After losing a pair of games in the second half to New Orleans and Denver earlier this month, one may have thought that the perfect answer for the San Diego Chargers to overcoming the bye week blues was a date with the lowly Cleveland Browns. Think again.
Cleveland (2-6) grabbed an early 7-0 lead, then hung on for a 7-6 victory Sunday afternoon in a wet and murky Northern Ohio, with some 65,000 along for the ride.
The loss further damaged San Diego’s hopes of turning around what once looked as a promising season after a 3-1 September start. As a result, the Chargers fall to 3-4, with only a few days to prepare for a home Thursday night contest against the rival Kansas City Chiefs (1-6).
Were it not for a pair of Nick Novak field goals (43, 31 yards), the Chargers would have left Cleveland with a goose egg on the board quite frankly.
Whether it was Philip Rivers‘ inability to make a big pass, receivers (especially Robert Meachem) dropping targeted passes, or Ryan Mathews once again having a case of the fumbles, San Diego’s offense was mediocre, and that is putting it nicely.
Given the Chargers were able to score and move the ball in the first two halves against New Orleans and Denver in their two recent losses, one would have thought even the ugly weather would have not been enough to stop the Bolts. Truth is, the weather was not as much of a factor as a team just simply lacking confidence at this point.
In what was the most glaring error on offense, Rivers (18-of-34, 154 yards) hit Meachem over center in the third quarter for what should have been a sure touchdown, but the former Saints receiver dropped it like a hot potato.
The dropped pass would eventually lead to the Chargers having to punt the ball away. After seeing the drop from Meachem, some Charger fans may have wished the receivers actually were using Stickum on their hands. “I took my eyes off of it,” Meachem told The Associated Press. “I thought about scoring first before I caught the ball.”
When Rivers wasn’t trying to hit one of his targets, Mathews was trying to chew up yardage on the ground, finishing with 95 yards on 24 carries. Once again, however, Mathews coughed up the ball earlier in the game, leading coaches, teammates and fans to wonder if this guy truly can get it done.
Another negative factor for the Bolts on the day was the inability to get tight end Antonio Gates going, as the Kent State product had a mere two catches for 14 yards.
San Diego’s defense for the most part kept the team in the game, with inside linebacker Donald Butler leading the way with 11 tackles.
While Cleveland rookie running back Trent Richardson did go for the game’s lone touchdown, finishing with 122 yards rushing on 24 carries.
Even though San Diego will await the outcome of Denver’s Sunday night game with New Orleans to see where it stands in the AFC West, yet another golden opportunity to gain a leg up in the AFC West race was left on the field, albeit a wet and murky one.