There’s a certain kind of special insanity associated with doing the same action repeatedly, and expecting a different result. Example: I have some bad plumbing in my bathroom that I’m not bothering to fix because I’m moving soon anyway. I’m fully aware of the problem, yet nearly every morning, the following sequence of events happens: I begin a cozy, soothing warm shower, possibly singing a nursery rhyme of some kind while forgetting about the impending pain. Suddenly, the water turns to ice, and then it’s scalding, and then it’s back to ice again, with no warning whatsoever.
The Chargers have their own plumbing problems, except they’re not just willfully ignorant. They’re in denial, and have been for quite some time. Last night was the pinnacle of Norv Turner’s historic reign of gameplan stubbornness alongside his perpetually stumbling sidekick, Philip Rivers.
And really, are you surprised? And are you not entertained? Yes to the latter, and a hesitant yes to the former. As predictably unreliable as the Chargers have been in the second half of games and more importantly the second half of seasons, this was an all-time new low. A historic low.
There was the script before us, written perfectly when the Chargers led the division-rival Broncos 24-0 at halftime. It was a lead handed to them by a string of Denver mistakes, including a muffed punt, another fumble on a kickoff, Eric Decker tripping over a hazardous 40-yard line on what should have been an easy touchdown, and then several plays later a miscommunication between Peyton Manning and Matt Willis that led to a pick six.
At first, the Chargers’ answer was to function like any competent, winning team. You know, simple stuff that cliché spewing talking heads vocally erupt daily. They capitalized on mistakes, showed poise and moxie, and rah rah, blah blah. And then the inevitable unravel began.
Manning threw three touchdowns and chucked 167 of his 309 total passing yards in the second half with only one incompletion on 14 attempts, and the Broncos scored 35 unanswered points. They finally completed a comeback after trailing by at least 20 points in each of their three losses, and still losing those games by only a combined 22 points. It wasn’t just remarkable, it was a little historic for several reasons:
- The Broncos’ 35 points set a franchise record for points scored in a half.
- Manning’s fourth quarter game-winning drive that culminated in a 21-yard pass to Brandon Stokely was the 47th game-winning drive of his career, tying him with Dan Marino for the all-time led in that category. I suppose that’s as close as we’ll ever come to a “clutch” stat for the narrative fabricators.
- Prior to last night, there had been only four games since 1940 in which a team with a lead of 24 or more points at halftime didn’t win.
So yes, this was an all-time new low for a franchise that’s continually redefining second-half suck. It comes after the Chargers lost six straight games last year after starting out 4-1. Four of those losses were by a touchdown or less, and two featured hilariously blown second-half leads that eventually finished in losses by less than a field goal.
And there was this…
Striving to establish new heights in herp derpism, Turner was unable to make the required adjustments once the momentum began to swing, and for reasons which can only percolate in his mind he handed the ball to a running back only 10 times in the second half while protecting a lead that exceeded three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Rivers continually and inexplicably made poor decisions and threw wayward, wobbling balls, leading to four interceptions. Even last year when he threw 20 interceptions — easily a career high — Rivers’ highest single-game INT total was three. Last night was a new career high in that category, or rather a low after 106 game appearances over nine years.
Under pressure, he wilts as though it’s a natural reaction. And again and again, Rivers and Turner have the worst day ever.