AFC West: Chiefs-Chargers

AFC West sound off

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

It's time to sound off again.

Here's this week's topic: Are the San Diego Chargers a good team that has yet to find their way or are they just not that good and they will never turn the corner in 2008?

My thoughts? I don't know.

I keep waiting for San Diego to break out and become the dominant team it was expected to become. This is a team that had Super Bowl aspirations. But the Chargers haven't turned the corner and are stuck at 4-5.

I've seen San Diego play in person five times this season. I saw its first four games of the season against Carolina, Denver, the New York Jets, Oakland and Kansas City. I had a six-week break in between seeing San Diego. Still, it looked as inconsistent and uneven Sunday in a 20-19 win over the Chiefs as it did early in the season.

I have not given up on this team. There is too much talent. Sooner or later, however, the Chargers will have to show something.

Give me your thoughts. Are the Chargers any good? Hit my mailbag. I'll post some of your responses later in the week.

Moving away from Week 10

November, 10, 2008
11/10/08
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

I am traveling from San Diego to Denver after the Chargers' entertaining 20-19 win over the feisty but not-quite-ready-to-win Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

I will check in later Monday evening to give updates from around the AFC West.

Chargers are a second-half team

November, 10, 2008
11/10/08
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The San Diego Chargers (4-5) hope the second half of the NFL season is a lot like the second half of the team's games this season.

The Chargers have been better in the second half of games this season even though it hasn't always been enough to help San Diego win. But Sunday, against Kansas City, the Chargers' second-half play was enough to get a win in the first game of the second half of the season.

Will it be the start of something big for the Chargers who trail Denver by one game in the AFC West? We'll see.

The following is a look at San Diego's points breakdown by halves of its nine games this season:

San Diego Chargers: By the Numbers
OpponentFirst-half pointsSecond-half pointsW/L
Carolina 7 17 L
Denver 1721L
New York Jets3117W
Oakland028W
Miami3 7L
New England1713W
Buffalo 77L
New Orleans 1715 L
Kansas City 614W

AFC West hot seat

November, 10, 2008
11/10/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

We're diverting a bit from our usual formula for the hot seat occupant this week. We are going for a coach, not a player this week. Also, we are taking someone from a team that won last week. Usually, the hot seat is reserved for a representative from a team that lost the week before.

We're putting San Diego coach Norv Turner on the hot seat.

Turner's Chargers' beat Kansas City at home on Sunday, but barely. The Chargers could have easily lost.

San Diego came out of the bye and was just as inconsistent as it was before the bye. Perhaps this team that was supposed to contend for a Super Bowl just isn't that good?


I still have a difficult time believing that, but something has to give soon. San Diego is going to have to show itself.

If the Chargers, 4-5, continue to play unevenly Sunday at Pittsburgh and the following week at home against Indianapolis, it will lose both of those games and have little chance of winning the AFC West even though 5-4 Denver isn't exactly running away with the division.

Turner's team was booed loudly in the first half against Kansas City. The Chargers have not made the home folks happy and Turner has to find a way to change that.

AFC West player of the week

November, 10, 2008
11/10/08
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Had Kansas City converted the two-point attempt at San Diego on Monday, I would have been tempted to give Tony Gonzalez the AFC West player of the week nod. The Kansas City tight end is playing at a high level as he had 10 catches in the Chiefs' 20-19 loss to the Chargers on Sunday.

But, really, this week there is no contest. The clear cut AFC West player of the week is Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. He was simply special in Denver's comeback win over Cleveland on Thursday night.

Cutler led Denver on two fourth-quarter comebacks. He threw three touchdown passes in the quarter as Denver won 34-20. The Broncos were losing 23-10 at one point.

Cutler threw for 447 yards and threw only one interception.  Cutler willed his team, which was down to its fifth-string tailback and without five defensive starters, to win.

Unfortunately for Cutler, he will likely have to continue to be near perfect if the 5-4 Broncos are going to win the AFC West.

Twice is not bad for San Diego

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
11:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

 
 Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
 San Diego's Antonio Cromartie  celebrates following a stop on a two-point conversion, sealing the Chargers' 20-19 victory over Kansas City.

SAN DIEGO -- Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen was wondering aloud if the officials missed a penalty on a gutsy two-point conversion call by the Chiefs in the final seconds Sunday.

Many in the Kansas City locker room thought tight end Tony Gonzalez, Thigpen's first option on the play, was held up by a San Diego defender. After Gonzales got bottled up, Thigpen, who is improving steadily, backpedaled and threw a desperation ball that had no chance, giving San Diego a 20-19 victory.

And what was San Diego's response to Thigpen's claim that a penalty could have been called?

"Shut up, please," San Diego linebacker Jyles Tucker said. "That's the nature of football. You adjust. How many tough calls have we had on us all season, and [Sunday]?"

Had San Diego not been the victim of a questionable call, Kansas City may never have gotten to complain about the call on the two-pointer. On second down and 10 from the San Diego 18-yard-line with 46 seconds remaining, the officials called a late pass interference penalty on Chargers safety Clinton Hart, who appeared to cleanly break up a pass directed toward Gonzalez.

"I can't comment on that," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "You guys saw it ... It's a possibly game-changing play."

The call gave Kansas City a first down at the San Diego 1. Three plays later, Thigpen hit Gonzalez for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining in the game.

Thigpen reasoned that the Chiefs probably weren't going to get two calls going their way at such a critical time.

"You always want to, at least, go up and say something to the ref," Thipgen said of the final play. "Not necessarily question his call, but at least try to ask him why not a penalty there. Then again, that puts a lot on the ref to call a flag on a two-point conversion. That's just the way it goes."

The sequence was a harrowing reminder of Week 2 for San Diego. With Denver driving in the final seconds inside the Chargers' 10-yard, the officials blew a call that should have been a Denver fumble. The Broncos then scored and won the game on a two-point conversion. Still, the Chargers weren't dwelling on the Denver disaster while Kansas City lined up for its two-point attempt.

"We had no time to think of Denver," Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. "We had to make a play."

The Chargers did, avenging some misery from Week 2. However, Kansas City, which has lost three consecutive winnable games, flew home Sunday night knowing it all could have been different. Chiefs holder Dustin Colquitt and kicker Connor Barth had a bad exchange on a PAT in the second quarter and the Chiefs had to settle for six points and a 13-6 lead.

After losing so many games they could have won this season, the Chargers improved to 4-5 and trail Denver by one game in the AFC West, winning a game they could have easily lost.

"This was a big one," Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips said.

(Read full post)

AFC West news and notes

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
10:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO - Let's wrap up Sunday in the AFC West:

*  Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said he is completely healed from a turf toe injury he suffered in Week 1.  Tomlinson had 78 yards on 22 carries Sunday. He wasn't much of a factor, sans a 17-yard rush.

*  I don't get the feeling that the Broncos or the Chargers will run away from one another in the final seven weeks. The AFC West could be decided in San Diego in Week 17 when the Broncos visit.

*  It will be interesting to see how much cornerback Cletis Gordon plays down the road for San Diego. He replaced Antonio Cromartie, who is dealing with a hip injury, in the game. But Cromartie, who has struggled some this season, did play some.

*  Don't count out tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The old vets both had terrific games as they led their respective teams in receiving. Gonzalez had 10 catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns and Gates had eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.

*  It will be interesting to see if San Diego's home game against Indianapolis on Nov. 23 stays the night game. Games can now be adjusted. After both the Chargers and the Colts both had thrilling wins, the game could benefit for a prime-time audience. An announcement could be made as soon as Monday.

Congratulations to Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski. He became Oakland's all-time leading scorer Sunday with two field goals in the Raiders' 17-6 loss to Carolina. Janikowski, a former first-round pick, surpassed legend George Blanda in team scoring lore.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- We've been here before, haven't we?

Questionable call. Two-point conversion.

Yes, bad memories. Sunday, though, it worked out for the Chargers.

The Chiefs missed a two-point conversion, on a badly executed pass play by quarterback Tyler Thigpen with 23 seconds to go. The Chiefs had a chance to to win the game on a two-point conversion after they were put in scoring position on a questionable pass-interference call on San Diego at the 1-yard line.

In Week 2, San Diego lost in Denver, 39-38, when Denver converted a two-pointer. The Broncos were put in position to win on a bad call.

This time, though, the Chargers survived. They are now 4-5 and trail Denver by one game in the AFC West. The Chargers had plenty of problems Sunday, but they survived.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Can the Chiefs reverse fortunes?

In the past two games, against the Jets and Tampa Bay, Kansas City blew late leads. The Jets won the game with one minute remaining in regulation two weeks ago. Last week, the Buccaneers came back from a 21-point deficit to beat Kansas City in overtime.

Now, it's the Chiefs turn to make a comeback. San Diego has scored 14 unanswered points and lead 20-13 with less than seven minutes to go. The Chiefs have played hard for a third straight game, but sooner or later, they need to start finishing games.

Is Sunday the day?

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Halftime thoughts from San Diego where Kansas City is leading 13-6 and trying to pull off a big upset that would crush the Chargers' playoff hopes, even in the weak AFC West.

The San Diego fans haven't seen their team in four weeks and they apparently haven't missed them. Fans have booed loudly when the Chargers have made mistakes on both sides of the ball. Fans booed vigorously as the Chargers headed to the locker room at halftime. There were high expectations of this team and fans are clearly fed up with the 3-5 Chargers.

The last time San Diego fans booed their team this loudly was September 2007 when the Chargers lost at home to the Chiefs. It was the famous day in which fans chanted "Marty." It was a call for former coach Marty Schottenheimer who was fired after the 2006 season and replaced by Norv Turner. If this doesn't turn around soon, expect the fire Turner chants to start again.

The Chiefs had a muffed PAT when they took a 13-6 lead. That could haunt Kansas City. One-win teams looking for a road upset can't make those types of mistakes.

Heads up play by San Diego rookie fullback Mike Tolbert. He was about to be brought down but Tolbert saw LaDainian Tomlinson and tossed the ball to him. Tomlinson then ran for a first down.

The Chiefs are getting much better. They fought hard the past two weeks and barely lost to the Jets and Buccaneers. This week, they are playing harder than the Chargers and they are without several defensive stars and they have no running game.

Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen and tight end Tony Gonzalez are making a very nice tandem. Their chemistry is undeniable.

Injuries piling up for the Chiefs

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
5:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- The Chiefs' delicate backfield took another hit.

Rookie running back Jamaal Charles, who had a 100-yard rushing game last week, is out with an ankle injury. His status to return is questionable. Expect the Chiefs to rely heavily on the passing game the rest of the game.

Dantrell Savage, primarily a returner, is the Chiefs tailback. Jackie Battle is the backup with Charles out. Charles was starting because Kolby Smith is out for the year with a knee injury and Larry Johnson is serving an NFL suspension for one game. Johnson was inactivated by the team for the last three games. He will likely return next week at home against New Orleans.

Kansas City middle linebacker Pat Thomas is out with a thigh injury. His return is questionable. He was replaced by Weston Dacus. Now, Kansas City is without four defensive starters: Thomas, outside linebacker Derrick Johnson, defensive end Turk McBride and cornerback Brandon Flowers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers' first defensive drive of the Ron Rivera era was not productive.

And it caused the boo birds to chirp loudly in San Diego.

The Kansas City Chiefs drove 95 yards to take a 7-0 lead after forcing San Diego to punt on its first drive. Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who continues to look impressive, hit a wide open Mark Bradley for a 30-yard score to give the Chiefs a touchdown.

It capped a 12-play drive that took 7:08 off the clock. Chargers' fans booed loudly after the score.

This is Rivera's first game since he replaced Ted Cottrell as San Diego's defensive coordinator 12 days ago. The Chargers had a bye last week.

Pregame notes from San Diego

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
3:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Here are some pre-game notes from the Chiefs-Chargers game:

It is 63 degrees, cloudy and very windy in San Diego. Kicking and punting could be an issue.

The Chiefs are playing without three defensive starters because of injuries. Defensive end Turk McBride, outside linebacker Derrick Johnson and cornerback Brandon Flowers are all inactive.

Alfonso Boone will start for McBride, Rocky Boiman for start for Johnson and Maurice Leggett will play for Flowers.

San Diego's Cletis Gordon will start in place of Antonio Cromartie at cornerback. Cromartie, who has not played well this season, has been dealing with a hip injury and is active. If Gordon plays well in the first game under new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, perhaps he will play more.

Receiver Malcolm Floyd will start for Chris Chambers, who is dealing with a nagging ankle injury. Chambers is active.

Around the AFC West

November, 8, 2008
11/08/08
11:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

I just arrived in San Diego for Sunday's game between the Chargers and the Chiefs. I wanted to catch up what's going on around the AFC West:

Denver

  • Tommie Smith and John Carlos salute Brandon Marshall.

My take: Imagine the attention this would have gotten had Marshall actually shown his prop after his game-winning touchdown in the final minute at Cleveland on Thursday. Marshall pulled what appeared to be a glove out of his pants after scoring. Denver receiver Brandon Stokley ran over and persuaded Marshall not to show it.

The Broncos might have been flagged for a potentially killer 15-yard penalty had Marshall shown the glove. Marshall said it was a black and white glove to show racial unity in light of the election of Barack Obama as president. Some have called this a controversy, but Marshall never showed the glove and was never penalized. And what's so controversial about racial unity?

The biggest issue here is that Marshall was on a football field representing his team. Personal messages can't come in front of the team, especially with the game in the balance. There is a time and place for everything. Marshall appeared to have terrific intentions but Stokley saved him from hurting the team.

  • Najeh Davenport was cut by the Steelers.

My take: Denver has to consider signing him. The Broncos have lost three tailbacks in four games, most recently rookie Ryan Torain. They were down to rookie fullback Peyton Hillis. Davenport wouldn't be a cure-all, but he's an experienced veteran and at this point that qualifies as a solid running back option for Denver.

Kansas City

My take: He needs to be for the Chiefs to pull off this upset. Gonzalez has been terrific in the past few weeks. He has developed a nice chemistry with young Chiefs quarterback Tyler Thigpen. Gonzalez is a leader of this team. He is the team's best chance to win.

Oakland

  • The Raiders have the highest payroll in the NFL this season at $152.4 million.

My take: It's a further illustration of how bad this situation is. The Raiders are trying, and they still can't get it right. That's the thing here -- Al Davis tried. He spent the money to end a five-season malaise. He just picked the wrong guys.

San Diego

My take: The Chargers need him as the Ron Rivera era begins. San Diego hasn't had a sack in nine quarters. Tucker, the replacement for the injured Shawne Merriman, had three sacks in September before getting injured and missing three games. Rivera, who replaces Ted Cottrell, vows to be more aggressive. It starts with Tucker on Sunday against the Chiefs.

Preparing for Week 10

November, 8, 2008
11/08/08
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

I am headed to San Diego for the Chargers' game against the Chiefs on Sunday.

The Chargers need to win to move back within a game of Denver. The Broncos opened Week 10 with a comeback win over Cleveland on Thursday. Denver is 5-4. San Diego is 3-5. The Chargers hope Sunday's game is a positive start to the Ron Rivera-led defense. It is his first game as defensive coordinator. He took over the fired Ted Cottrell last week.

It will be a major storyline to follow. I will also keep tabs on Oakland's game against visiting Carolina. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell is questionable with a knee issue. Andrew Walter will start if Russell can't play. Coach Tom Cable said Russell will be a game-time decision.

Check in for updates.

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