Posts Tagged ‘Green Bay Packers’

Well, hey, Weekly Links is making a surprise appearance. So busy with the paid work this time of year that it is hard to fit in free ventures (sure hope you don’t think I am making millions on my cozy website!)

So here goes … a little baseball, a little more NFL and a little college football. Sorry, not posting NBA as the preview shelf life is limited and who knows where you might end up after you click.

 

The World Series starts on Tuesday and the main storyline will revolve around perhaps the greatest pitcher of this era.

But as we all know, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw hasn’t stood up well under the playoff pressure during his career.

So will be it regular season Kershaw or “Postseason Kershaw” when the Dodgers play in the World Series for the first time since 1988?

Kershaw was seven months old and sleeping in a crib the last time the Dodgers were part of the Fall Classic.

How long has it been since the Dodgers played in the World Series? Well, consider the San Diego Padres’ drought was 10 years shorter.

That’s pretty sad when you consider all the money the Dodgers spend.

But this is their time with a team that won 104 regular-season games … and they definitely need “Regular Season Kershaw” taking the mound … see stellar story here — http://hosted.stats.com/mlb/story.asp?i=20171020172054085065710&ref=rec&tm=&src=MLB

 

Tom Brady might get the most praise but I feel Aaron Rodgers is the most “valuable” quarterback in the NFL.

We start to see if that is assessment is correct when the Green Bay Packers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Rodgers is out for at least eight weeks due to a broken collarbone and former UCLA star Brett Hundley will start in his place. Hundley has excelled in each of the past three preseasons but he wasn’t so hot when replacing Rodgers last Sunday as he threw three interceptions in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Hundley is a stellar athlete so it will be interesting to see how he fares. But no matter how he performs, we know this: He’s no Aaron Rodgers.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/saints-vs-packers-preview-and-predictions/212295/

 

It was pretty fun to have the Week 1 assignment when the Chargers and Broncos played in Denver.

It was even more entertaining to watch the Chargers have their game-tying field-goal attempt blocked in the final seconds.

The Chargers lost their first four games after relocating from San Diego and their running defense is so poor that I’m thinking Terrell Davis could suit up this Sunday and threaten the 100-yard mark.

The Broncos haven’t played well lately — what a gag job that was against the woeful New York Giants last Sunday night — so that unfortunately means the Chargers have a chance to win a third straight game.

Sure don’t want that … seeing the Chargers fall to 2-5 and on the way to their consecutive double-digit loss season would be much more fun.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/nfl/broncos-vs-chargers-preview-and-predictions/212300/

 

I’ve been kind of wondering why we have to continue playing the college football season and having all this debate about which four teams should be part of the College Football Playoff.

Can you find three teams in the nation that can beat Alabama? How about two? OK, one?

Penn State, Georgia and TCU are the teams ranked 2, 3 and 4. How about we take the best players off those three teams and see if they can give Alabama a game?

None of those three teams will win the national championship. The list of teams that can ends at one: Alabama.

The Crimson Tide get to pound Tennessee this Saturday. Apparently, people around Tennessee have finally figured out Butch Jones isn’t an SEC-caliber coach. Things could really get ugly against the Crimson Tide.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/-tennessee-vs-alabama-preview-and-predictions/212112/

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Weekly links is back and what a weird week for San Diego football fans.

Dean Spanos is finally taking the Chargers to Los Angeles and he has become a national laughingstock. It felt like only San Diegans were aware of what a dork the guy is but the announcement of the move displayed that all football fans are fully aware.

Even other pro sports team were mocking the Chargers … ouch. And you could almost hear that spineless public relations director yelling “Take a chill pill” if you recall that silly incident from the 2012 season.

My favorite thing I ran across was some Los Angeles writer giving a rundown of the organization and wondering if the move to Los Angeles could affect the Chargers’ on-field play in 2017.

Ummmmmm, they are 9-23 over the past two seasons, dude. And they were the only team in the NFL to lose to the dreadful Cleveland Browns.

If moving to Los Angeles is going to affect the record, the Chargers will BE the Cleveland Browns.

Happiest team about the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles is the soccer team that will share the StubHub Center with the Chargers.

That’s because the LA Galaxy are guaranteed to still be the highest-scoring team playing in that venue.

 

OK, on to the links.

It will be interesting to see how the Dallas Cowboys fare against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott (NFL-best 1,631 rushing yards) haven’t looked like novices during a 13-3 season. But how will they handle the playoff pressure?

Prescott has handled everything well while going from projected third-stringer to making Tony Romo forever irrelevant. But the playoffs are a completely different animal and things can go wrong quickly.

You might recall Dan Fouts’ first career playoff game as the leader of the Don Coryell Chargers. He threw five interceptions and the heavily favored Chargers lost to the Houston Oilers.

If a Hall of Famer like Fouts could fall flat on his face, so can a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State.

Not to forget that Aaron Rodgers is hotter than lava (you bet lava made it into my lead) and is an experienced veteran of the playoff wars. Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdown passes without being intercepted over the past seven games.

Here is the stellar Packers-Cowboys preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/NFL/2017/01/12/Green-Bay-Packers-vs-Dallas-Cowboys-Aaron-Rodgers-Dak-Prescott-under-the-microscope/9991484249346/

 

Now that it is mid-January, it is time to start figuring out which college basketball conferences are good and which ones are pretenders.

I haven’t yet figured out where the SEC stands but I know what direction I’m leaning.

Kentucky is pretty talented but we saw South Carolina collapse late last season to be relegated to the NIT so it is hard to take the Gamecocks seriously.

Which brings me to Florida.

I’ve had to watch the Gators play a few times lately and write about them because I’m paid to do so and their record (13-3, 4-0 SEC) appears to be better than the sum of its parts.

In Tuesday’s 80-67 victory over Alabama (now that school is a pretender), it was Florida’s ninth-leading scorer playing the hero. Some guy named Keith Stone and his 14-point effort improved his scoring average to 4.6.

You can say it is a good quality when a team can have its ninth-best player lead them in scoring. But the other fact is that teams like this typically start displaying their true colors in mid-February.

They don’t tend to get better — and often will decline.

Florida has one good scorer in sophomore KeVaughn Allen. Senior Canyon Barry (son of Rick) provides scoring punch off the bench but it isn’t a team that scares anyone.

The Gators play Georgia (I’m leaning toward pretender for the Bulldogs) on Saturday and I will be watching closely.

Here is the stellar Georgia-Florida preview — http://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/no-23-florida-goes-for-7th-straight-vs-georgia/

 

The Los Angeles Rams hired a coach who turns 31 years old on Jan. 24.

That’s correct — 31 years old. Not 41. Not 51. Not 61. Heck, not 71.

Sean McVay was hired by the Rams to turn around their fortunes and perhaps he’s too young to know that’s nearly impossible. And since Kroenke the Donkey owns the team, is there anybody anywhere that wants to see the Rams win?

McVay is the youngest coach in NFL history as I’m sure you figured out. He was most recently the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.

The fun part about stories like this is you see a report and you start writing and reporting like a madman. It took just 15 minutes to write this breaking news and that includes doing all the research on McVay’s background and searching for statements from McVay and the Rams.

This story was out on the national wire 20 minutes before the Rams even released the news themselves.

That is part of the fun as you never know what you might have to write on a moment’s notice.

So now I’m well-versed on Sean McVay.

Oh, there is a player on the Rams who is older than McVay. Now that’s funny.

Here is the stellar breaking news story — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=60&story_id=156335

Hey, we’re doing the my weekly links thing again … it is fully a tradition now.

Boise State has a pretty solid quarterback in sophomore Brett Rypien but nobody discusses him nationally.

Oh, they will say a few nice things about him on ESPN2 immediately after he passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns against New Mexico on the channel but then all chatter disappears and he returns to oblivion.

That’s what happens in the power-conference era. If Rypien played for a Pac-12 team — like he could have — he would get all kinds of love for those kinds of accomplishments. But playing in a minor conference like the Mountain West is a killer.

Regardless, Rypien is giving Boise State its best quarterbacking since a guy named Kellen Moore was setting all kinds of records at the school. Trust me, Rypien can play a little.

Here is a link to the stellar Colorado State-Boise State preview — http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/gametracker/preview/NCAAF_20161015_COLOST@BOISE/no-15-boise-state-rypien-look-to-stay-hot

The Houston Cougars always seemed like a team destined to lose. The question was when.

That was answered last Saturday when the Cougars lost to Navy. That defeat removed Houston from any chance of crashing the College Football Playoff.

That saddens people because they always want to have the so-called Little Guy hanging around the playoff mix. But the reality is that conferences like the American Athletic and Conference USA and Mountain West have already been forever relegated to second-tier status.

The Cougars notched an impressive victory over Oklahoma earlier this season that propelled the playoff talk possibility and they were ranked sixth prior to the loss to Navy.

But the playoff dream was going to be snapped at some point. And since coach Tom Herman says the goal wasn’t to go undefeated — the only way Houston could be part of the CFP — then I guess he isn’t all that heartbroken.

Here is a link to the stellar Tulsa-Houston preview — http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/no-13-cougars-seek-bounce-back-effort-101116

Tony Romo is getting closer to being healthy enough to play and that means the Dallas Cowboys may soon have a quarterback dilemma.

Romo is recovering from a broken vertebra in his back and is brittle as he nears the end of his career. Youngster Dak Prescott has seized the opportunity and guided the Cowboys to a 4-1 start while setting a rookie record by starting the season with 155 attempts without an interception.

Naturally, owner Jerry Jones decides to pop off and proclaim that Romo is still the No. 1 quarterback. Sure Jerry, go back to Romo. Perhaps that will help end your team’s nice start and allow the franchise to miss the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

The Cowboys missing the playoffs is always fine with me.

Another interesting thing to watch Sunday is how Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott (NFL-leading 546 rushing yards) performs against the Green Bay Packers’ sturdy rushing defense. The Packers lead the NFL by allowing just 42.8 rushing yards per game and 1.99 yards per carry.

Here is a link to the stellar Cowboys-Packers preview — http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2016/10/12/cowboys-just-fine-with-prescott-at-qb-until-romo-returns0.html

The baseball postseason is kicking into high gear with just four teams remaining.

The interesting thing is all four teams have long droughts since last winning a World Series.

The Toronto Blue Jays (1993) have the shortest span of not winning a World Series (think Joe Carter’s game-winning walkoff homer off Philadelphia’s Mitch Williams). Toronto faces the Cleveland Indians, who last won the World Series in 1948 (you might have heard about that when the Cavaliers won the NBA title in June).

In the National League, the Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908 when Theodore Roosevelt was president. Teddy was the 26th president of this country and we are now about to decide on the 45th prez. The Cubs face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who haven’t won the World Series since 1988 (the series of Kirk Gibson’s famous walk-off blast against Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley).

I will handle the preview assignments for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the National League Championship Series. And Games 1, 2 and 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Here is a link to the stellar Blue Jays-Indians Game 1 preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/event/2016/410439/preview/

Ever think where the San Diego Chargers might be if they didn’t have Philip Rivers on their team?

Um, no, smartass, saying “in Los Angeles” isn’t the proper answer.

They also wouldn’t have been in the game against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers if not for Rivers having a superb contest.

The Chargers suffered a painful 27-20 loss to the Packers on Sunday in what was an absolutely stellar effort by the veteran quarterback.

Rivers had the most prolific game by a quarterback in Chargers history – the type of performance that would even make Hall of Famer Don Fouts blush.

Rivers set clubs records for completions (43), attempts (65) and passing yardage (503). He broke his own club record for passing yardage – 455 against the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 – while becoming only the 17th player in NFL history to top 500 yards in a single game.

Receiver Keenan Allen caught 14 passes – one short of the franchise record he shares with Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow – before leaving with a hip injury.

But all that production didn’t equate to a victory. The Chargers only scored 20 points despite accumulating 32 first downs, possessing the ball for 38 minutes and running 89 plays to Green Bay’s 49.

The Chargers had a chance to force overtime but a third-and-goal run by Woodhead was halted for a 1-yard loss and Rivers’ fourth-down throw into the right flat never reached Woodhead as the pass was broken up by Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall.

Just like that, Rivers’ big game wasn’t enough.

Here’s the number why the Chargers head home disappointed – 20.

All that production and San Diego only scored 20 points.

Rough way to drop to 2-4 and pretty much know that you are out of the AFC West race with the Denver Broncos being undefeated.

The Packers remained unbeaten with the victory and recorded their 13th straight home win. Oh yeah, they are also 10-1 lifetime against the Chargers.

So the history wasn’t good as San Diego’s lone win against the Packers came on Oct. 7, 1984 and you may know it is also one of the most-ignored victories in franchise history.

That’s because the Padres beat the Chicago Cubs to reach the World Series for the first time that same afternoon. Winslow set his franchise record during that contest but the only receptions most San Diegans saw were on the Monday Night Football halftime highlights the following night.

So considering the history, it wasn’t looking too good for the Chargers when they spotted Green Bay a 17-3 lead.

Aaron Rodgers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to James Starks in the first quarter and Starks later added a 65-yard touchdown run. Starks appeared stuffed in the middle of line before reversing to the right and taking advantage of the fact the Chargers backside defenders over pursued and meandered down the field for the score.

But the Chargers regrouped and scored a significant touchdown right before halftime. Allen caught a pass near the goal line with 12 seconds left – a review confirmed he was a foot short – and San Diego nearly let time run out before using one of its two timeouts.

Nearly a pretty major gaffe by coach Mike McCoy, who has made a habit of curious decisions during his head-coaching stint. There was no reason to be scrambling to the line and trying to get set to snap the ball at the last second. He had TWO timeouts.

If the play gets reviewed, the result can only be improved for the Chargers. The replay officials may have ruled Allen got in as opposed to being a foot short. So no need to hurry and get a play off.

Then weirder, McCoy ran in the field-goal kicking team while the play was under review. It is OK if you used your Nancy Kerrigan “WHYYYYYYY?” voice because that was even sillier than the timeout fiasco.

Finally, San Diego got the offense back on the field and cashed in as Rivers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dontrelle Inman. Trailing 17-10 at halftime in Lambeau Field provided hope and that was infinitely much better than trailing 17-3 or 17-6.

Helping matters more is that the Chargers continued to play strong at the outset of the third quarter and tied the contest on Rivers’ 19-yard scoring pass to Ladarius Green.

But Rodgers finally got Green Bay moving again after going more than 20 minutes without a first down. Once the Packers went ahead 24-17 on Rodgers’ 8-yard pass to James Jones with 46 seconds left in the third quarter, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if things fell apart.

It didn’t happen as the Chargers moved back within four points on Jeff Lambo’s 32-yard field goal and were able to make the Packers settle for a 28-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2:37 remaining.

But the final drive didn’t produce the tying points. Rivers drove the Chargers down the field but the offense stalled after reaching the 3-yard line. Two Woodhead runs and two incomplete passes later, San Diego walked off the field with its third road loss of the season.

Just don’t put any blame on Philip Rivers.

Sure, he only guided his club to 20 points but what more could he do?

He did it all on Sunday and it still wasn’t enough for a victory.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl but the head coach most responsible for a team making it to the big game isn’t New England’s Bill Belichick or Seattle’s Pete Carroll.

We’re talking about you, Mike McCarthy. You big boy did a great job of making sure the Seahawks could hang around and rally from 16 points down and eventually beat your Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime.

The Packers dominated the first two-thirds of the game but it is the first one-third – 20 minutes for those not good at division – where McCarthy flubbed. Green Bay was in Seattle’s territory repeatedly during that time and scored just one touchdown and kicked three field goals – including Mason Crosby boots of 18 and 19 yards.

You’ve got to go for it on one of the fourth-down opportunities coach. Maybe better play calling on first, second or third down would’ve helped too. You do recall that Aaron Rodgers – you know “The Discount Doublecheck” – is your quarterback.

By not taking say a 24-0 during that 20 minutes of dominance hurt the Packers. Remember, Seattle didn’t even record its initial first down until past the midway point of the second quarter so McCarthy’s reluctance to be even mildly aggressive was a killer, especially when you factor in a Super Bowl berth was on the line.

The NFC Championship Game is not the time to coach scared. And those who coach scared often lose.

Seattle’s first touchdown came on special teams when holder Jon Ryan tossed a 19-yard scoring pass to Garry Gilliam with 4:41 left in the third quarter. And when Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception of the game late in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Green Bay might survive squandering so many points.

But the football Gods apparently got wind of what was going on and weren’t about to allow the Packers to move on to Glendale, Ariz. Wilson suddenly began moving the Seahawks and he scored on a 1-yard run to cap a seven-play, 69-yard drive to pull Seattle within 19-14 with 2:09 left.

Green Bay could still escape by recovering the onside kick but we all know a good collapse needs to have an onside recovery involved. And this one was a real doozy.

A guy that America knew only as “No. 86 on Green Bay” went up to recover the onside kick and it caromed off his hands and was recovered by Seattle’s Chris Matthews. The infamous person we now know as Brandon Bostick told reporters after the contest that it wasn’t his job to go for the ball.

You see, he is supposed to block and right behind him was receiver Jordy Nelson, who has the best hands on the Packers. But Bostick made that split-second decision to try to catch the ball and the door remained open for the Seahawks.

Four plays later, Seattle went ahead on Marshawn Lynch’s 24-yard touchdown run with 1:25 remaining and Wilson tossed a miraculous two-point conversion pass to Luke Willson to make it 22-19.

Though the Packers recovered enough to force overtime on Crosby’s fifth field goal of the game – too bad Green Bay’s head coach didn’t perform as well as its kicker – you knew what was going to happen in overtime.

A team that should have been put away much, much earlier in the football game had all the momentum and Green Bay was shell-shocked. A 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter had gotten away and teams don’t typically recover from such a collapse.

So it was no surprise when Wilson threaded a perfect 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse just 3:19 into overtime. The contest was going to end with Seattle celebrating at some point so the earlier the better.

Kearse and Lynch (157 rushing yards) might have left the stadium as heroes but we all know who had the biggest influence on how this game was decided.

Yep, we’re looking at you, Mike McCarthy. Bad time for a coach to have a bad performance at the office.

Aaron Rodgers needed just three words totaling 10 letters to express his feelings, which matched the discord felt around the nation Monday night when officiating decided the winner of the game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

“It was awful,” Rodgers stated.

Awful. Atrocious. Debacle. Travesty.

Use whatever term you want but the NFL reached an all-time low – at least in my lifetime – with what occurred at the end of Seattle’s 14-12 victory in the nationally televised contest.

It was beyond embarrassing that the replacement officials (you can blame the fact they are even being used on arrogant NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and control-freak owners) determined that Seattle receiver Golden Tate – who blatantly pushed off, by the way – caught a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the contest when it was clear the ball was intercepted by Packers safety M.D. Jennings.

One official called it a touchdown, another appeared to signal a touchback and interception. Even more maddening was the play was reviewed upstairs and upheld by officials supervisor Phil Luckett (yep, the guy infamous for messing up the overtime coin flip of a Thanksgiving Day game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions in 1998).

The NFL is involved in a dispute with the officials and has been carrying on as if the integrity of the game isn’t at stake. It now stands curb-high after three weeks full of problematic officiating.

I attended the game in which Jerry Markbreit allowed the “Holy Roller” play to stand – Ken Stabler fumbling the ball forward to avoid a game-ending sack, Pete Banaszak pushing it further upfield and Dave Casper falling on it for a touchdown to give the Oakland Raiders a victory over the San Diego Chargers in 1978.

I covered the game in Denver in 2008 when Ed Hochuli botched the call kept the Chargers from ending the game with a fumble recovery. Hochuli originally ruled the play an incomplete pass and the call was correctly reversed to a fumble but Hochuli said an inadvertent whistle prevented the ball from being awarded to San Diego. Denver then went on to scored the winning points.

But what we saw Monday night might be the topper because the whole thing could have been avoided if the NFL had solved its impasse with the officials prior to the season. You know, like they did with the players last season when heavy financial losses were staring them in the face if that lockout wasn’t solved.

The NFL feels it can do whatever it pleases and that the fans will always put up with it – that’s why you pay obscene prices to watch a game, park your car and drink beverages. But in the social-media age, it is clear fans aren’t interested in putting up with such a travesty.

These replacements officials are Division III and high school officials for a reason. That’s because they are ill-equipped to handle officiating football at its highest level.

All I know is the officials now have overwhelming leverage in their dispute with the NFL. The league needs to solve this immediately and if I were the leader of the officials, I would make them sweat this out.

You see, there’s another nationally televised game on Thursday and after Monday’s debacle, there is only one storyline worth tracking and it certainly doesn’t involve the Cleveland Browns. And there also was complete chaos in the nationally televised Sunday night game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens so Monday’s refereeing ineptitude occurred after frustration from players, coaches and fans had already reached a boiling point.

ESPN did a great job covering the Monday night travesty. Former NFL coach Jon Gruden spoke about the bad taste left in his mouth by the ending and former NFL quarterbacks Steve Young and Trent Dilfer blistered the league.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has this to say during his postgame press conference: “I haven’t seen anything like that in all my years in football.”

Neither have I. Neither has anyone else.

And hopefully we don’t see it again next weekend.

There are few things more meaningless than a preseason opener in the NFL.

But there are things that occur in those games that mean something – and typically they are bad developments.

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has developed a soft reputation over his first two NFL seasons and breaking his collarbone on his first carry of the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers isn’t going to help matters.

The initial forecast calls for Mathews to miss four to six weeks but his established level of toughness doesn’t make being healthy for the regular-season opener against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 10 seem reasonable.

This is the season in which Mathews is supposed to break out and provide the Chargers with their best rushing attack since future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson began declining. There has been chatter – a bunch of it by San Diego coach Norv Turner – about getting Mathews 300-plus touches and seeing him finally become a workhorse.

The club’s optimism stemmed from Mathews’ late-season surge in 2011. He put together three consecutive 100-yard games late in the season to finish with 1,091 yards.

The Chargers let Mike Tolbert leave via free agency and were hoping injury prone veteran Ronnie Brown could spell Mathews. Now the 30-year-old Brown is the top healthy back on a roster that includes names like Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle and Michael Hayes as tailback options.

You can count on Chargers general manager A.J. Smith bringing in a veteran back in upcoming days to shore up the situation.

As for Mathews, he will have surgery Friday and missing two or three games to start the season doesn’t mean he can’t recover and have a solid season. The problem is the trend of ailments that the 25-year-old Mathews continues to suffer raises questions about his reliability and durability.

You can’t become a bona fide workhorse back while standing on the sidelines in street clothes.

The Chargers defeated the Packers 21-13 in the game that doesn’t matter but did become part of NFL trivia history due to Shannon Eastin serving as line judge. Eastin is the first female to officiate an NFL game.

Some of the San Diego Chargers were a bit testy when people were wondering what was wrong with the team’s performance when they possessed a 4-1 record.

Just imagine how touchy they are now with the Chargers sitting at 4-4.

The Chargers lost their third straight game Sunday when they fell 45-38 to the undefeated Green Bay Packers.

That they lost to the Packers isn’t overly surprising. After all, Green Bay is the defending NFL champions.

But this was a chance for the Chargers to make a statement and the overwhelming impression at the season’s midway point is that all the naysayers were correct when they said San Diego’s 4-1 start was due to a soft early-season schedule.

The slate toughened up with back-to-back road games against the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs before the home tussle with the Packers, and San Diego hasn’t been up to the challenge while slipping back to the .500 mark.

Philip Rivers was intercepted three more times Sunday – he has thrown an NFL-high 14 picks, one more than he tossed all last season – to follow up his inability to run a two-minute drill against the Jets and his costly center-snap exchange fumble that was the key play in losing to the Chiefs.

His shaky play continued against the Packers as Green Bay’s Charlie Peprah and Tramon Williams both returned interceptions for touchdowns. Last time I looked, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers don’t need that type of charity.

Rodgers did his part as well with nearly as many touchdown passes (four) as incompletions (five – he was 21-of-26 passing) and the Packers held off San Diego’s fourth-quarter comeback charge with Peprah’s second interception of the game.

Rivers also threw four touchdown passes – three to Vincent Jackson – but the contest also goes into the books as the first three-interception game of his career.

Yet it is too easy to say the Chargers lost due to the difference of play by the two quarterbacks, and that Green Bay’s turnover-free performance was too much to overcome.

The Packers look, play and act like winners. Simply put, the Chargers sometimes play like winners, occasionally look the part but seldom act like a team truly headed to great things.

They are good at false bravado but not all that proficient at backing up their claims.

The squad has unfortunately taken on the persona of head coach Norv Turner, a guy always looking for excuses as opposed to a leader who accepts responsibility.

On days after losses, you always loaded up on LaDainian Tomlinson press conference quotes because you knew the locker room would be void of players when it was opened to the media due to the NFL’s access policies.

In other words, there’s a lack of high-character, stand-up players in the organization and that too often shows up on game days.

The Chargers are still tied for first place in the AFC West because of the division’s weakness. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders also lost Sunday to keep it a three-way tie. The Denver Broncos – who are playing Tim Tebow at quarterback – are somehow just one game off the pace.

On Thursday night, the Chargers can reclaim the lead if they defeat the Raiders. You might recall that Oakland physically beat San Diego twice last season when the franchise had quarterback issues.

The Chargers missed the playoffs last season and missing them again might be the best thing to happen to the franchise.

Turner is hugely unpopular in San Diego – can you imagine him going Christmas shopping at one of San Diego’s packed malls? – and general manager A.J. Smith might have to finally send Turner packing if the franchise misses the postseason for a second straight year.

Either that or they both will flee to Los Angeles for one more try if the franchise opts to relocate to Smogville after the campaign.

Something else to consider is this: Smith and the Chargers front office haven’t yet accepted the team is in decline mode.

In some ways, this is kind of like the 1984 and 1985 San Diego Chargers at the end of the exciting Don Coryell era. Nobody was willing to accept that the organization had missed its Super Bowl window and the Chargers were slow to adjust and were spinning in the wrong direction.

The Chargers were 1-7 at the midway point of the 1986 season and Coryell was fired and they didn’t recover until Bobby Ross was the head coach six years later.

Analyze the current Chargers and you see the same sharp decline in overall talent. Go back and view the talent-laden rosters of 2006 and 2007 and compare it to the current crop of players. It is one ugly comparison.

In many ways, it seems ages ago that the Chargers lost to the New England players in the AFC Championship Game following the 2007 campaign.

The Chargers are no longer a powerhouse squad mentioned among the NFL’s elite teams. The continual dip in performance displays that all too well.

And on this Sunday night, the evidence says the lackluster reviews over the 4-1 start were spot on.

The San Diego Chargers appeared to have overcome a night of missed offensive opportunities, costly turnovers and a month’s worth of penalties as the clocked ticked under a minute left in Monday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Then we learned that Philip Rivers had elected to show up at Arrowhead Stadium as Ryan Leaf for Halloween.

The easiest play in the NFL – the center snap – proved to be the downfall as Rivers fumbled the exchange from Nick Hardwick at the Chiefs’ 15-yard line. Kansas City’s Andy Studebaker recovered the ball with 48 seconds left to earn the Chiefs a reprieve and send the contest into overtime.

The Chargers went three-and-out in the extra session and the Chiefs then punished San Diego with a game-winning 13-play drive, the winning points coming on Ryan Succop’s 30-yard field goal for a 23-20 victory.

That makes two straight horrific defeats for the Chargers, who are now tied for first in the AFC West at 4-3 with Kansas City and the Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs are going in the other direction with four consecutive victories.

Rivers and the Chargers looked like they had never run a two-minute drill before in last week’s loss to the New York Jets. And now Rivers makes a grade-school mistake that had former NFL quarterbacks Steve Young and Trent Dilfer delivering harsh assessments on ESPN’s postgame show.

Young termed failing to receive the snap as “junior high” and Dilfer called it “remedial” that Rivers gagged so badly in such a situation. Both players were stunned that any NFL quarterback could make such a gaffe, let alone someone who has a contract worth $98 million.

The play definitely was Pisarcik-like and something that Rivers will file in the “Worst Memories” department of his brain.

“Pisarcik” is one term a football team never wants to be associated with. It stems from the New York Giants having a victory in the bag in 1978 until quarterback Joe Pisarcik failed to get a handoff into the grasp of Larry Csonka with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards picking up the ball and returning it for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 19-17 victory.

That play is the reason why teams take a knee when the outcome is sealed instead of running a play.

The center-exchange issue summed up another mistake-prone night for Rivers, who also threw two more interceptions. He has tossed an NFL-high 11 interceptions and has also lost three fumbles.

Instead of a Pro Bowl quarterback, Rivers has played more like Billy Joe Tolliver or the aforementioned Leaf, who once went 1-for-15 for four yards passing with two interceptions and three fumbles in a 1998 game against the Chiefs.

There’s no doubting Rivers will have a hard time putting his NFL-high 14th turnover behind him over the next few days.

“Obviously, we could have played better,” Rivers said afterwards. “But when you know you’re a minute away from leaking the clock and kicking a field goal to end it – after the way we fought back – and you blow it on a play on something that never happens and shouldn’t ever happen.”

Chargers’ fans will quickly pile on coach Norv Turner, citing how the offense settled for four field goals and scored just one touchdown despite advancing inside the Chiefs’ 35-yard line an astounding nine times.

They will also look at the 12 penalties and say the Chargers are undisciplined and make silly mistakes. Left tackle Marcus McNeill had a forgettable contest and drew six flags all by himself (four false starts, a holding penalty and illegal hands to the face) as Kansas City’s Tamba Hali terrorized him all game long.

But this loss doesn’t fall on Turner’s shoulders or any of the assistant coaches. If Rivers doesn’t fumble away the game-winning opportunity for kicker Nick Novak and the Chargers win the game, nobody is complaining about Turner’s coaching performance.

This loss falls on the $98 million quarterback – the guy who struggled to run a two-minute drill against the Jets and couldn’t handle a center exchange against the Chiefs.

And guess who the Chargers play this Sunday? The undefeated Green Bay Packers – the defending Super Bowl champions – and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Playing the Packers with a short week of preparation and a quarterback with a bunch of demons to deal with doesn’t sound like the optimum situation.

Next Halloween, Rivers needs to pick somebody else to impersonate. Being Ryan Leaf for Halloween didn’t work out so well.

Dave Winfield turned 60 today? Say it isn’t so.

This is one of those famous athlete birthdays that can make one feel a bit old.

This 60th birthday thing makes those days that Winfield played on some very awful San Diego Padres teams in the 1970s feel like something that happened in the 18th century.

Doesn’t seem possible that the guy frequently driving the Cadillac sporting “MR DMW” license plates on San Diego Mission Road could be that old. Don’t know how it feels to him, but it is pretty sobering to me that Winfield has hit 60.

I can recall being a kid hanging over the first base dugout during batting practice still seeking to get my first bat from a major-league player. It was a sunny summer day prior to one of those midweek day contests in which the Padres would play in front of a nearly-empty stadium.

Winfield picked me to hand the bat to … it didn’t matter that the bat actually belonged to Jerry Turner or that I would eventually get several others over the next half-dozen years or so – it was my first bat.

Getting that first bat from Winfield brought status to a kid. He was developing into a superstar and it was much better than saying you received a bat from Billy Almon, Hector Torres or Fred Kendall.

Those were the good old days in which baseball players weren’t that far from removed the rest of society. Winfield lived in a modest townhouse right down the road from the stadium and you would frequently run into baseball and football players at stores and other places in the neighborhood.

One time we encountered George Hendrick at a car wash on the main drag. He had a reputation through the media of being a jerk but he couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Hendrick liked the bicycle I owned and asked if he could ride it. We stood there laughing watching a major-league baseball player pedaling away on my cool little bike.

Another time Hendrick saw us walking down the street and offered us a ride home. There were way too many of us crammed into his light green Porsche.

(Wow – this is weird timing … a foul ball was just hit down the first-base line in the postseason game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers … Hendrick is Tampa Bay’s first-base coach and he fielded the bouncing ball and walked it over to hand it to a fan.)

So a day like today makes me remember the way things used to be and how different things are for the youngsters growing up in the early 21st century.

Star athletes live in gated communities and few of them live in your common every-day neighborhood like the one in which I grew up. Most of them have other people running their errands and many of them have bodyguards to keep the common folk from interrupting them or becoming a bother.

Of course, the ticket-price thing is a problem, too. I went to all 81 Padres’ home games one season. Can’t imagine a teenager being able to do that in today’s era of inflated ticket prices.

Winfield’s birthday makes it two consecutive months in which there was something that made my bones ache.

The responsible person for September’s feelings of old age was Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb.

Last April, I trumpeted Cobb as a player the San Diego Chargers needed to draft since it was apparent they weren’t going to re-sign returner Darren Sproles.

The organization didn’t heed the advice and the Super Bowl champion Packers got a steal by getting Cobb late in the second round.

Solid receiver and great returner who put up mindboggling statistics against SEC teams while playing for Kentucky. A guy with a big heart and an even better work ethic.

What is there not to like?

Oh, I discovered something all right on the opening night of the NFL season on Sept. 8. Cobb became a household name due to a 108-yard kickoff return and a receiving touchdown in his professional debut as the Packers defeated the New Orleans Saints but there also was something highly disturbing that was revealed.

Not disturbing for Cobb … disturbing for me.

Cobb became the first player born in the 1990s to play in an NFL game.

Yeah, that is something that definitely makes one feel ancient.

Damn you, Randall Cobb.

Hmmm … Chubby Checker turned 70 today. He’s just a name to me so that doesn’t bother me.

But Dave Winfield turning 60 does.

Is it time to purchase a rocking chair?