After their latest loss, a 20-13 setback on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chargers were once again asked why a team with legitimate playoff aspirations has fallen to 4-8. I know they've been looking for answers.
The players I've talked to have all come to the same conclusion.
They don't know.
"I don't have an answer for that," said safety Corey Lynch, who played his best game as a pro with 10 tackles and an interception against Cincy.
His sentiment was echoed by defensive end Corey Liuget, linebacker Jarret Johnson, safety Eric Weddle and a long list of other Bolts. The other consensus they reached is mistakes are consistently made at extremely bad times.
"There are pivotal points in a game," said Lynch. "It's teetering on a balance, and it seems like every game, just that one play ... you know, it hasn't been 15 plays in a row and all of a sudden it's 38-7. It's just been that one play, a make-it-or-break-it, and it just didn't land our way. If you look at a 4-8 season comparative to an 8-4 season, you're talking about four or five plays. I've never seen anything like that before."
With Philip Rivers as the starting quarterback, the Chargers have never finished a season with a losing record.
That streak is in serious jeopardy this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the only team that's beaten both the Ravens and Bengals (the last two teams to beat the Chargers), and they still rule the NFL with the league's top-ranked defense.
"Obviously we've been in two close games," said head coach Norv Turner, referring to the Chargers losses to Baltimore and Cincinnati. "We're playing a team this weekend that I think is probably better than both those teams, and more physical than both those teams."
This is not a good time for their already battered offensive line to lose even more man power. Right tackle Jeromey Clary (knee), left tackle Mike Harris (ankle) and left guard Tyronne Green (hamstring) could all miss the game against the Steelers. That means the Chargers will have to bring someone up from the practice squad (they have two options there), sign an available free agent (like they did with Jared Gaither in 2011), or both.