, it's the worst thing we're doing right now, and when you do that people can start talking about all the other things that are wrong with the team.
"When you take care of the football you talk about all the good things about our football team. But until we start taking care of the football there will be a lot of conversation about how we're not very talented, we're not very good and we're not very well-coached. If we start taking care of the football we'll give ourselves a chance to win."
He's right, of course, except that's just part of the problem. This is a flawed club, determined to make the worst of bad situations. On Sunday, for example, wide receiver Richard Goodman makes his first catch of the season, then inexplicably puts the ball on the ground and returns to his teammates as the Patriots recover the fumble. Later, he said he thought he was touched.
"My bad," he said.
Then fullback Jacob Hester fails to pick up a backward pass, believing Rivers threw it forward -- which, of course, he did not -- but, hey, these guys can't get anything straight right now.
"I wish I had that one back," Hester said. "Even if you don't know you should go pick up the ball."
No kidding. But that's what makes these Chargers so shameful. They do just enough to sabotage themselves, then scramble -- too late, of course -- to make amends. Sunday's game was supposed to be different because Sunday's game was supposed to be "must-win" time, with the Bolts back at home where they were comfortable. But tell that to the people who booed them at the end of the first half ... at the end of the third quarter ... and at the end of the game.
Yeah, sure, San Diego was missing two wide receivers, its kicker was sidelined and tight end Antonio Gates was bothered so much by a toe injury that he didn't catch a pass until midway through the fourth quarter. But enough with the alibis. Cleveland just beat the defending Super Bowl champions -- in New Orleans, no less -- with a third-string quarterback.
"What we have to do as a football team," Turner said, "is go find a way to win a game. Everyone wants to talk about the division record and how other teams in the division are doing and where you stand in the standings vs. other AFC teams, but none of that means anything. We have to go win a game. And that's what we're focused on."
Good luck. History tells us the Chargers can pull out of this tailspin, but seeing is believing -- and when you watch this club self-destruct over and over, fumbling away another game it could have -- maybe should have -- won, you don't wonder how high it can reach.
You wonder how low it might go.