Chargers Exhaling in Bye Week

The Chargers are exhaling in the bye week, wondering what happened to the No. 1 goal they stated in training camp: getting off to a fast start.

At the quarter post of the NFL season, the Chargers are looking at a 2-2 start.

The Chargers haven't looked that keen in any of their games and know they are, in some ways, fortunate to be at .500.

And really, that is the level the Chargers should be, based on a disturbing trend for a team that was 14-2 in 2006.

The Chargers are a flat .500 for this year, and that comes off a regular season in 2008 in which they were .500 at 8-8.

Stretch the trend back more, and it shows the Chargers are 11-11 in their last 22 games, which includes the playoffs.

This year the Chargers' slow start already has them two games behind the 4-0 Broncos. And that's the team the Chargers face when they resume play on Oct. 19 in a critical Monday night game.

"This isn't the start I wanted," said coach Norv Turner, whose regular-season record with the Chargers has fallen to 21-15. "We're coming off a game we gave up 500 yards and we weren't able to run the football."


LB Shawne Merriman
Stephen Dunn/Getty
Yep, the pathetic performance in Pittsburgh -- in which the Chargers were manhandled -- is sticking with the club during the bye.

"We didn't play at the level we wanted to (Sunday) night," Turner said. "I'm disappointed about that, our players are disappointed. I think we all know we're capable of doing better."

The Chargers will get a chance to make up ground fast in their division, with their next three games against AFC West foes: Denver, at Kansas City, Oakland.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 254 yards, and he did so without an interception in Pittsburgh. That is pretty impressive in that the Chargers were getting blitzed from every direction and Rivers didn't have the threat of a running game to fall back on. Rivers continues to be among the few highlights for the Chargers during their .500 start.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson was back after missing two games with an ankle injury. A quick look at the numbers don't show much, as he gained 15 yards on seven carries. But that speaks as much to the Chargers' shoddy run-blocking -- Tomlinson was often met in the backfield -- and the team falling behind 28-0, which San Diego it to abandon its running game.

--RB Darren Sproles was quiet Sunday, getting the least work he has seen during the season. Sproles didn't have a single carry and caught but one pass for 16 yards. He did add 42 yards on six kickoff returns, but he was nowhere near the force he usually is in the offense.

--TE Antonio Gates is healthy again, and he is proving it nearly every week. With the wide receivers being closely guarded, Gates had a big game in the big loss at Pittsburgh. He caught a game-high nine passes for 124 yards and two scores. The toe, ankle and foot injuries that have compromised Gates the past two seasons are no longer restricting him.

--WR Vincent Jackson had his two-game streak of 100-yard receiving games snapped in Pittsburgh, with the Steelers defense forcing Philip Rivers to often look toward other targets. Jackson did have four receptions for 56 yards and remains the team's top threat on the outside.

--WR Chris Chambers was rediscovered in Pittsburgh after being the odd man out in the passing attack. Chambers had the best game of his season, catching four passes for 39 yards and a score.

--OLB Shawne Merriman is not only dealing with his rebuilt knee but also a chronic groin injury that is restricting his playing time. Merriman has been active the past two games but has been on the field for just as handful of plays, as the groin becomes aggravated when pushed. Merriman likely will shut it down this week and try to get his health back for the Oct. 19 game against the Broncos.

--OLB Shaun Phillips continues to find getting to the quarterback a tough goal. Phillips was supposed to benefit greatly from OLB Shawne Merriman's return, but with Merriman playing sparingly, Phillips has yet to record his first sack after four games. Phillips had 16 sacks over the past two years.

--ILB Stephen Cooper is fighting a knee sprain and could be given the week off. The Chargers' run-defense woes are well-documented, and the chances of turning that around will be tougher without Cooper.

--CB Antonio Cromartie is coming off another dismal game as his stock continues to plummet. He has gone from a Pro Bowler to a guy being picked on regularly with his soft coverage and lack of physical play.

--CB Antoine Cason might get some addition snaps with Antonio Cromartie struggling. Cason is starting his second season as the team's nickel back, and his role could be expanding.


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