Being outclassed by Patriots serves as reminder that Turner’s Chargers are destined for another playoff exit

Posted: 09/18/2011 in football
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The biggest reason why the San Diego Chargers will eventually come up short again this season is head coach Norv Turner.

Obviously, that declaration isn’t groundbreaking stuff but the Chargers coach was actually excited about what he witnessed while his team was being outclassed by the New England Patriots.

Can you imagine Bobby Ross – the lone Chargers coach to lead a team to a Super Bowl – being anything but irate over Sunday’s 35-21 loss?

Excited isn’t a word that should be coming out of anyone’s mouth after the Patriots continued their recent dominance of the Chargers.

“You know, I am so excited about our football team,” Turner said afterwards. “And I have told them a number of times, I don’t even refer to this group as to comparing it to anywhere with last year’s team. This year’s team is this year’s team.

“And I am excited about where this team can go. We have a lot of work to do, like every team in the league, but I can’t wait until (Monday) and get back there with them and start working on things we need to get better at. And obviously, when you have a game like this, you can’t wait to go play again.”

That’s swell that Turner is so thrilled about his 1-1 team but the biggest deterrent to the Chargers having playoff success is that this year’s coach is the same as last year’s coach. The Chargers have consistently been among the most talented teams in the NFL during Turner’s tenure but they have won just one playoff game over the last three seasons.

The Chargers could very well win a playoff game this season but does anyone expect them to get through the Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens to reach the Super Bowl? There’s a better chance of Peyton Manning cussing out reporters a la Ryan Leaf than good ol’ Norval getting the Chargers to the Promised Land.

And yes, I mean Super Bowl as the Promised Land, not the city of Los Angeles.

Obviously, there were more reasons than the head coach for why the Chargers lost to the Patriots for the fifth time in the last six meetings.

The Chargers committed four turnovers and watched Tom Brady complete 23 first-down passes during a 423-yard performance. San Diego failed to score at the New England goal-line – the predictable fourth-down Turner run call – and New England responded to stopping Mike Tolbert by going on a 99-yard
touchdown drive.

Usually reliable Philip Rivers threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Tolbert inexplicably confused himself with being Gale Sayers or Barry Sanders while trying to reverse directions instead of accepting a short gain. He fumbled and the Patriots recovered and quickly added on to their lead.

Antonio Gates didn’t catch a single pass. Repeat – Gates never felt the pigskin in his hands all game long.

Vincent Jackson had a huge day with 10 receptions for 172 yards but there weren’t enough other Chargers who played at his level on this Sunday in Foxboro.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick quickly cited the biggest factor in his postgame comments – that the Chargers committed four turnovers – in addition to praising his defense and Brady’s latest stellar showing.

“The Chargers are a good football team, but ultimately the turnovers and getting the ball in the end zone was big for us,” Belichick said. “We had a lot of guys step up. Really, it’s a good team win all the way around. We had good plays in all three phases of the game.”

Belichick could have thrown in that the Patriots had a huge edge in the head-coaching matchup. The only time the Chargers have beaten New England in Turner’s tenure is when Brady was sidelined with a knee injury.

Beating a team with Matt Cassel at quarterback is infinitely easier than beating Brady, a future Hall of Famer.

In fact, the Chargers figure to get well next Sunday when they host Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs. And with all the talent on the squad and a light schedule the next few weeks, you figure the Chargers will be 4-1 heading into their mid-October bye.

But regular-season victories aren’t the measuring stick any longer and Sunday’s showing against the Patriots serves as a reminder that the Chargers appear destined for another disappointing postseason. (Yes, I am assuming the Chargers will win the AFC West despite missing the playoffs last season.)

“It’s disappointing to lose,” said Rivers, “but it’s a long year and we’re going to be a heck of a team. Really, the only goal that we have to scratch off our list right now is winning them all.”

With Turner as head coach, it’s only a matter of time when one of the other goals – advancing to the AFC Championship Game – eventually gets marked off the list.

Sunday’s loss served as a major reminder of that fact.

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