Chargers-Panthers Preview

When Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers looked at game film this week as he prepared for Sunday’s opponent, he saw something that looked oddly familiar.  The uniforms were different and the schemes foreign. But the team that he saw when studying the Carolina Panthers hit a little closer to home.

“This team, in a lot of ways, I look at their record and see a lot of how our year has been,” Rivers told the media Wednesday before listing all the close losses the Panthers have suffered this year. “They could very easily be right there, sitting in a different spot.”

The same could be said about San Diego.

With Cincinnati's decisive win Thursday night over the Philadelphia Eagles, the 5-8 Chargers were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and are grasping at the shadows of a season that might have been.. Five of San Diego’s losses could plausibly be victories if the Chargers did not suffer epic meltdowns in the fourth quarter of those games. As Jim Nantz of CBS put it heading into halftime of San Diego’s win over Pittsburgh last week: “If games were 30 minutes long, they’d be 9-3.”

The same sentiment can be attributed to Carolina. The Panthers, who are 4-9, have lost seven games by six points or fewer. Often times, these losses have come at the bitter end. Quarterback Cam Newton fumbled the ball—and the lead—away in the team's second loss of the season to Atlanta. Newton also threw a fourth quarter interception against Chicago that led to a Bears go-ahead touchdown score. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Rivers has been losing games for San Diego in the same fashion. The former All-Pro quarterback has 13 fourth quarter turnovers, including a league-high nine interceptions, the most of any quarterback in the NFL this year.

If any two teams in the NFL know how to lose games in the fourth quarter, it’s the two that will meet at Qualcomm Stadium this Sunday. Combined, the two teams have 13 losses where the they had a tie or lead in the fourth quarter this season. “We just haven't been able to finish some of these games,” Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis told, “and it's extremely frustrating.”

Funny thing is that both teams are coming off a rare late-season win over playoff (or what could be) playoff bound teams. Carolina notched a 30-20 victory over NFC-leading Atlanta last weekend as the Chargers won its first game in Pittsburgh over a Steelers team that is in control of its playoff destiny. And the sentiment coming out of Charlotte and San Diego seems to be the same. “I don’t think our effort has been an issue in the games we’ve played,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner told the media Monday. “We haven’t been as efficient as we were yesterday. We’ve been in that game a bunch of times and the one play has gone against us.”

That sounds eerily similar to what Panthers coach Ron Rivera said this week. “All the things seem to be coming together," Rivera said. "Unfortunately we didn't do it sooner, or it's just as much that we didn't finish some games that we should have." Maybe Carolina is having the same fortune San Diego is currently wallowing in because Rivera is a former Turner disciple and the staffs come from the same coaching tree. Many speculate that tree will get pruned at the end of the season with Turner getting his walking papers.

Rivera was the Chargers linebackers coach in 2007 and eventually became the team’s defensive coordinator from 2008-2010, before taking the head coaching position in Carolina. Rob Chudzinksi was the tight ends and assistant head coach for the Chargers before becoming the offensive coordinator. Turner’s son, Scott, is part of Carolina’s offensive coaching staff. So when Rivers looks at that game tape as he continues to prepare for the Panthers this week, it’s perfectly plausible that he could be looking at a mirror. There is, however, one small difference.

“I know I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but it’d be awesome to get to 8-8,” Rivers said Wednesday when asked about San Diego’s slim playoff chances. “Get in or not get in, no we wouldn’t be satisfied and we’d be really disappointed. But, it would say something about us and our ability to finish the year.” And that’s something that nine-loss Carolina cannot have. The Panthers are ensured of a losing season, no matter the outcome of Sunday’s game. The Chargers, though, are playing for a little bit more. They're still playing to make sure they don’t suffer their first losing season since 2003.

Written by Gerald Nicdao

December 13, 2012

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RaiderHater said... Dec 14, 2012, 8:34:00 AM

OK well we are not going to the playoffs now no matter how you cut it...Norv is all but assured out the door (FINALLY) and I hope AJ is driving his own U-Haul the same day! So a win this week is a nice way to at least save us from a losing season, an even better way to review the rookies and give them a chance for some invaluable playing time. I don't like having Rivers in any game forwards...why risk your franchise QB?! All in all it has been a disaster of a season with so much potential...I can't wait for some new blood to stir us up! Some good trades and acquisitions in key need positions and I really think we will be in the hunt next year...yeap really!! Meantime, avoiding key injuries to key players and a win out is all I have left in me this year...oh and of coarse the most important game to win for me is against my forever hated rivals...the Raiders!!!

Nick in PB said... Dec 14, 2012, 9:02:00 AM

The Raider game... that one, although it doesn't matter in the scheme of things, it matters to Charger fans! I hate the thought of all the Raider fans being in our stadium but Dean Spanos has nobody to thank but himself. Keeping Norv and AJ last season doomed this franchise's season. Everybody in San Diego knew it, except Dean and the players. Beat the Raiders, and fire Norv and AJ. That's what we have to look forward too. I too am looking forward to the NEW BLOOD, RH!!!! If we win out, it will really piss me off, in a way. Why weren't we playing that way all season!!! Right now, I feel indifferent and am only looking forward to next year and changes. These six seasons with Norv have seemed like an eternity! I can't wait to move on and restore my faith.

RaiderHater said... Dec 14, 2012, 10:03:00 AM

Nick is fired up!!! He is thinking about the upcoming anti-Raider Day....oh yes! Any attendees should bring in banners that game that read things like " adios AJ and Norv", "thanks for Nothin' Norv", "thanks Norv for taking the fire out of our lightning" and of coarse "Raiders Suck"!! The day is near and soon we be rid of the cancer (AJNorvitis) that has plagued us the past years and start a rapid recovery into next year. Stay True to the Blue Nick!!!!

Nick in PB said... Dec 14, 2012, 10:25:00 AM

You know it RH!!! True Blue all the way! We have talent! We just need direction and hopefully, that all starts next year! I moved here in '93 and unlike all the other peeps that move here, to Americas finest city, I have been true BLUE , die hard, Charger fan since! I truly believe this thing can be turned around with new blood at the top. We need to fix the O-Line and then we'll be rolling! As soon as I hear Norv and AJ are gone, my faith will be restored!Go CHARGERS!!!!!

RaiderHater said... Dec 14, 2012, 2:26:00 PM

Yeah Buddy...Charge Time + Bolt Up....change is a comin" !!

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