San Diego Chargers: Monday Night's Tilt Against Denver Means Everything

Ross Warner@@Lucab12Contributor IIIOctober 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 07:  Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers dives over Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints to score a touchdown and lead 24-14 lead during the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Thus far, the Chargers season has looked a lot like last year’s. There have been signs that this team could be different, but they were buried during Sunday night’s loss in New Orleans.

What we’re really all hoping for is a team that eventually proves to be different from all other Bolt squads before it. But for now, distinguishing itself from last year’s edition would be sufficient. The loss to the Saints was very reminiscent of the last season’s pivotal loss in New Jersey.

In both cases, the opponent probably won’t even make the postseason. But, they represented a big challenge to the Chargers. That challenge was hardly met. Plaxico Burress and Marques Colston both beat San Diego’s cornerbacks like rented mules. 

Both games saw the Bolts start strong and finish meekly. There were questionable calls but many opportunities to play through them. Twice, we saw Dean Spanos and A.J. Smith in the visiting owner’s box looking for affirmation for the roster they’ve assembled.

Sadly, both saw Philip Rivers throw a crucial interception while trying to find a receiver across the center of the field. As worried as I was about Rivers going into the game, he avoided forcing the ball into coverage all night long. On the interception, Malcom Floyd was clearly interfered with. Nonetheless, he wasn’t able to lead the Chargers on a pivotal drive once again.

Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, a one-time Chargers beat writer for the Union-Tribune, was in New Orleans to write a feature on Rivers.

Had he been able to lead the Bolts to a win, the piece might have had a different slant. But, as is the case with everything about Philip and this team, it is what it is. Until they prove otherwise, this is a team that can’t finish.

CBS Sports' Dan McLellan was one of many who pointed this out in the wake of the loss.  

Before the Chargers’ final drive, NBC’s graphic department reminded the national audience how futile comebacks under Norv Turner have been. What’s even more distressing is that the Bolts might not have needed a comeback if Norv had used the running game a little more.

During his weekly press conference,Turner told reporters that he would have tried to kill the clock by running the ball if the Chargers had a big lead as they did in Kansas City.  This is what frustrates so many Boltheads.  Not only can Norv not make adjustments, but he seems to lack common sense.

I have no problem with the way Mathews has been handled this season. He wasn’t being disciplined for one fumble against Atlanta. It was a culmination of the last three seasons. But, it was clear that Mathews was getting hot on Sunday. Why make the effort to rehabilitate his psyche if you aren’t going to use him in that spot?

It wouldn’t have been necessary for Nick Novak to try a 55-yarder in the first half if Turner had given Mathews a shot on 3rd-and-2. In last season’s home game against Denver, Mathews also seemed to be ready to break out. But, Turner chose to stick with Mike Tolbert.

Last season’s loss to the Jets was followed by a chance for a bounce back at Kansas City. We all know what happened on Halloween. It led to four more losses in a row. But recognizing negative trends is meaningless if you can’t stop them.  Philip Rivers pointed out as much to Kevin Acee this week.  But recognizing negative trends is meaningless if you can’t stop them.

If the Chargers are going to do anything this season, it has to begin on Monday night. 

Yes, they dropped their Week 6 game on a Monday to Denver in 2009. Yes, we all counted them out, and they won 11 in a row.  But looking back, was that team really that good?

They weren’t strong enough in the trenches, and it showed once they hit January. So, I’m calling it. It’s time for this team to Bolt Up. Otherwise, expect another slide into mediocrity.