FB Mike Tolbert (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)
The San Diego Chargers turned the ball over five times, yielded four sacks and gave up two kickoff return touchdowns while dropping a 27-20 decision to the Seattle Seahawks. The loss knocks the Chargers below .500 and two games back of the Chiefs.
The Chargers are habitually slow starters under Norv Turner. That trend will continue in 2010, as San Diego has now lost more road games than it did all of last season.
The formula was a familiar one. San Diego fumbled away three possessions in the first half, with Legedu Naanee, Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles putting the ball on the ground. That -- followed by the first of Leon Washington's kickoff return TDs -- put the Chargers behind 17-0 early in the third quarter.
San Diego fought back in the second half. Philip Rivers -- who set a team single-game record with 455 passing yards -- hit Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates for touchdowns and found Naanee for the tying two-point conversion with just over six minutes remaining.
Then came Washington's second kickoff return TD, which put San Diego into a position very similar to the one it faced at the end of its Week 1 loss in Kansas City. Just like the Chiefs game, this one essentially ended with Rivers throwing incomplete into the end zone on fourth down.
Rivers was certainly not to blame for the defeat, although he did throw two more interceptions after tossing two last week against Jacksonville. That puts him on pace to throw 21 picks this season after tossing just nine in 2009.
San Diego's defense played well, giving up just 271 total net yards (the Bolts' offense, by comparison, posted 518). The defensive highlights included Quentin Jammer's first interception of the season and a trio of sacks, including one by Brandon Siler that resulted in a safety.
It was a valiant effort, but not enough to overcome offensive sloppiness and special-teams ineptitude.
--Shawne Merriman left the game in the first half with a calf injury, a development that may have actually mattered three years ago when Merriman was a good player.
--So far this season, Chargers running backs have lost three fumbles (not including Sproles' fumble on special teams) and have already missed a game due to injury (with Ryan Mathews sitting out in Seattle with an sprained ankle). If only there was a running back who almost never fumbled and was extremely durable. Hmmm….
--A.J. Smith must have been feeling good this week when Marcus McNeill caved and signed his tender. That is, until he saw the Chargers lose a second game while Rivers looked desperately for a receiver to gain separation with the game on the line. If only San Diego had a tall, Pro Bowl receiver who could dominate single coverage and make plays in the red zone. Double hmmm…
--Antonio Gates caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. He has now caught a touchdown pass in seven straight games, tying a franchise record.
--Buster Davis caught three passes for a career-high 82 yards. His 49-yard catch in the third quarter was also a personal best and set up San Diego's initial score.
--Sproles got the start in place of Mathews. He ran for 16 yards on the first play from scrimmage and never got another carry.
--Patrick Crayton replaced Sproles as the punt returner and averaged 11 yards on two returns.
--Paul Oliver knocked the ball out of Deion Branch's hand just as the receiver was about the cross the goal line late in the first half. The fumble rolled out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback. If not for that heads-up play by Oliver -- and Seattle running out of time before a field goal attempt prior to intermission -- the game could have been a blowout.
What did Chargers fans say about Sunday's game? Find out in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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