The Chargers headed to Miami for a showdown with the supposedly-overmatched Dolphins this past Sunday and came back home with a 2-3 record after suffering a surprising 17-10 loss at Dolphin Stadium. The defending AFC West champion Chargers were in this same position a year ago and ended up in the conference title game against New England. But this is not 2007, and San Diego can not afford to take teams lightly much like they did a few days ago.
Maybe San Diego's current losing streak against the Dolphins played a role in the team giving up 390 yards of offense, including 223 yards through the air. Miami running back Ronnie Brown plowed his way through the tough Chargers defense for 125 yards and a score to help San Diego remain winless in six games at Miami since an overtime win in the 1982 AFC Playoffs.
The Chargers probably could care less about their streak in South Beach, because they still sit second in the AFC West behind the 4-1 Denver Broncos, with the 1-3 Raiders just a half-game behind. The Chiefs are at the bottom of the division at 1-4.
Questions have surfaced whether head coach Norv Turner is right for this job, and the veteran coach is proving he may not be. How can the high-powered Chargers, led by quarterback Philip Rivers and explosive running back LaDainian, Tomlinson produce just 10 points?
A big reason is that San Diego only had the ball for 23 minutes and 19 seconds and finished with 202 total yards of offense, its lowest output of 2008. Offenses can't get in sync when they have the ball for less than a half-hour of a 60-minute game. Rivers threw for less than 200 yards for the second straight game and finished 13-of-28 for 159 yards with a touchdown pass to Chris Chambers, who left the game with a leg injury.
The Chargers, who entered Sunday's game with the NFL's second-highest scoring offense and had a two-game winning streak halted, have fallen behind in each of their five games this season.
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This week San Diego will host the New England Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game. If the Chargers have any chance this coming Sunday night, they must control the running game and apply pressure on Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. San Diego had just once sack in Miami.
Expect a breakout performance from Tomlinson, as New England ranks towards the bottom in run defense this season. LT finished with 35 yards on 12 carries against the Dolphins, partly because the offense failed to get into a rhythm.
BRONCOS: Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler hit nine different receivers in Sunday's 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at INVESCO Field at Mile High, and Denver's defense delivered to aid the cause.
Ranking near the bottom in total defense, the Broncos were able to knock Bucs quarterback Brian Griese out of the game and hold Tampa Bay to 307 total yards of offense. Future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey delivered the final blow to Griese with a blind-side blitz in the third quarter. The Broncos had three sacks and one interception in the win, and got by with one touchdown and three field goals from Matt Prater.
Prater also had four kickoffs for touchbacks to help the AFC West-leading Broncos to its first 4-1 start since finishing the 2006 campaign with a 9-7 mark.
Cutler has been impressive all season, but threw for a season-low 227 yards on 23-of-34 passing.
Denver, which entered the contest averaging 33 points a game, finally got a lift from a stop unit that had given up almost 30 points per contest in its first four games of the season.
Head coach Mike Shanahan will have his work cut out for him this week, with the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town hungry for a win.
Denver's win over the Bucs came at a costly price, as three offensive contributors went down with injuries. Tight end Tony Scheffler (groin), running back Selvin Young (groin) and rookie wide receiver Eddie Royal (sprained ankle) all left the game, and Royal was seen leaving the facility on crutches. Defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban also suffered an injured groin in the win.
CHIEFS: Another inept performance from the Kansas City Chiefs has the team 1-4 for the first time since 2004, when they went 7-9 and finished third in the AFC West. It seems this year the Chiefs will finish fourth in the division standings, if Sunday's 34-0 loss at Carolina has any bearing on the future.
The stat sheet could have given head coach Herm Edwards nightmares after his offense produced just 127 total yards, with only 35 coming on the ground. It's hard to believe this is the same team that handed mighty Denver a 33-19 setback the week before. Running back Larry Johnson finished with only two yards on seven carries after scorching the Broncos for 198 yards and a pair of scores on 28 attempts that helped the Chiefs end a 12-game losing streak.
Kansas City is back in the loss column again and was forced to rely on quarterback Damon Huard on Sunday with Johnson failing to get the ground game in gear. Huard completed only 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 86 yards and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble for Kansas City, which couldn't celebrate tight end Tony Gonzalez's achievement in a good mood.
Gonzalez hauled in a six-yard pass late in the first quarter to move past Shannon Sharpe for the NFL's career leader for yards receiving for a tight end (10,075). Gonzalez then noted after the game that it was the worst he's been involved with in his professional career. It's a shame for the future Hall of Famer, who's been rumored to be pulling for a trade out of Kansas City.
Gonzalez might be catching passes in a few weeks from Tyler Thigpen, who came on in the fourth quarter and finished 5-of-10 passing for 37 yards.
Kansas City has a bye week and will host the currently-unbeaten Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on October 19. It has been rumored quarterback Brodie Croyle may return under center after missing the last three weeks due to a shoulder injury. Croyle is 0-7 lifetime as a starter and went 11-of-19 for 88 yards in a Week 1 loss at New England.
RAIDERS: Oakland owner Al Davis gets a chance to prove his firing of head coach Lane Kiffin was justifiable this Sunday, when the Raiders pay a visit to the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome. After Kiffin was accused by Davis of propaganda and lies, the long-time Raiders patriarch handed offensive line coach Tom Cable the reins of his plummeting football team. Even though it appears Davis needs to be in a nursing home or somewhere retired in Florida, the legendary face of the organization still has the commitment to excellence.
Davis, who reportedly fired Kiffin over the phone, has also been very vehement on not paying the remaining $2.6 million on the former head coach's current contract.
Oakland is 1-3 this season and third in the AFC West, and is coming off a bye week. Now they get to see what Cable can do. According to the interim head coach, he will still rely on a ground game that ranks among the best in the league with an average of 155 yards per game.
Cable has been a head coach before, going 11-35 at the University of Idaho from 2000 through 2003. According to offensive tackle Kwame Harris, the new sideline boss is "going to be awesome."
Davis obviously hopes so, since he has turned his lifelong love affair into a laughing stock of the NFL the past few seasons. Even former Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp needed to chime in on the whole ordeal by mentioning how he used to warn free agents to stay away from Oakland.
In significant injury news for the Raiders, rookie running back Darren McFadden has been sitting out recent practices with a turf toe injury on his right foot. McFadden hasn't missed any games this season and owns 272 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries. Veteran running back Justin Fargas has been resting a sore groin and is expected to be ready for the Saints on Sunday.