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SPOTLIGHT

Chargers can't defend it

September 15, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

San Diego's defense is as soft as a gentle ocean breeze.

Yes, Shawne Merriman is done for the season, but the Chargers shouldn't be this bad on that side of the ball. First, they fell apart down the stretch against Carolina, even though the Panthers had a rusty Jake Delhomme and were without star receiver Steve Smith.

And Sunday, Denver rolled up 486 yards, and Jay Cutler, who was never sacked, threw four touchdown passes in a 39-38 victory.

So what's the problem?

The Chargers' front three looks average at best, in part because Jamal Williams is playing on two creaky knees, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who predicted this summer he'd get 15 interceptions, is too often gambling to make a big play. Not only that, but last season's leading tackler, Stephen Cooper, is halfway through a four-game suspension for taking a banned stimulant.

Next up, San Diego plays host to the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football." And remember, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers roasted them last season at Lambeau Field.

If this keeps up, the Chargers will really start to get defensive -- about their record.

Porous defense aside, the Chargers should have won that game. But, while trying to protect a seven-point lead, they were burned by a bad call in the final two minutes.

On second and goal from the one, Cutler rolled out and lost the ball with a bar-of-soap fumble that the Chargers recovered at the 10. Referee Ed Hochuli ruled it an incomplete pass, though, and blew his whistle to signal the play dead. Even though the replay booth overturned the call, the Chargers were denied the turnover because of that whistle.

"It was clearly a fumble," San Diego Coach Norv Turner said. "Ed, the official, came over to me and said he blew the whistle, and that is not acceptable to me. This is a high-level performance sport and it is not acceptable to have the refs decide it on that play."

Kiffin may lose job

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting the Raiders are on the verge of firing Coach Lane Kiffin, and could do so today or Tuesday .

Kiffin clearly wants out, and has done very little to disguise his frustration with owner Al Davis pulling all the strings. The only way the Raiders will ever become relevant again is when Davis backs off and allows his coach to, well, coach. Don't hold your breath.

Rams sputter

No wonder there were $5 tickets on StubHub for the Giants-Rams game. It's hard to imagine St. Louis looking much worse.

At one point, the Giants' blown coverage left Torry Holt wide open down the middle of the field. It was a sure touchdown . . . until Marc Bulger overthrew Holt by five yards. Can't blame Bulger if he's a little skittish. He's already been sacked 10 times this season.

Giant help . . . to opponent

The strangest touchdown of the season so far: Bulger to Holt, by way of New York rookie Kenny Phillips. The first-round safety had great position on the goal line and nearly picked off the pass. The ball bounced off his hands, though, and into the waiting arms of Holt, who was lying on his back in the end zone.

Rodgers is getting it done

Boy, did I underestimate Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. He's been sensational in his first two games, completing 69% of his passes for 506 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Sure takes the heat off Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy for letting Favre go.

But did the 49ers make a mistake by drafting Alex Smith instead of Rodgers? Probably not. It's unlikely either of them would have thrived in that situation.

How close is close?

Dallas Clark is Peyton Manning's security blanket, so the Indianapolis passing game runs a lot smoother with that sure-handed tight end on the field. Clark missed Sunday's game because he had his knee tweaked in the opener. The Colts make it sound like Clark is oh-so-close to coming back.

But how much can we trust those injury updates. Last season, week after week, we heard the same thing about banged-up receiver Marvin Harrison. He missed the last 11 games of the regular season.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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