SAN DIEGO-It was one of those days for the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately for head coach Norv Turner and his team it was a day they would rather forget as the Chargers crashed and burned in the wake of a 31-7 defeat to the Carolina Panthers at Qualcomm Stadium. For the Chargers, coming into the game still mathematically alive for a postseason berth, those faint hopes were dashed during the first 15 minutes of play.
That’s when Carolina forced its will-from its opening series-to the end of the period to take a 21-0 lead after just one quarter of play. From there it went from bad to ugly for the Chargers. And by the day’s end it got uglier. Carolina star quarterback Cam Newton didn’t need his Superman cape on this day to beat the Chargers.
Instead Newton let ex-Chargers running back Mike Tolbert and head coach Ron Rivera, San Diego’s former defensive coordinator, do most of the work. Tolbert smashed his former teammates for two short touchdown runs, while Rivera used his knowledge of the Chargers offense to make sitting in the pocket for quarterback Philip Rivers an uncomfortable place to be.
Newton, one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the NFL, methodically and coolly dissected the overmatched defensive unit of the Chargers to lead Carolina to the unexpected easy victory. For Newton, who completed 19 of 33 passes for a pedestrian 231 yards and two touchdowns during the game, being Clark Kent was even too much for the Chargers to handle as the Panthers rolled to a 31-0 lead before San Diego could even get on the scoreboard.
And that generosity came in the fourth quarter when the game was already in the books and the Chargers looking as apathetic as they have been this season. One week after dominating the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers got the same treatment at home that they gave the Black and Yellow crowd. On top of a dismal performance, the Chargers also lost running back Ryan Mathews, who left the game with a broken collarbone.
The Panthers so dominated the contest that they were able to grind out 29 first downs while the Chargers could only muster a dozen. Rivers, still widely considered to be one of the top signal-callers in the NFL despite some inconsistent play this season, was bottled up all game by Carolina’s defense and generated just 121 yards through the air. The Chargers rushed for 70 yards total for the game.
Those kinds of numbers won’t get it done. It certainly is a head-scratcher, considering what was at stake for the Chargers to keep their season alive.
That ship has now come and gone. The only thing left for the Chargers is to compete for the next two games and try to come away with wins against the New York Jets and AFC West rival Oakland Raiders, very capable victories. But they’ll have to play a lot better than what they showed against the Panthers.
Carolina pretty much had their way with the Chargers, starting from the game’s opening kickoff. The Panthers scored on their first three possessions in the first quarter to take a 21-0 lead, the final score coming off a 45-yard screen pass from Cam Newton to DeAngelo Williams.
Williams, who rushed 93 yards on 22 carries, outrushed the Chargers entire team by himself. During Carolina’s seamless and stunning first quarter, the Chargers defensive unit looked as though it couldn’t stop a cold if it came their way. If you were to describe the Chargers’ first 15 minutes of play against the Panthers, it could be summed up as inept and lackluster.
A week ago, the Chargers look like world beaters when they handed the Steelers their steel hats in a commanding 34-24 road win. They looked invincible. The Chargers looked like a team that can compete with any club around the league. That win failed to translate or carry over against Carolina. Mistakes, costly penalties and the lack of urgency was what doomed the Chargers against Carolina.
Some of the gaffes the Chargers made during the first half included roughing the punter, a personal foul called on hitting a receiver out of bounds, defensive holding, and a multitude of false starts penalties.
Rivers didn’t exactly help the Chargers’ cause by fumbling on the Chargers second series, basically gift-wrapped the Panthers second score, which resulted in a short touchdown run by Tolbert. Newton finished off the Chargers and made it 31-0 with a four-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter.