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Chargers Lose Big to Panthers, 31-7
The Carolina Panthers put up 21 quick points on the Chargers, and San Diego wasn’t able to recover as they lost 31-7.
Carolina received first and marched 80 yards on 13 plays, punctuated by a one-yard Mike Tolbert touchdown dive for an early 7-0 lead. Disaster struck on the Chargers first drive as the ball slipped out of Philip Rivers’ hand as he cocked to throw and the Panthers recovered at the San Diego 21 yard line. Tolbert capitalized four plays later for his second touchdown of the game for a 14-0 lead. After a three-and-out, the Chargers punted back to the Panthers. Cam Newton attempted a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams that Jarret Johnson deflected in the air. However, Williams managed to still catch the ball and ran 45-yards for the touchdown to put the visitors up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Neither team’s offense was able to muster much in the second quarter until the final minutes, when Newton moved his team down the field for a field goal in the waning seconds. Heading into halftime, the Panthers led 24-0.
The Chargers went three-and-out to start the second half and Carolina responded with their fourth touchdown as Newton found Steve Smith in the end zone for the 31-0 lead. After three combined three-and-outs, Antoine Cason forced a Willliams’ fumble that Larry English recovered at Carolina’s 38-yard line.
Five plays later and less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Chargers got on the board as Antonio Gates caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Rivers. The score was the 81st of Gates’ career, tying him with Lance Alworth for most all-time in franchise history. After forcing a Panthers punt, the Chargers offense drove down to the 18-yard line. However, Rivers was sacked and fumbled, turning the ball over to Carolina. The Panthers managed to convert a number of first downs on the ground and before punting back to the Bolts, who ran the clock out.
The Panthers were already up 14-0 when they got the ball around midfield. Cam Newton dropped back to throw a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams, but it looked as though the Chargers snuffed it out when Jarret Johnson batted the ball in the air. Unfortunately, Williams was able to run under and snag it before zig-zagging down the field for a 45-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
It Was Over When…
Any hope the Chargers had of a miraculous comeback was erased on the Panthers first drive of the second half, when Cam Newton rolled out to his right and found a diving Steve Smith for a four-yard touchdown. The score extended Carolina’s lead to 31-0.
Play of the Game
Philip Rivers dropped back and looped a pass to the left corner of the end zone. Antonio Gates ran under it and got both feet in bounds for the touchdown, the 81st of his career, tying him with Lance Alworth for most in franchise history.
Stat of the Game
The loss was the Chargers’ fourth against the NFC South as they finished the season 0-4 against the division.
“When you don’t go play the way you like to, and you don’t have the kind of success you’re used to having, it makes it more challenging. It’s never easy to lose, but (it felt) that there wasn’t a lot you could do to change the circumstance." – Head Coach Norv Turner
“We just stayed flat for way too long. By the time we found any life, it was too late. They got us on our heels early.” – Linebacker Jarret Johnson
“It’s definitely tough as a player. This is one of the hardest working teams I’ve ever been on. Guys get in early. Guys leave late. They spend more time on the field than they do with their families. To see that type of dedication, and to see the result today, it doesn’t match up.”- Safety Corey Lynch
“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy. They came out with energy. And they drove the ball down and got up ahead, and it was kind of hard for us to bounce back. So it was very tough.” – Defensive End Corey Liuget.
Odds and Ends
The Panthers outgained the Chargers 155 to 70 on the ground. Carolina had 39 rushing attempts while the Bolts had 16.
Takeo Spikes and Eric Weddle led the defense with 10 tackles each.
Andrew Gachkar notched the first sack of his career.
The loss officially eliminated the Chargers from the playoffs and clinched the team’s first losing record since 2003.
Changes to the starting lineup included Kevin Haslam at left tackle for Mike Harris, Rex Hadnot at left guard for Tyronne Green, Reggie Wells at right tackle for Jeromey Clary, Aubrayo Franklin at defensive tackle for Cam Thomas and Gary Guyton for Donald Butler.