Chargers Continue Free Fall

Philip Rivers continued his turnover spree, the defense failed to get off the field and the special teams conjured up images of 2010 as the Bolts fell to the Bears, 31-20. San Diego's fifth straight loss helped Oakland open up a two-game lead in the West as Norv Turner's team faces another year out of the playoffs.

Give the Chargers credit ... they came prepared to play.

On the road against one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the Chargers matched the Bears score-for-score well into the third quarter. Then, after Jay Cutler put the Bears ahead 24-17 with a 1-yard TD leap, Ryan Mathews lost the ball and fumbled away San Diego's momentum.

Instead of driving for the tying score, the Chargers watched Cutler loft a 24-yard scoring strike to Johnny Knox, making it a two-score game.

The Chargers were never close the rest of the way.

Their best chance came following an Antoine Cason interception. Knox fell down on his route and Cason took advantage, grabbing the ball and returning it 64 yards to the Chicago 16-yard line. San Diego's offense could move no further, however, and came away with no points when Major Wright picked off Rivers in the back of the end zone.

That pick -- and another on an attempted throw-away in garbage time -- marred an otherwise strong game by Rivers. He finished with 280 yards and two TDs, going often to favorite targets Vincent Jackson (seven catches, 165 yards, one score) and Antonio Gates (four catches, 63 yards and a score).

He looked very much like the Pro Bowl QB Chargers fans have come to know ... until the fourth quarter, that is, when he tossed both interceptions and led the offense to a net total of zero yards.

While the offense stumbled, the special teams melted down totally. Devin Hester averaged 29 yards on two punt returns and Knox averaged 37 yards on two kickoff returns as the Bears won the field-position battle in a landslide. Knox's second return was most damaging, as he sprinted for 53 yards two minutes before intermission. That set up a six-play scoring drive capped by a 4-yard strike to Kellen Davis, giving the Bears a seven-point lead right before halftime.

Greg Manusky's defense is not without blame. The Bears converted more than half their third downs (57 percent) and earned more than a six-minute advantage in time of possession. Additionally, the Chargers never sacked Cutler; he had enough time to average nearly 16 yards per completion.

Lightning Quicks

--Rivers has thrown a career-worst 17 interceptions this season and there are still six games to play. He has seven multi-interception games this year after previously averaging only two such games per season.

--Mathews fumbled twice, but the first was recovered by Brandyn Dombrowski.

--Rookie Steve Schilling started at right guard and rotated with Tony Moll. Both played on the same line later in the game when Scott Mruczkowski was taken out with a concussion.

--Cason's interception was the first by one of San Diego's starting cornerbacks.

--Richard Goodman had his best day as a kick returner. He had a season-best 44-yard return and averaged 36 yards on his four attempts.

--Nick Novak connected on two of three field goals, including a 48-yarder that cut the lead to 11 early in the fourth quarter. His only miss came on the final play of the first half, when his 55-yard try came up inches short, bouncing off the crossbar.

--San Diego's inactives were all injury related: Marcus McNeill (neck), Louis Vasquez (ankle), Tyronne Green (hand), Malcom Floyd (hip), Luis Castillo (leg), Shaun Phillips (foot) and Marcus Gilchrist (hamstring).

What are Bolts fans saying about Sunday's loss? Find out in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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