SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers is tackled by free safety Thomas DeCoud #28 of the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on September 23, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
NFL fans are fickle. So is the N-F-L media. When the Chargers beat the Titans 38-10, improving to 2-0, they were going to win the AFC West.
After losing to the Falcons 27-3, falling to 2-1 but remaining alone in first place in the AFC West, they aren't going to the playoffs.
So goes life in the National Football League.
On Monday, Chargers head coach Norv Turner said he hears the criticism, and he shares the pain of his fan base.
"I don't take it lightly," said Turner. "I'm as upset as anyone in San Diego. I don't like going out and having our team perform the way we performed. We're going to do everything in our power to fix it."
They're starting with holding on to the football. Running back Ryan Mathews fumbled inside the 5 yard line. Had he held on, the Chargers likely would have scored a go-ahead touchdown, changing the complexion of the entire game.
"We would have been able to stay in our offensive sets," said quarterback Philip Rivers. "We could have run the ball, and our play-action and all those sets would have still been live."
Rivers himself threw a pair of interceptions. Three turnovers by two marquis players, whose hearts were in the right place. They were both trying to make a play for their team. They simply tried too hard.
"He knows, I know," said Rivers. "I've gotta take care of the ball, (and) he knows that."
But perhaps the message is not sinking in. Mathews has appeared in 27 career games. He's fumbled 11 times, losing 6 of them. Despite his Pro Bowl talent, putting the ball on the ground once every 10 quarters is starting to make him more of a liability than an asset.
"You know, we have a number of guys who are capable," said Turner. "So while we're getting Ryan to where he can play an extended period and protect the ball there are certain situations where we're going to limit his exposures."
Which might open up more carries for Jackie Battle, the only Chargers running back who has more than 100 yards on the ground, and the only one to score a rushing touchdown.