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Sunday, November 17, 2013
Rapid Reaction: San Diego Chargers

By Eric D. Williams


MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 20-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

What it means: The Chargers lost their third game in a row to a very beatable opponent. At 4-6, San Diego faces an uphill climb to reach the postseason for the first time since 2009. According to ESPN Stats & Info, under the current playoff format, which began in 1990, only seven percent of teams to start 4-6 went on to make the playoffs.

More tackling practice needed: The Chargers missed at least eight open-field tackles defensively, including four on one play when Miami tight end Charles Clay took a route in the flat to the end zone for a 39-yard score. San Diego gave up a 74-yard touchdown reception to Denver tight end Julius Thomas last week on a similar pattern.

Penalties prove costly: Heading into the game against Miami, the Dolphins averaged six penalties a game. The Chargers finished with a season-high 10 penalties for 76 yards against Miami. Costly penalties by San Diego included Corey Liuget's roughing the passer penalty that erased a fumble recovery by cornerback Shareece Wright. Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas scored two plays later from a yard out. Philip Rivers also was called for an illegal forward pass while crossing the line of scrimmage in delivering a 5-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. The Chargers had to settle for a Nick Novak 27-yard field goal.

Mathews tops 100 yards: For the third time this season, running back Ryan Mathews eclipsed 100 yards rushing, finishing with 127 yards on 19 carries. Mathews’ total included a career-high 51-yard run.

Red-zone woes continue: Once again, the Chargers settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns in the red zone. San Diego finished 1-for-3 inside the 20-yard line, twice settling for Novak field goals, from 29 and 27 yards out. On the final play of the game, Rivers failed to connect with receiver Seyi Ajirotutu from 25 yards on a go route in the end zone.

What’s next: The Chargers hit the road for a second straight week, looking for the team’s first AFC West division win, at Kansas City, next Sunday.