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Bolts take honest look at loss
SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers refused to budge, returning to his central focus whenever possible.
“I think the biggest thing is, we’re 4-2,” Rivers repeated Monday. “We’ve been in a lot worse positions. We’re in a position right now at 4-2 where everything we set out to do at the beginning of the year is there for us.
“You can look at that two ways. Obviously we’re not playing as good as we can and we’ve won four games. Or, we’d better get it together or we’re not going to get done what we want to get done.”
Tightening the kaleidoscope, the Chargers face Kansas City in one week with a chance to equal last year’s win total within the division (three) at the halfway point. The preparation began today with a thorough revisiting of the disappointing second half that pinned San Diego with a loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Bolts constructed an 11-point lead with a defensive score and touchdowns on two of their first three possessions. When Ryan Mathews rushed for eight yards and a first down to open the second half, the Chargers appeared to still be moving the ball steadily.
San Diego’s lead then slipped to four points, but a 6-yard Mike Tolbert run set up a third-and-5 from the Jets’ 25.
Then Rivers spotted Jackson at the 22-yard line, two yards in front of the first down but also two yards in front of the nearest Jets defender. The ball’s trajectory placed it near Jackson’s back shoulder. As coverage closed, the football glanced off Jackson and flew several yards into Darrelle Revis’ hands.
An incomplete pass or a catch-and-tackle likely would have set up a Nick Novak field goal attempt and a chance at a seven-point lead. Instead, a Revis return put the Jets in the red zone and set up Plaxico Burress for a third touchdown.
“If we kick a field goal there, we might be talking about how we found a way to win (again),” Head Coach Norv Turner said.
There were a few other things that did not work in San Diego’s favor during the second half:
• On third-and-3 from the San Diego 40 with almost four minutes left, Mark Sanchez’ pass to Santonio Holmes in tight coverage fell flat. But Quentin Jammer was flagged for pass interference, the 13th Chargers’ penalty of the game. The Jets ran 2:12 more off the clock, burned through San Diego’s two remaining timeouts and tacked on a field goal to gain a six-point advantage.
“I think (pass interference) is the hardest call in the game for the officials,” Turner said. “I thought on both sides, both ways, there was a lot of hand-fighting and a lot of physical play. When you’re playing that way, it’s the luck of the draw (in terms of) how the official sees it, and we came out on the short end in terms of the number of calls.”
• San Diego scorched New York in the first half, winning a matchup of the NFL’s best third-down offense versus the NFL’s best third-down defense by converting 6-of-7, including two touchdowns.
The Jets held the Chargers to 1-of-7 the rest of the game with two interceptions.
“We knew we were going to be very challenged on third down. In the first half, we met that challenge. In the second half, they handled us on third down. That probably was as big of a factor in the game as there was, along with the first interception (on the pass intended for Jackson).”
• Burress caught just four passes, but three of them were scores.
“Plaxico is a very physical player and if you let him off the line clean he’s going to give you problems. We didn’t do a good enough job jamming him,” Turner said.
• Down six, Rivers had a chance at his 13th fourth-quarter comeback. San Diego got the ball with 1:36 left and no timeouts. Not ideal, especially against one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, but the Chargers have come through enough times late in games to feel confident in their chances.
Rivers found Antonio Gates working across the middle for 18 yards on the first play, reaching the 42-yard line with a little more than one minute remaining.
With the Jets playing deep coverage, San Diego attempted to hit a pair of crossing routes, first to Patrick Crayton and then to Ryan Mathews, but New York made two good tackles to keep the runners from going out of bounds. Time streamed off the clock, necessitating a rapid pre-snap setup prior to a fourth-and-3 incompletion.
“They were in a coverage where they’re not giving you the sideline,” Turner said. “We’ve had great success running crossing routes and getting the ball out of bounds, (but) we’d like to execute better than that.
“There was some confusion and we have to eliminate that. We had a couple different guys in there and we took a little bit longer to get lined up than we normally would.”