Defense in Dumps without Merriman

The Chargers embrace their bye week, wondering what happened to a season that started with such promise. With a weekend to sit and stew, the Chargers are bewildered from recently being touted as an elite team to a mediocre one, two games under .500.

Their dismal season resumes after the bye when welcoming the visiting Chiefs. But first is some soul searching among the players and coaches -- although in the weak AFC West, the Chargers' playoff hopes remain.

Their year to forget reached another low point in Sunday's 37-32 loss to the Saints in London. The Chargers, once again, were carved up by an opposing quarterback and their offense -- no matter how potent -- couldn't compensate for the defensive shortcomings.

"The whole experience was a lot of fun, except the outcome of the game," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw for three touchdowns and an interception. "It's a tough one to swallow, and (being) 3-5 with a 13-hour flight ahead of us doesn't make it any better."

LB Shawne Merriman
Jeff Gross/Getty

What has to get better -- quickly -- is the Chargers' ability to contain passing attacks. They are last in defending the pass, still searching for a way to reach quarterbacks after the loss of Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman.

It's tough to pin all the blame on the defense's back end with the front seven supplying no push.

The Chargers have gone 10 consecutive quarters without a sack or an interception. No longer do quarterbacks fear facing what was once among the league's top pass-rushing teams.

Players who flourished with Merriman are no longer having the same impact.

The result is a defense that can't get off the field on third downs and then tires as games progress. The cornerbacks who were so good last year -- Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer -- are having to cover longer, and not with as much success.

The Chargers reach the bye week coming off a sloppy game as well. They committed a whopping 14 penalties for 134 yards -- both highs in at least the last 10 years.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have an eight-game season coming up. We'll get back and get ready for that." -- Coach Norv Turner, of what awaits the fading Chargers after Sunday's bye.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Chargers have eight games remaining and if they can duplicate last year's final eight, it's likely they'll reach the playoffs. In 2007, they went 7-1 down the stretch and reached the AFC Championship Game. But things are stacked against them this year. They are already a game behind last year's pace at 3-5, and among the teams they'll face in their next four games are the Colts, at the Steelers and Falcons. Plus, last year's team had a dominating defense that delivered game-changing plays and consistently presented the offense with good field position. And, the '07 Chargers won road games at Kansas City, Tennessee and Oakland in the second half. This year's team, which is 1-4 on the road, has yet to prove it can play well away from Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers like to point to last year as an indicator to what could happen this year. But the odds are longer with this year's Chargers, especially one without Pro Bowl LB Shawne Merriman.


--CB Quentin Jammer injured his hamstring and will be evaluated this week. Cletis Gordon would replace him if the injury is significant.

--WR Buster Davis (groin) wasn't active again Sunday and the Chargers have grown weary of waiting for him to get fit.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 105 yards in the loss, which marked the second time this season he cracked the 100-yard barrier.

--OLB Jyles Tucker returned to play after missing three games with a hamstring injury.

--WR Chris Chambers is back after skipping two games with an ankle injury.

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