This was a tough weekend to be an NFL football fan and even tougher to be a fan in the AFC West.
The conversation this weekend may revolve around another terrible Chargers loss. But, it also leads to the tragic Arrowhead Stadium parking lot suicide of Chiefs’ linebacker Jovan Belcher after he shot and killed his girlfriend.
The San Diego Chargers dominated the AFC West football race for years in the mid-2000s, a division mockingly called the AFC Worst.
Now, the Chargers have plunged to the bottom of the division — call them the ”Worst in the AFC Worst.”
When they were done with four quarters of futility, it was a 20-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals today before a half-empty stadium.
They are (4-8) and have lost seven of their last eight games. Coach Norv Turner’s team is out of the playoffs for the third year in a row and is now (22-25) since its last playoff game.
The only team in this division feeling good about itself is the Denver Broncos with the Peyton Manning comeback story.
Not San Diego’s sorry team.
Not the sorrow they must live with in Kansas City.
And not the hopeless-helpless Raiders suffering a terrible manpower shortage.
Denver is (9-3), while the rest of the AFC Worst is (9-27).
In a replay of so many games this season, the Bolts gave us a carbon copy performance of other games this fall — take a lead, give up the lead, have a chance to win it, but fail to get it done.
San Diego is now (1-5) in games in which they led in the second half, dating back to October.
The Cincinnati Bengals found the will to win behind second-year quarterback Andy Dalton. And, while the red-headed, gun-slinging Dalton found a way to drive his team into San Diego territory all day, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers coughed the ball up two more times late, producing turnovers that killed his team.
In stunning fashion, the once-explosive Chargers’ offense is dying a slow death. They scored no offensive touchdowns in the game versus Cincinnati. The defense posted the only touchdown on a Demorrio Williams’ interception return for a score early. The anemic performance comes on the heels of some horrible performances in recent weeks.
They blew a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter to the Bengals. A week ago they let a 13-3 lead get away against Baltimore. The choked away a lead and likely win in New Orleans.
And this oil-spill of a losing streak began with the butchered 24-0 lead they let go away, as Denver reeled off 35 points in a row weeks ago. And, of course, there is the horror-show showing in the 7-6 setback to lowly Cleveland.
In the last seven games, the Chargers have scored just eight offensive touchdowns, covering 26 quarters of play, dating back to the October 15 Manning meltdown in that Thursday night game at Qualcomm.
Rivers — surrounded by an offensive line of undrafted players, street free-agents and refugees — has lost his magic. He is now (0-15) dating back to 2009, when given a chance to drive the Chargers to a win in the fourth quarter.
The big money they spent on people like Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Jared Gaither, and former first -round pick Ryan Mathews seems like money gone down a black hole. None are making plays; some don’t even get on the field anymore.
The Bolts wasted a gutty defensive performance led by backups playing in place of injured players. Dalton threw some costly interceptions under a relentless blitz. They turned it over three times inside San Diego territory, but came back twice in the fourth quarter to convert possessions into points.
Still, you just got the sense San Diego could not hold up on defense, and Rivers surely could not lead his team back. They didn’t, with the defense wilting late, and Rivers fumbling on one possession and throwing an interception into double coverage in the end zone at the end of the game.
In typical fashion, Rivers took four sacks, there were two more turnovers, a missed field goal, and costly penalties on a fourth down play that kept a Cincy drive going. And there were more injuries — the latest to right tackle Jeromey Clary amongst others.
Maybe better days are ahead. Maybe next year should start next week by committing to play all the kids. Corey Liuget, Melvin Ingram, and Kendall Reyes are playing better and better each week.
Maybe you lose the rest of the games, get the youngsters lots of experience and hope for a high draft pick, so you can find a quality offensive tackle.
And still ahead, road trips to face the Steelers in Pittsburgh and the Jets in New York.
It is just gruesome around Qualcomm Stadium now. The “death watch” has begun at the fortress, where it is apparent Coach Norv Turner no longer has the ability to make this team win and the General Manager A.J. Smith no longer has the ability to sign quality free-agents or find gems in the draft.
It was terrible to cover the NFL this weekend too. Imagine what is in the hearts of Chiefs’ General Manager Scott Pioli, Coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs, who were three feet from Belcher when he shot himself in the head on Saturday morning outside their practice facility.
Bad football, bad teams, bad times, a bad weekend in what was the AFC West, now the AFC Worst.