Turner unaware of Gaither’s injury on big play
SAN DIEGO (AP) — NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth saw something wrong with San Diego Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither and predicted that New Orleans Saints defensive end Martez Wilson would sack Philip Rivers to end Monday night’s game.
Chargers coach Norv Turner wasn’t alerted to Gaither’s injury, either by the player himself or an assistant coach. Sure enough, with the Chargers desperately trying for the tying touchdown in the final seconds, Wilson blew past the hobbled Gaither on Rivers’ blind side for the strip-sack and recovered the fumble to preserve the Saints’ 31-24 victory.
“It wasn’t brought to my attention,” Turner said Monday.
After Rivers threw an incompletion on second-and-10 from the New Orleans 33, Collinsworth said: “Gaither looks lame. He’s gonna have to get some help here or Wilson’s gonna get a sack to end this game.”
After it played out like Collinsworth suggested it would, he said: “Nobody saw it. You could see it on the play before. He couldn’t move. … He’s limping out there. He’s doing his best. He should have turned around to Philip Rivers and said, ‘Either I’ve got to go out or you have to give me help on this side.'”
The victory was the first in five games for the Saints and Drew Brees, who broke Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas’ half-century-old record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game. Brees beat his old team for the second time since 2008 by throwing for 370 yards and four TDs.
San Diego dropped to 3-2 heading into Monday night’s home game against Peyton Manning and the division rival Denver Broncos.
Turner said at his weekly news conference that he had heard of Collinsworth’s comments.
“He’s looking down from up above,” Turner said. “It was actually in the third-to-last play he strained his groin a little bit. I would rather have him come out in that situation. He got back in the huddle. Obviously there’s no way you could see it. I think Cris saw it on the next play where Philip had to throw the ball away and the last play was the sack. You’d like Jared to come out of the game. We could have put (Mike) Harris in. It would have helped us. I think he wanted to fight through it and felt he could play.”
Last season, left guard Kris Dielman was staggered by a helmet-to-helmet hit with a New York Jets player. He did not come out of the game and wasn’t diagnosed until afterward. Dielman had a grand mal seizure as the team plane approached San Diego and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he spent the night. Dielman retired on March 1 rather than risk another concussion.
Asked about the team’s increased diligence in detecting players who aren’t 100 percent, Turner said: “We’re trying to stay on top of that. In that case the player’s got to let you know he can’t go.”
None of the Chargers’ assistant coaches who watch the game from a booth in the press box alerted Turner.
“I think Collinsworth saw it on the second-to-last play,” Turner said. “It wasn’t brought to my attention.”
Gaither missed most of training camp and the first three games with back spasms. Turner says Gather has a chance to practice this week and play Monday night.
The play that helped turn the game came in the third quarter. Chargers linebacker Demorrio Williams intercepted Brees and returned it for a touchdown that would have given the Chargers a 31-14 lead. But the score was negated after rookie Melvin Ingram was whistled for roughing the passer after he drove his helmet into Brees’ chin.
It was Ingram’s second roughing the passer penalty of the season.
“We’re going to fix that issue,” Turner said. “It’s coaching, it’s technique, it’s him understanding the way the games are officiated. There’s no question we addressed it after the Raider game and It’s something we’re going to deal with. Everyone in the league has dealt with it. You look at the great pass rushers in the league and they’ve all learned how to handle it. We’ve got to get Melvin to do the same.”
Five plays later, Brees hit Marques Colston on a 16-yard touchdown pass that started the Saints’ comeback.