Chargers Limp into Bye Week

In aiming for their fourth straight division title, the Chargers are two games behind the Broncos. And that's after just four games.

It's clear the Chargers' expected waltz to another AFC West title is going to be tougher. After starting the season as the only AFC West team not rebuilding, their clear path to the playoffs has gotten rocky.

While the Chargers' passing game shines, the running game and overall defense continues to struggle. That was evident in their more recent loss in which they were physically dominated in Pittsburgh.

The tenets of winning football is running the ball and stopping it. The Chargers do neither.

"They go hand in hand," coach Norv Turner said.

Turner said the main goal during the bye week is to get healthy. The Chargers have been ravaged with injuries in the season's first month.

But no one is going to play a pity card for the Chargers. They need to return to play against the Broncos on with a new attitude.

"This league is not about what happens to you," Turner said. "It's how you respond. We have played three physical teams in Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh and it has taken its toll."

TE Antonio Gates
Gregory Shamus/Getty
The Chargers can find solace in knowing they were 4-8 and they still advanced in the playoffs. But they don't want to walk that tightrope again. They are disappointed where they are and how they have started.

So maybe the bye comes not so early but just at the right time. For their physical and mental health.

"Guys are banged up and we are trying to get healthy," tight end Antonio Gates said. "I think the bye week is going to be very, very critical for us. We need to rest and get ready for the Broncos."

The jolt expected from the return of outside linebacker Shawne Merriman hasn't been felt; he plays sporadically and doesn't have a sack. In addition to a tepid pass rush, the run defense has been terrible.

The loss of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jamal Williams is a big reason. That shoddy run defense looked its worst in Pittsburgh, getting hit for 177 yards.

But Philip Rivers said no one can feel sorry for themselves.

"It's hey, look, don't put your heads down -- we got to go," Rivers said. "We signed up for 12 more and we know the past few years we got a few extra games in January."

That seems far off for a 2-2 team which held such promise.

"We can learn from this and this league is about learning and moving forward and not about dwelling on the past," Gates said. "We got to continue playing."

The schedule is set up for a run up the standings. The next three games are against AFC West foes: the Broncos, at the Chiefs and the Raiders.

UNDER THE RADAR: Might the Chargers try to shake up the shaky defense by giving some of starting CB Antonio Cromartie's snaps to Antoine Cason? Cromartie has been a disappointment this season with his soft coverage and tackling.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Number of sacks from the team's outside linebackers. In the 3-4 alignment it's essential the outside linebackers get to the quarterbacks. But rookie Larry English has the only sack from the outside linebackers; the Chargers have only four as a team.


-- RB LaDainian Tomlinson hopes to regain his burst during the bye week. He rushed for 15 yards on seven carries in Pittsburgh after missing two weeks with an ankle injury.

-- TE Antonio Gates is coming off one of his top games, when catching nine passes for 124 yards and two scores. Gates is as healthy as he has been in the last two years.

-- RG Louis Vasquez returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a knee injury.

-- WR Chris Chambers got back into the passing attack, catching four passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.

-- OLB Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) is expected to return following the bye after missing three games.

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