Different opponent, same story; the San Diego Chargers (2-5) managed to giftwrap a victory for an opposing team despite yet another statistically dominating performance, losing to the New England Patriots (5-1) 23-20 on Sunday afternoon in front of 68,386 at Qualcomm Stadium.
This is really starting to feel like a broken record: too many turnovers, critical mistakes on special teams and overall ineptitude caught up with the Bolts yet again. The four-time defending AFC West champions are now an embarrassing three games below .500 and share last place with the Denver Broncos.
There are no moral victories for a team that was a trendy preseason Super Bowl selection. Despite being ravaged by injuries and severely lacking in depth, the Chargers had every opportunity to beat the Patriots and continuously managed to shoot themselves in the foot.
Through two quarters of football, San Diego had outgained New England 146 yards to 38. They had the ball for 18:57 of the 30 minute half. Philip Rivers had amassed a hundred yards more in the air than Tom Brady.
Each of the past seven weeks, it seems, I've had to touch on how important the turnover battle is to winning football games. I tweeted it again on Sunday during the first half - give the ball away, give the ball game away.
And give the ball away is exactly what San Diego did - four times, to be exact - all of them in the first half, rendering all of their statistical advantages obsolete. Two of them shouldn't even be classified as turnovers, for they were giveaways in every sense of the word.
Rookie wide receiver Richard Goodman celebrated his first ever NFL catch by literally handing the ball over to the Patriots defense after not being downed by contact. Later, fullback Jacob Hester let a backwards pass bounce of his hands and lie still on the turf before the possibility of it being a fumble even crossed his mind. Of course, by that point the Patriots had already recovered it and were returning it the other direction.
And miraculously, despite the best efforts to hand the game to the atriots by the offense, the Chargers' remained in the game thanks to the outstanding play of the defensive unit. The Bolts trailed 13-3 at the half, with all of New England's points coming off of turnovers.
Philip Rivers and the offense managed to protect the ball in the second half, which predictably resulted in the Bolts getting back into the game. Things started to look up when the special teams unit managed to make a play (did I actually just type that?) by recovering an onside kick in the fourth quarter.
Somehow, despite all of the miscues and injuries, Philip Rivers had the ball in his hands with two minutes left in a one-possession game. As desperate as the Chargers were, it seemed as if their time to break through was finally here.
And then, right on cue, special teams found a way to bring it all crumbling to the ground. With kicker Kris Brown, signed this week with Nate Kaeding sidelined with a groin injury, lining up for a 45-yard field goal to tie the game with less than a minute left, the Chargers were called for a false start.
Suddenly, a 45-yard field goal become a 50 yarder. Predictably, Brown missed, hitting the right upright. Had he hit that same ball from 45 yards out, it almost certainly would have gone in.
Something that's always said about good teams is that they find ways to win. This Chargers team does the exact opposite - they find ways to lose.
The formula has been the same all year - turning the ball over to frequently, making crucial mistakes on special teams and committing stupid penalties. If the Bolts hope to make up ground in the weak AFC West, things need to be turned around quickly.
But even then, one must question whether or not it will be enough. Has this Chargers team finally dug itself into too deep a hole to escape even with a late season hot streak?
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