RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Matt Stockman/Getty)
The defense allowed more than 400 yards for the second consecutive week and Philip Rivers marred an otherwise stellar outing by halting the Chargers’ final two drives with errant throws, allowing the Green Bay Packers to hold on for a 31-24 upset. The Bolts fall to 1-2 and have as many losses in three games as they did all of last season.
Philip Rivers started the game with a career best streak, connecting on his first 15 passes. He delivered on his promise to get his wide receivers more involved, as he hit Vincent Jackson for six catches, 98 yards and a score; Craig Davis caught four balls for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Rivers unraveled late by blowing two chances to win the game. With 2:30 left in the game, Rivers overthrew Jackson on a third-and-3, giving the ball back to the Packers. Brett Favre hit Greg Jennings on a 57-yard strikes three plays later to put the Packers in front for good.
Rivers made his worst throw of the day in the subsequent two-minute drill, throwing an interception to the chest of Nick Barnett on a pass meant for LaDainian Tomlinson.
The reining MVP got untracked to an extent, gaining 62 yards rushing and 33 yards receiving, including a 21-yard score on a misdirection play that put the Chargers in front, 21-17. The touchdown was Tomlinson’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
Tomlinson and Rivers were bickering on the sideline as L.T. felt he was being underutilized in the passing game. Tomlinson caught 11 balls the last time he faced the Packers yet was limited to three receptions in Sunday’s defeat.
One player who was not underutilized is Antonio Gates. The three-time All Pro caught 11 passes for 113 yards. Six of Gates’ receptions were good for first downs.
Despite some untimely offensive miscues, the defense shoulders most of the blame for this second consecutive defeat. For the second week in a row, the defense allowed more than 400 yards and 30 points. If Ted Cottrell cannot right this ship in a hurry, the Chargers have no chance of defending their division crown.
The primary culprit is the pass defense, which allowed Brett Favre to throw for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie both had strong games, combining to knock down a half-dozen passes. However, their good work was undone by atrocious safety play. No safety in the league played worse than Marlon McCree on Sunday and Clinton Hart wasn’t much better.
McCree negated a third-down stop in the first quarter with a boneheaded late hit on Donald Driver. He also missed at least three clean tackle opportunities, which allowed the Packers to pile up the yards after the catch. Hart continues to take poor angles to the ball and bite on both pump and head fakes.
For whatever reason, A.J. Smith cannot seem to land a competent safety. Since taking over as general manager in 2003, Smith has drafted Terrence Kiel and Hanik Milligan and signed free agents Kwame Lassiter and Bhawoh Jue. All four have since been released, although it is hard to imagine that quartet would have done worse than Sunday’s group.
The secondary didn’t get much help from a pass rush that netted just two sacks - 1½ by Shaun Phillips. The Chargers focused on dropping extra bodies into coverage rather than blitzing. Brett Favre avoided the scant rushes he saw by hitting his hot reads and letting his receivers expose San Diego’s poor-tackling secondary.
The defensive line was hampered by the absence of Luis Castillo, who missed most of the game with a sprained foot. The best play from this unit came when Brandon McKinney sniffed out a red-zone shovel pass to Brandon Jackson and took down the rookie running back to save a touchdown.
The special teams were anything but, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify Darren Sproles’ spot on the roster. Sproles averaged 25 yards on three kickoff returns and the tandem of Michael Turner and Craig Davis seems fully capable of at least matching that productivity.
Nate Kaeding made his only field goal attempt, a 44-yard kick. Mike Scifres struggled with an average under 38 yards. The only long kick by Scifres was his onsides kick attempt, which sailed over the front line and safely into the arms of Donald Driver.
Lightning Quicks: Matt Wilhelm was inactive with a calf injury…Shane Olivea (back) was active but did not play, while 12-year veteran Roman Oben was inactive for the third consecutive week…Anthony Waters was inactive again and is still awaiting his first real action as a pro…the Chargers had eight penalties for 70 yards…the Packers went 0-2 on fourth-down conversions but converted 45% of their third-down opportunities, as did the Chargers.
Click here to view Michael Lombardo's series-by-series analysis, which was posted in-game exclusively in the Insider Message Boards.