Epic collapse leaves Bolts with work to do
Norv Turner keeps saying San Diego can be a good team, and the Chargers keep responding with second-half collapses.
Monday night was epic: The Chargers blew a 24-0 halftime lead and lost 35-24 to Peyton Manning and the AFC West-rival Denver Broncos.
It tied for the fourth-biggest comeback in NFL regular-season history.
A week earlier, San Diego blew a 10-point third-quarter lead in losing 31-24 at New Orleans. They let the Saints score the final 17 points and then watched as the Broncos scored the final 35 points Monday night.
It was such an enormous pratfall that the normally vociferous fans didn't even boo.
The Broncos (3-3) tied the Chargers (3-3) atop the AFC West. Both teams have their byes this weekend.
The big culprit was Philip Rivers, who set career highs with four interceptions and six turnovers overall. Three of his pickoffs were in the fourth quarter, one of which was returned 46 yards by Chris Harris for the final score. In the third quarter, Tony Carter returned Rivers' fumble 65 yards for a score.
After committing 25 turnovers last year, including 20 interceptions, Rivers has committed 12 in the first six games this season, including nine picks.
''We're going to fix the issues that are keeping us from finishing games,'' said Turner, who once again has drawn the ire of the fans but is likely to survive at least until season's end.
''There's a lot of things involved,'' the coach said. ''It starts with the coaching and it starts with deciding what we're going to do, when we're going to do it. The things that we're having problems with, we may eliminate. It may mean we're a little bit more conservative, it may mean in some cases we do things a little differently. Any more detail than that, certainly it's going to show up when we play and I'm not going to sit here and talk about how we're going to change in terms of our game plans and what we do. We're letting those four or five plays change the entire game.''
Turner bristled twice at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
He said the coaching staff is as disappointed and frustrated as fans. ''But I believe there's a strong determination between the players and the coaches. That's what gives me optimism and belief that we will get this problem fixed,'' he said.
Asked where the determination was in the third and fourth quarters, Turner snapped: ''You're not listening. It's not how hard we're playing it the third and fourth quarter. If you turn the ball over four times, you're not going to win the game, OK? And that's the problem we have to fix. There was great effort and determination in the third and fourth quarter. If the ball is on the ground or you're turning it over, it doesn't matter.''
After Ryan Mathews fumbled at the Atlanta 4-yard line three weeks ago, Turner said he was going to limit the running back's exposure to certain situations.
Asked if he planned to do the same thing with Rivers, Turner said: ''I think if you're listening to what I'm saying, we're certainly going to look hard at the things we're having a tough time with. Yes, we are going to limit some of the things we're doing. I've got to do a better job in making sure we put things in there and that we're calling things that have less risk. They may not have as big a reward. We may not be quite the same big-play team, but we're not going to turn the ball over.''
Rivers wasn't alone in playing poorly. He's been forced to rush throws and even throw off his back foot the last two games because the offensive line hasn't protected him well.
While Rivers was under siege Monday night, San Diego's defense failed to sack Manning and had just one hit against the 36-year-old star QB, who's regaining his form after missing last season, his final year in Indianapolis.
Manning was magnificent in the second half, completing his first 13 passes before finishing the final 30 minutes by going 13 of 14 for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Manning finished 24 of 30 for 309 yards with one interception, which was returned 80 yards for a score by Quentin Jammer in the first half.
There is precedent for midseason coaching changes in San Diego. In 1998, GM Bobby Beathard fired Kevin Gilbride after six games because he'd lost the locker room and the fan base. In 1986, the great Don Coryell - whom some people believe belongs in the Hall of Fame - resigned after a 1-7 start, and owner Alex Spanos made no attempt to dissuade him. Alex Spanos ceded day-to-day control of the team to son Dean after the 1993 season.
But fans who want Turner fired now are likely to be disappointed. After all, Dean Spanos, the team president, decided to keep Turner and general manager A.J. Smith in January despite the Chargers missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Part of the reason could be that Spanos didn't want to eat the money owed the two men. Turner is under contract through 2013, at about $3 million a year, and Smith through 2014, at about $2 million a year.
Four seasons ago, Turner fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell after a loss to New Orleans in London left the Chargers 3-5. Despite falling to 4-8, the Chargers won their last four that season, coupled with Denver's late-season collapse, to win the division at 8-8.
Turner said he doesn't anticipate any changes on his staff.
Smith didn't return a call seeking comment and a team spokesman said it was unlikely Spanos would be available.
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