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News » Chargers not so super, sitting at 3-5

Chargers not so super, sitting at 3-5

Chargers not so super, sitting at 3-5
SAN DIEGO (AP) - By now, the parade route should have been planned, the design for the rings chosen and the players should have figured out how they were going to spend their playoff shares.

After all, the San Diego Chargers were going all the way to the Super Bowl ... weren't they?

Well, not quite so fast there. The Chargers, a popular preseason pick to make it to the NFL title game, are instead one of the NFL's biggest disappointments, falling to 3-5 going into their bye weekend.

They lost their most energetic player - a guy nicknamed, coincidentally, "Lights Out" - to season-ending knee surgery after the opener. They have played so poorly on defense that beleaguered coordinator Ted Cottrell was fired Tuesday by Norv Turner, whose own record as an NFL head coach has dipped to 72-92-1.

They've already lost as many games as they did last year, when they went on an eight-game winning streak to make it all the way to the AFC title game before losing to the New England Patriots. They've got the same number of losses as the Oakland Raiders, whom they've beaten 10 straight times and love to thumb their noses at.

Although LaDainian Tomlinson had a productive performance on a dank London night when the Chargers were otherwise punched in the nose by former teammate Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, he's largely looked better in his Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials than he has in real life.

"We put ourselves in this position and now we've got to find a way to get out of it," said Tomlinson, the two-time defending NFL rushing champion who's been slowed by a jammed right big toe since late in the season opener. "I'm confident it can happen. We still have a chance to win our division, so that's always encouraging."

The downtrodden Chargers get their bye after an 11,000-mile, two-loss road trip through Buffalo and London. Joss Stone sang "God Save the Queen" before the Chargers-Saints game at Wembley Stadium; someone later suggested mixing the British national anthem with the Bolts' disco ditty, "San Diego Super Chargers," for a new anthem: "God Save the Super Chargers."

They're going to need help in the second half of the schedule.

Playing in the weak AFC West seems to be the last saving grace for the Chargers, whose first-half flop has added to the city's sports misery. The Padres lost 99 games and Chuck Long's San Diego State Aztecs have managed just one win.

Other than Turner firing Cottrell and replacing him with inside linebackers coach Ron Rivera, no one seems to have any real answers. Yes, there have been injuries, perhaps the biggest being a collective bruised ego.

"We've got work to do," center Nick Hardwick said. "We're not out of it. It can be done. We've just got to put our minds to it, get to work."

The Chargers have lost three of their last four and haven't been above .500 yet. When they return from their bye, they host the last-place Kansas City Chiefs.

"I think we're better than 3-5, but we have to play it as it says right now," inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm said. "Our record says we're 3-5. With the changes that have been made, I think we're excited to go out and play."

There have been bright spots, but mostly inconsistency.

Philip Rivers leads the NFL with a passer rating of 107.8, with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. Tempering those numbers, however, were his interception and two lost fumbles in a 23-14 loss at Buffalo, and his interception with just more than a minute to go against the Saints.

The Chargers average 28 points per game, tying them with the Chicago Bears for second in the NFL. They beat their recent nemesis, New England, 30-10, and Brett Favre and the New York Jets 48-29.

Tomlinson has rushed for only 551 yards and four touchdowns, and caught 29 passes for 215 yards and one TD. Two seasons ago, he set NFL records with 31 total touchdowns and 28 TDs rushing en route to being voted league MVP.

The big downfall has been on defense. The Chargers are at or near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories, including 32nd in yards passing per game (265.1) and 23rd in points allowed per game (24.9).

After leading the NFL with 30 interceptions and 48 takeaways last year, the Chargers have only six pickoffs and 10 takeaways after eight games. After getting 42 sacks last year, they have 17 at the halfway point. They have no sacks or interceptions in their last nine quarters.

The loss of outside linebacker Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman to knee surgery following the opener clearly cost the Chargers much of their defensive spark. By comparison, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants have one of the NFL's best defenses despite losing Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending knee injury in August. The Giants lead the league with 26 sacks.

The decision to fire Cottrell "was made in terms of the coaching, but we have a lot of issues that we need to handle to get to where we want to go," Turner said.

Does Turner feel as if he's coaching for his job?

"I'm not going to get into those questions," said Turner, who was fired from his previous head coaching jobs, with Washington and Oakland. "I'm not going to start that."

General manager A.J. Smith refused to answer questions Thursday about the state of the Bolts. Team president Dean Spanos, who's been trying for six years to get San Diego or another community to help build a new stadium, wasn't available for an interview, spokesman Bill Johnston said, even though he stood with Smith on a second-story balcony and watched the only bye-week practice.

The Chargers, who've won the AFC West three of the last four years, trail Denver by 1 1/2 games. Denver had its bye last week. The Broncos benefited from referee Ed Hochuli's blown call to beat the Chargers 39-38 at Denver on Sept. 14. The rematch is in the finale on Dec. 28.

"I think we realize we're in a very tough position right now," defensive end Luis Castillo said. "But at the same time, the attitude is we realize there's hope, because it's a lot tougher to be 3-5 in a division where you're four or five games behind already."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 31, 2008

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