Different Tune, Same Song

(Nick Laham/Getty) Philip Rivers

Different week, same story -- the Chargers are once again urging their backers not to panic. But it's hard not to recognize the sense of urgency which is becoming a familiar feeling around Chargers Park. The team that was expected to make a deep run in the playoffs finds itself at 1-2 and tied for last in the AFC West cellar.

To be fair, the two losses came in venues that are among the toughest to places to visit in the NFL: New England and Green Bay. Still, the Chargers with their talented roster weren't supposed to take a back-seat to anyone, anywhere.

Then the season started.

"I'm concerned, but I'm not as concerned as I would be if this were a team like back when we went 4-12," said LaDainian Tomlinson, who has yet to rush for 100 yards in any of the first three games. "I'm concerned, because it's easy to continue on in a downward spiral if we let it. But I think I know this team, and everyone is disappointed in the way we've started."

The Chargers can start turning it around Sunday when entertaining the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs' visit marks the first of three games against AFC West rivals; the Chargers go to Denver then welcome the Raiders following the Chiefs.

And if anything, that is among the few positives coming from this negative start. One of the Chargers' losses came to someone outside its division (New England) and the other to a team outside its conference (Green Bay).

"We haven't played a division game yet," Tomlinson said. "Winning championships starts in your own division. We have to take care of our division. These next three we have to be ready to play -- ready to play a complete game and be willing to go the extra mile."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers was pretty good in his bounce-back game after a terrible outing in New England. Rivers threw for 306 yards and three scores. Still, it will be his fourth-quarter interception which derailed the Chargers which will be remembered. But the Chargers have to be encouraged with the way he played Sunday.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is still searching in vain for any kind of running room or running lanes. The offensive line continues to struggle, which is making the sledding tough for Tomlinson. He rushed for but 62 yards on 22 carries for a puny 2.8-yard average. Tomlinson did get into space on a reception -- he had 33 receiving yards on three catches -- and the result was his first receiving touchdown of the year.

--TE Antonio Gates led the way again with a team-high 11 receptions and 113 receiving yards. Although it seems hard to believe, it looks as if his game has risen from its All-Pro status. Gates is simply one of the NFL's top players.

--WR Vincent Jackson made a nifty, over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for his first touchdown of the year and the first from a Chargers wide out. Jackson seemed more aggressive in going after the ball and the result was six catches for 98 yards and the score.

--WR Craig Davis, the team's top pick last spring, earned his first NFL touchdown. He caught four passes for 31 yards and is showing signs he could contribute this year. He at least has to stay in the starting lineup for a couple more weeks until Eric Parker (toe) returns.

--RT Shane Olivea did dress and was available in an emergency situation, but the team decided not to test his balky back. Olivea will probably go on Sunday against the Chiefs.

--ILB Carlos Polk, and not second-year pro Tim Dobbins, replaced an ailing Matt Wilhelm (calf) in the starting lineup. Polk wasn't sensational, but seemed to be an upgrade over Dobbins as he appeared lost on most plays in New England. There is an outside chance Wilhelm returns this Sunday.

--S Marlon McCree had a game he would like to forget. McCree was out of position on many plays and his tackling was atrocious as time and again Packers slipped his grasp or gave him a move that left him in the dust.

--CB Antonio Cromartie learned a valuable lesson the tough way when going for an interception instead of a tackle on a game-winning, 57-yard pass play from Brett Favre to Greg Jennings. Cromartie oozes with athletic skills, but his field awareness and mental game need much work.

--OLB Shaun Phillips had a terrific game as he tied for the team high with six tackles and added 1½ sacks. He now leads the team with 2½ sacks and seems to have put his quad strain behind him as he had his burst off the line on Sunday.

--OLB Shawne Merriman didn't have his name called much in Green Bay, recording but two assists on tackles. He didn't get that Favre sack he had been talking about and wasn't a factor in the loss at Green Bay.

--KR Darren Sproles delivered a rare spark on the return game when bringing back a kickoff 39 yards. But he had but three yards on his lone punt return.

--RB Michael Turner averaged a respectable three yards on his four carries and might see more time if the Chargers continue to struggle. Turner is much more of a banger, a between-the-tackles powerhouse than LaDainian Tomlinson and if the Chargers are going to continue to have difficulties opening holes, that might call for a runner with a more bruising style like Turner's.

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