The weather was miserable, the game was miserable, the team has become miserable.
That sums up a lost Sunday, where a combination of wind, rain, sloppy conditions and San Diego’s shortcomings led to a 7-6 loss at the hands of the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns, who this past week fired their Team President Mike Holmgren, and whose coach Pat Shurmur is on thin ice, have one of the youngest rosters in the world.
Despite this, they beat up the Chargers in a driving rain, possibly driving the first nail into the coffin of Coach Norv Turner and his enabler of a General Manager — A.J. Smith.
The Browns — starting a rookie quarterback, a fellow rookie running back, young wide receivers and 27 players on their roster with two years or less of experience — led all the way and did just enough to survive as the Chargers self-destructed again.
The Browns’ roster resembles a team from the Mid-American Conference and San Diego lost to them.
The “Cleveland Plain Dealer,” in previewing the game earlier this week, said: “NFL coaches careers are marked by signature victories, but Norv Turner’s career in San Diego is marred by signature losses.”
This apparently is another one of those.
The Browns had lost 29-of-39 games, had a new owner sitting in the skybox in Jim Haslam. Dean Spanos sat in his box and watched his team drop to (3-4) on the year and go (9-20) under Turner in road games in the East-Midwest-South.
Somewhere in that stadium, GM A.J. Smith had to be hiding, knowing the heat-pressure-criticism on him is growing.
The Chargers’ roster has gone from elite to troubled in three short seasons. Losing to Cleveland may equal some of the worst losses in his era. And Turner’s track record is repeating itself. Last year, there was a horrifying six-game losing streak. With this loss, that coach now has a three-game losing streak for the fourth time in his career.
See a trend here?
Philip Rivers staggered again, failing to lead the team to a 4th quarter victory. This offense has now gone six quarters in a row without a touchdown. The team has dropped three in a row and 4 of 5. The quarterback nearly threw two more balls that should have been intercepted, was sacked once, took four hits and was pressured ten times.
The star running back Ryan Mathews killed one drive with another fumble — his 12th in 28 games — and finished with a muddy 95 yards rushing, but there were no big plays from him.
Robert Meachem, who was supposed to replace the departed Vincent Jackson, dropped a 51-yard touchdown pass when he was wide open, winding up with no receptions.
And Eddie Royal, the other receiver, couldn’t play again with lingering hamstring problems.
Star tight end Antonio Gates was hardly part of the offense, catching just one pass early. Left tackle Jared Gaither took a terrible illegal procedure call on the final drive, putting his quarterback in even longer yardage problems.
The Chargers failed on a 4th-and-1 play early in the game; failed on a 4th down play at the end of the game, failed to stop Cleveland on 4th-down plays and failed to capitalize when they put Cleveland’s kiddie corps offense on long fields.
Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden struggled all day, with a young cast around him. He went 11-27 throwing the ball, but hit three critical pass plays to get first downs. Rookie first-round pick, running back Trent Richardson, coming off a major rib injury, had a career best 122 yards rushing. Impressive, in that he has played just three games in the NFL because of injuries.
And this was not just a vital victory for the young Browns roster; it was a moral victory too. San Diego made them start drives at their own 3-8-9-10-17, and Weeden did not self destruct.
Three weeks back, the Chargers blew a 24-14 lead and watched Drew Brees drive the Saints to a second half victory. Then it was Peyton Manning and Denver climbing out of a 24-0 hold and reeling off 35 straight points in a Broncos victory.
And now this ghastly loss to the lowly Browns.
It was dark, dank and wet in Cleveland on Sunday. The same feeling you might get walking down a tunnel towards the electric chair in a prison. The Chargers coaching staff is indeed on death row. The upcoming forecast for the week in San Diego — dark, dank, with lots of heat for all the decision-makers with the Chargers.
Since their last playoff game, the Chargers are now (21-21) overall. Signature wins have been replaced by signature losses. Miserable weather, miserable game, and now the Chargers look as if they have become a miserable franchise.
What do you think? Have the Chargers hit rock bottom? Should the Norv Turner-era see its end? Tell me in the comments section below: