Chargers Season Fading to Black

The dream is about over -- mathematically. The dream is over -- realistically.

The Chargers' aspirations of reaching the playoffs are toast, even if the numbers say they aren't. But in the wake of yet another home loss -- this one to a rookie coach with a rookie quarterback -- the writing is on the Chargers' locker room wall.

"You are who you are," tight end Antonio Gates said. "You are what your record says you are. We're 4-8. No matter what kind of talent we have, no matter how many Pro Bowls we have, we're 4-8."

But this season was supposed to be about the Super Bowl. The Chargers were built to make an extended run in the playoffs.

Yet the Chargers welcome the Raiders on Thursday having but one more win than their AFC West rival.


HC Norv Turner
Jeff Gross/Getty

That's how bad it has become. And some wonder how it will be fixed -- with management already giving embattled coach Norv Turner a vote of confidence.

"I'm sure there will be changes after the season with players," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "We know that Norv will be back, so what do you do?

"You have to make a change with the players. If you're losing, you expect that, and it's our own fault."

The losses have come fast and furious for the Chargers, the two-time defending AFC West champions. The chatter was the team would seize the opportunity of having three consecutive home games and get on a roll taking them into the playoffs.

Instead they've been rolled by the Colts and the Falcons. And the latest defeat -- their fifth in six games -- was the most troubling.

The Chargers were beaten -- and beaten up. Atlanta controlled both sides of the line as it basically repeatedly punched the Chargers in the mouth.

Yet San Diego is not officially eliminated.

"We've got a shot," a glum Philip Rivers said. "That helps."

After Thursday, the Chargers might not even have that.

To stay alive, it's back to the basics, said Tomlinson. That means both lines reasserting themselves.

"Football is very basic," he said. "You have to be able to block and tackle. There is a reason why the offensive and defensive lines are the most important guys in football. There's a reason why they are so valuable to a team because they control the line of scrimmage.

"If you don't have that, it makes it tough on the skill position (players) whether you play running back or quarterback."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Chargers were penalized nine times for 84 yards, their second-worst showing of the season. They were flagged 14 times for 134 yards against New Orleans. Among the infractions were false-start calls on G Mike Goff and T Jeromey Clary. That didn't go over well with coach Norv Turner.

"We'll address it," Turner said. "The false starts -- at times, you're going to get one or two when you're on the road with crowd noise. We're at home. You should never have a false start at home."

--S Eric Weddle set a team record with his 86-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

--RB Jacob Hester was the Chargers' leading rusher by converting a fake field goal into a 28-yard carry.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for the second-lowest total of his career -- 24 yards. He said Pro Bowl LG Kris Dielman being out was among the reasons. "He is a huge part of that offensive line, the leader and the most physical guy on that offensive line. So obviously not having him hurt us, but we couldn't do anything about it," Tomlinson said.

--LG Scott Mruczkowski was thrust into the lineup about 2 1/2 hours before the game when Kris Dielman said he couldn't go. His day was mixed, and he gave up a key sack in the final three minutes. "You wish you could have some plays back, but unfortunately you can't," Mruczkowski said. "It was a key mistake. ... You can't give up the sack, and that is the play that is on my mind and will be on my mind for a while."

Added LT Marcus McNeill: "He had his head down after that, but he played a great game. I know everybody would like to have back one or two plays."

--ILB Shaun Phillips said he doesn't know what has happened to the fading Chargers. "I wish I could tell you," he said. "I'm trying to figure that out myself. I keep coming to a locked door, and I just don't know."

--Coach Norv Turner, on where the team goes from here: "Prepare for Oakland," he said.

PLAYER NOTES

--S Steve Gregory aggravated his neck injury but returned to the game.

--S Clinton Hart suffered a stinger/neck injury. He didn't return to the game.

--WR Malcom Floyd hurt his shoulder but should be OK this week.

--OLB Marques Harris aggravated his hamstring injury, and that could limit him in a short week.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson's third catch gave him 500 for his career. He's the fifth player in NFL history to rush for more than 10,000 yards and catch 500 passes. His 136th touchdown tied him with Marshall Faulk for fifth all-time.

--FB Mike Tolbert (shoulder) could return this week.

--LG Kris Dielman was still out Monday with the flu.


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