The Carolina Panthers "Chargers East" embarrassed the San Diego Chargers, 31-7 on Sunday. San Diego has been on a downward spiral since the week six Monday Night Football "double-header" versus Denver by losing to Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Denver (again), Baltimore, and Cincinnati. The team has only bested Kansas City (really, who hasn't), and, frankly, surprised everyone on the planet by beating Pittsburgh on the road in week 14.
Former San Diego defensive coordinator and now Carolina head coach Ron Rivera and former Chargers' assistant head coach, now Panthers' offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski seemed to know EXACTLY how to stop San Diego. Although, in the past three seasons, anyone could have stopped Norv Turner's redundantly predictable play calling.
We thought we had seen it all, but there are more lessons to be taken away from this week's loss.
1. AJ Smith should have NEVER let go of Mike Tolbert who carried the ball nine times for 40 yards with two TDs.
2. Philip Rivers needs to wear gloves. And use stickum. Four fumbles today, two of them lost. Unacceptable. Thus far he has tossed 15 INTs and fumbled 11 times, losing five of them. He has already exceeded last year's fumble stats and only needs five more INTs to make this season worse than last season. At least he didn't toss an INT this week.
3. DON'T mess with Steve Smith. Antoine Cason found that out early. 'Nuff said.
4. A patchwork offensive line is no excuse for poor QB play. Carolina was on its third-string C after losing Ryan Kalil and Geoff Hangartner, among other injuries, and its O-line only gave up two sacks. Cam Newton was 19/33 for 231 yards and two TDs. Philip Rivers, on the other hand, was sacked 5 times (bringing his total to 37) and was 16/23 for a paltry 121 yards and one TD. Granted, Newton is far more mobile than Rivers; however, San Diego dominated the Steelers last week and Rivers looked spot-on. The Chargers' O-line has been awful since Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeil retired. C Nick Hardwick has been the only consistent player and it is simply not enough.
5. San Diego has seriously underperformed. Rivers, as already mentioned. Ryan Mathews left the game in the third quarter with (another) shoulder injury. Too many dropped balls. Poor rush defense. Too many stupid penalties. The best Chargers are P Mike Scifres and S Eric Weddle. It doesn't help having an emotionless head coach on the sideline not instilling the drive to win in his team either.