Another Fall, Another Early Hole

The Chargers are off to a slow start. In another news flash it was sunny this week in San Diego.

The Chargers, it seems, are always putting their hands around a shovel and trying to dig out of an early-season hole. With the Arizona Cardinals coming in Sunday, the Chargers will try to climb off the mat after losing for the second time on Sunday in Seattle.

The Chargers, under coach Norv Turner, are notorious for shaky starts and solid finishes. And so far the Chargers have the first part down pat.

But quarterback Philip Rivers said the Chargers can't dwell on stubbing their toes again in September.

"We can't worry about that," Rivers said. "We are disappointed and what years past have been like, how similar they are, but we can take from that what can help us and then we got to move on. All we are worried about is winning one game on Sunday and we will move on from there."

The Chargers would seem to have an easy touch in the Cardinals. But Arizona has won two of its three games and seems to be getting more comfortable under new quarterback Derek Anderson.

But with the Chargers there is no such thing as an easy game -- especially before the leaves turn. The Chargers have begun 1-2 in three of Turner's four seasons in San Diego.

Considering how well the Chargers have played, they could easily be 3-0. Considering how poorly the special teams have played, they could be 0-3.

"I mean that doesn't get you anywhere," said Rivers of talk the Chargers should be undefeated. "There are probably a handful of 1-2 teams that can say 'What if we did that?'

"But the truth of the matter is we didn't do it. I think we got to be honest with ourselves, where we made mistakes and get better."

The Chargers are turning the ball over in bunches and that is never a good thing. They already have nine giveaways.

"From the offensive standpoint, we got to clean up the penalties and take care of the ball," Rivers said. "We haven't had a problem moving the ball, but those two things have hindered us from scoring enough points to win those two games."

They have another shot to get back on track Sunday, blessed by playing at home and against a team which doesn't stack up with the Chargers talent-wise.

But the Chargers have proven -- especially early in seasons -- which what should happen often doesn't.

"Am I worried?" Turner asked. "I'm excited."

That buzz has already been killed in two of the team's three games. The Chargers are trying to make sure it's not three out of four.

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. The Chargers lead the series 8-3, which includes wins in the last two meetings. The Chargers are 5-1 against the Cardinals all-time in San Diego. The teams haven't met since 2006 when the Chargers prevailed, 27-20.


--RB Ryan Mathews said he learned a valuable lesson in missing Sunday's game with an ankle injury. "Just don't get injured," he said. "It (stinks)."

--With all the injuries the linebackers are suffering, a key could be how the reserves hold up against the Cardinals' running attack. "They are a good running team," Norv Turner said.

--LT Marcus McNeill has returned to the team; he becomes game eligible in two more weeks. He cost himself about $2 1/2 million dollars by signing his tender offer at this juncture. "It feels good," McNeill said of his return. "I'm feeling real excited. Just ready to get back started. (I grew) real bored sitting at home, just working out every day, not being around your teammates and things like that. So I'm very happy to be back and ready to get in the swing of things." McNeill said he is confident the two sides can work out a long-term deal. "I never felt like it was anything malicious," McNeill said. "I never felt like me and the Chargers were on bad terms. I just felt like it was time for us to talk about contracts and things like that because I had finished out my first contract. And I think that's all it was. It was real business-minded."

--QB Philip Rivers said it was odd being on the sidelines for such short periods in Sunday's second half when the Chargers allowing so many long returns. "You barely catch your breath and you're back down seven," he said. "That was tough, but we regrouped and said, 'Hey, let's go score again,' and had two more opportunities. Two more possessions to go down there and score. We just didn't get it done."

--RG Louis Vasquez and DE Luis Castillo gave Spanish kids a big thrill at a school appearance to kick of the league's Hispanic Heritage month when they spoke to them in Spanish. "There are other Hispanic players in the NFL, but many don't speak a word of Spanish," Castillo said. "Louis and I take pride in our culture and language is an important part of that. The kids here can identify with you and they can say, 'You know you come from where I come from,' and it's not all about being a football player; it's about being able to achieve whatever your heart desires."

--The Chargers are ranked in the Top 5 in offense and defense but with their special-teams struggles, some solid play is being overlooked. "There were a lot of guys who did a lot of good things, performed at a high level and it doesn't show up because of the errors that were made," Turner said.

--TE Antonio Gates is four catches shy of reaching 500 in his career. He would be only the seventh tight end in NFL history to the 500-reception mark.

--The Chargers appear poised to have their second home game blackout in as many games. Some 7,000 tickets were still available for the game.

--The Chargers had seven lost fumbles last year and now have five in three games. "We have some work to do on that," said Turner. Overall, the Chargers have nine turnovers in just 12 quarters.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 -- Norv Turner became the fastest coach in NFL history to reach the century mark in losses with the Chargers defeat on Sunday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "In some cases, it's guys trying to do too much. They want to go down and be the guy to make the play when the play in that particular instance might not be their play. They need to be doing something to help another guy make the play." -- Coach Norv Turner on the squad's special-teams woes.


It was a busy week roster-wise, as the team placed a trio of players on IR and went searching for replacements to aid the special-teams units.

RB Curtis Brinkley was waived with Ryan Mathews coming back from his ankle injury.

LB James Holt (shoulder) and LS Ryan Neill (knee) were place on IR. Holt was a decent special-teams guy and Neill was the team's third long snapper of the year to find IR.

The team filled those spots with special-teams ace LS Ethan Albright, S Quinton Teal and CB Dante Hughes.


--QB Philip Rivers looks like is coming off a career-high 455 passing yards. More importantly, he survived taking some big-time hits when flinging it around 53 times.

--WR Patrick Crayton is getting more into the mix in the offense and special teams. But he got in hot water when he called out teammates for their lack of desire on special teams and unwillingness to prepare. Crayton was all but fitted with a muzzle by the Chargers.

--OLB Antwan Applewhite should see significant playing time Sunday opposite starter Shaun Phillips with OLB Larry English out and Shawne Merriman nursing a calf injury.

--LT Marcus McNeill continues to work in practice and then sits on Sundays. He is still two weeks away from being eligible because GM A.J. Smith placed him on the roster exempt list when he didn't sign his contract before the season.

--ILB Stephen Cooper is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday. Cooper missed the past two games with a knee injury.

GAME PLAN: The Chargers have a dynamite quarterback in Philip Rivers. But for this Sunday, he should play a rare secondary role.

The Cardinals have had a tough time stopping the run, allowing nearly 147 rushing yards per game.

To save Rivers from taking another beating by throwing the ball 53 times, the Chargers should lean on Ryan Mathews -- if his ankle is willing -- and attack the Cardinals' shaky run defense.


Chargers LT Brandyn Dombrowski and the team's pass protection vs. Cardinals pass rush, led by Darnell Dockett.

Dombrowski has held up well in the run-blocking but he was exposed numerous times protecting Philip Rivers' blindside in Seattle and the result was Rivers taking some thunderous hits; he was sacked four times. Dockett will be firing off the edge in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme but also keep an eye out for outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans. The Chargers will give Dombrowski some help and go pass-pro max on some plays to keep Rivers upright. But Dombrowski has to play better than he did in Seattle.

Chargers RBs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert vs. Cardinals run defense which has started slow.

Mathews was often compared to LaDainian Tomlinson in camp, but he's yet to show Tomlinson's amazing durability after missing but his third NFL game with a sprained ankle. Mathews is supposed to be fit by Sunday; he will also get plenty of help in running the ball from Tolbert. The Chargers will find the Cardinals' weak spot is staying low to the ground -- they are ranked No. 31 against the run. Among the keys will be the Chargers' interior line matching up with NT Bryan Robinson. And the Chargers will be playing short-handed at that spot, with starter Louis Vasquez (knee) being replaced by Tyronne Green.

Chargers coverage teams, which are ranked dead last in defending punts and kickoffs vs. a dangerous Cardinals return team, which features LaRod Stephens-Howling.

It's a joke, the Chargers trying to cover kicks and they proved it last week when Leon Washington brought back two for touchdowns. The Chargers have tinkered with their special teams, inserting a sprinkling of starters on the special teams. Brandon Siler is probably their best special teams player and he will be able to contribute more with Stephen Cooper coming back to take most of the snaps in the base defense. Stephens-Howling is no fluke and he proved it last week as well when racing 102 yards with the opening kickoff for a score. Last year, he had a 99-yarder for a score as well. The Chargers promised they have fixed the special-teams woes. They get a chance to prove it Sunday.


--OLB Shawne Merriman (calf) didn't practice but it's expected he will play Sunday. Even if he goes Sunday, he will be limited.

--OLB Larry English (foot) is out four-to-six weeks.

--RG Louis Vasquez (knee) will miss at least the next two weeks with a ligament strain.

--LG Kris Dielman was ill and didn't work on Wednesday. He will play Sunday.

--S Darrell Stuckey (hamstring) was limited in his Wednesday work; he could be down anyway this week, regardless of his health.

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