SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers fans have had it just four games into Norv Turner’s tenure as head coach, and Sunday’s shocking 30-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, who rallied for 24 straight points and got huge plays from two rookies, caused the Chargers to lose their Southern California cool.
After booing ineffective quarterback Philip Rivers for most of the second half, the fans amped up their anger.
When Rivers threw the last of four straight incompletions from the Kansas City 5-yard line with less than four minutes left, those who weren’t streaming out of Qualcomm Stadium started chanting “MAR-TY! MAR-TY! MAR-TY!” in obvious reference to coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was fired in February because of his icy relationship with general manager A.J. Smith.
The Chargers have been unproductive and disorganized under Turner, looking nothing like the team that led the NFL last year with 492 points and 14 wins before their playoff pratfall against New England. Turner’s overall record in three NFL head coaching stints is 59-85-1.
“They pay their money,” said a frustrated LaDainian Tomlinson, the reigning league MVP who doubled his season output by rushing for 132 yards and one score, only to see his Chargers lose their third straight game to fall to 1-3, one more loss than they had under Schottenheimer last regular season.
“They have a right to voice their opinion, just like everybody else,” he said. “They showed their frustration with us, the way we’ve been playing. I can’t say that I blame them.”
Things could be spinning out of control for the defending AFC West champions, who are now last in the division, behind even Oakland.
“This thing is getting away from us, and before you know it, you’ll look back six or seven weeks from now and say, ‘What happened?’” Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal said. “We have to stop it now. Bottom line, someone has got to step up and say, ‘It has to stop now.’ If you continue by saying, ‘It’s going to get better,’ you’re living a pipe dream.”
Rivers had two interceptions and one fumble, which led to 17 points. He completed only 21 of 42 passes for 211 yards and no touchdowns. His passer rating was 44.8.
“We understand their frustration as well as ours. We’re frustrated way more than anyone else outside,” he said.
Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards, a San Diego-area native, heard the chants. He left San Diego as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason after reportedly drawing Smith’s ire by repeatedly asking for a contract extension.
“I know when Marty was here things were a little bit different, you know?” said Edwards, a favorite of Schottenheimer’s who declined further comment.
Larry Johnson gained 123 yards on 25 carries for the Chiefs (2-2).
The Chargers led 10-0 after their first two possessions and were up 16-6 at halftime. The Chiefs scored 24 straight points in a span of 13 minutes, 4 seconds during the third and fourth quarters.
Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick, caught a go-ahead, 51-yard touchdown pass from Damon Huard early in the fourth quarter, and cornerback Tyron Brackenridge, a rookie free agent, raced 50 yards for a score after Rivers was sacked and fumbled with just more than seven minutes left.
With the score tied at 16 early in the fourth quarter, there was an incredible momentum swing over two plays. Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman sacked Huard for an 8-yard loss, then did his spasmodic “Lights Out” dance.
Huard, though, came right back on third-and-19 and hit Bowe in stride for a 51-yard touchdown pass that put the Chiefs ahead.
The Chiefs ran the slant route after watching film of Brett Favre’s 57-yard completion to Greg Jennings a week earlier in San Diego’s 31-24 loss at Green Bay.
“That was that same play,” said Huard, who was 17-of-29 for 284 yards and two TDs, with two pickoffs. “We tried it several times.”
Bowe caught the ball at about the Chargers 40.
“When I caught it I saw green grass and I just went to the races,” said Bowe, who was filling in for the injured Eddie Kennison.
Chargers safety Clinton Hart intercepted Huard midway through the fourth quarter at the Kansas City 41. Three plays later, though, Rivers was sacked by Derrick Johnson and fumbled, with Brackenridge scooping up the ball and racing into the end zone for a 30-16 lead.
Kansas City had scored 10 points in the third quarter to tie it at 16.
Dave Rayner kicked a 41-yard field goal, then the Chiefs got a huge break when Rivers’ pass to Tomlinson was intercepted by Derrick Johnson at the Chargers 36. Tomlinson hadn’t turned around and the ball went right to Johnson.
Huard threw an 11-yard pass to Larry Johnson, then, after an incompletion, hit tight end Tony Gonzalez in double coverage for a 22-yard touchdown that tied it.
Tomlinson had only 16 yards in the second half.
“I think our defense settled down in the second half and did what they had to do and stop that runner and to keep that quarterback guessing,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “So I think we did a great job.”