There are a few things that football teams aren’t supposed to do when facing the defending Super Bowl champions.
First, you don’t spot the highest-rated quarterback in the NFL 14 points by throwing two pick sixes.
And second, you don’t commit a hold on a receiver on 3rd-and-short with the opportunity to give the ball back to your offense in order to tie the game and send it into overtime.
But that’s what the Chargers did in a nail-biting 45-38 loss to the Green Bay Packers on a rain-soaked afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
And those are the mistakes that make the difference between an elite team (such as the Packers, who are now 8-0) and a team that is talented, but is still looking to break into the elite level (such as the Chargers, who are now 4-4 but are in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West).
With the loss, San Diego has seemingly wasted its simmering 4-1 start by losing its last three games.
“We’re fighting through a rough time right now,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told the Associated Press. “These tough times, you find out a lot about guys, a lot about yourself.”
What we know about Rivers is that he isn’t the same quarterback that we’re all used to seeing.
The normally accurate quarterback threw three interceptions in Sunday’s loss—two of them were returned for touchdowns. The last came on San Diego’s final drive.
Rivers—who put up huge numbers throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns—has now thrown 14 interceptions this year, one shy of his career high.
And while Rivers seemed to have a better day statistically—he set season-highs in passing yards and touchdowns thrown—he was still outclassed by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rivers, who many believed was an elite level quarterback entering this year, has seemed to digress, while Rodgers has elevated his play.
Rodgers completed 21-of-26 passes for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Those are efficient numbers, impressive numbers and numbers that show why the Packers are a class above the Chargers and why Rodgers is now a class above Rivers.
And you definitely do not give Rodgers and the defending Super Bowl champions 14 points off interceptions. They don’t need them to win.
“Green Bay is an outstanding football team,” San Diego coach Norv Turner told Chargers.com. “You can’t give them a couple scores.”
What else showed that the Chargers aren’t an elite team in 2011? Their response to the game after it was over.
The players seemed almost pleased with the way they played Sunday night, despite the loss.
“We’ve got to use this to propel us forward,” Chargers center Nick Hardwick told Chargers.com. “That’s the Super Bowl champions. They’re playing better than anybody in the entire league right now, and we’re right there with them. Let’s move forward with it.”
Yes, San Diego rallied from four scores down to come within a touchdown of tying the only undefeated team left in the NFL.
Yes, part of the reason why the Chargers were down 24 points was because they spotted Green Bay 14 points.
Yes, San Diego was in the position to tie the game and send it into overtime.
But they lost. The mistakes—which seem like a recurring theme this year—cost the Chargers another game.
Maybe San Diego was able to stay mostly in step with the best team in the NFL.
My question is what would have happened if the team didn’t commit so many mistakes.
This is no time to be self-congratulatory. Not with the season on the brink. Not when the team is staring a four-game losing streak in the face.
Yet, that’s what the Chargers seem to be doing.
“I’ve never seen a team play as hard for themselves and their head coach,” president Dean Spanos told the Union-Tribune. “There is no quit in this team.”
It’s nice to be proud that a team doesn’t quit. It’s better to be proud that a team doesn’t put itself in that position in the first place.
For more info: Visit our San Diego Chargers Examiner, Dave Thomas. For more on the NFL, visit our NFL Examiner Danny Cox. Follow me on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.