Mired in a three-game losing streak, the San Diego Chargers are looking for answers while the job security of coach Norv Turner is once again being questioned.
With Kansas City stuck in a four-game slide and tied for the worst record in the NFL, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel might also face an uncertain future if he can't get things turned around.
The AFC West foes look to end their skids Thursday night when the Chargers try to sweep the season series with a fifth consecutive home victory over the Chiefs.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is one of the most disliked players in the league. That's because he talks … a lot. Over the course of his career, he’s taunted fans when the San Diego Chargers have been on the road and he's taunted opponents on numerous occasions. Even some of his own fans have wished that Rivers would just shut up and play.
On a Monday night last Halloween, Rivers led the Chargers into Arrowhead Stadium with a chance to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Rivers had been his usual talkative self and had San Diego poised to win the game. The Chargers had the ball at the Kansas City 15 with less than a minute to go. Soon, the game – and the division lead – would be in the hands of the visitors from Southern California.
That is, until fate, karma or just plain old bad luck intervened.
Rivers called for the snap on a first-down play and somehow, inexplicably, closed his hands before the snap from Nick Hardwick arrived. The ball clanked off the back of Rivers' left hand and flopped around on the Arrowhead Stadium turf.
Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker recovered the miscue. The game eventually went to overtime and Ryan Succop won it for Kansas City with a 30-yard field goal to give the Chiefs a 23-20 victory.
Instead of a one-game lead in the division, the Chargers left K.C. tied with the Oakland Raiders and the Chiefs at 4-3.
How much can one game cost you in the NFL? The Chargers wound up 8-8 in 2011 and lost the division on a tiebreaker.
– Phil Watson
After winning three of four, San Diego (3-4) is again stuck in a rut that has become commonplace in recent years. The Chargers started 2-5 in 2010 and endured a six-game skid in 2011, missing the playoffs in both seasons.
San Diego blew a 10-point lead during a 31-24 loss at New Orleans on Oct. 7 and followed that by giving up a 24-0 cushion in a 35-24 home defeat to Denver. On Sunday, the Chargers came off their bye and managed 265 yards in a 7-6 loss at lowly Cleveland.
"We've not been able to put together the kind of consistency we need to,'' said Turner, whose team has not scored a touchdown in six quarters. "It is an extremely challenging situation for our football team.''
In his sixth season with the Chargers, Turner has again come under fire from a fan base that is willing to stay home and has pushed this contest to the brink of a local TV blackout.
"You're coaching on a week-to-week basis,'' said Turner, who has not spoken about his job status with general manager A.J. Smith or team president Dean Spanos. "I'm coaching to do the best job I can to get our team ready to play Kansas City. All those other conversations, they're going to take place. You know they're going to take place.''
It seems the Chargers have a good chance to end their skid against the Chiefs (1-6), who allow 29.9 points per contest and have lost eight of 10 to San Diego - including four straight at Qualcomm Stadium. Philip Rivers threw for 209 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 37-20 win at Kansas City on Sept. 30.
Rivers has completed 62.3 percent of his passes but thrown seven TDs and nine picks while going 6-1 at home versus Kansas City. After throwing four interceptions against the Broncos, he was 18 of 34 for a season-low 154 yards at Cleveland.
Ryan Mathews gained 95 yards against the Browns, but he has yet to rush for 100 yards and has one TD this season. He ran for 61 yards and caught two passes for 21 against the Chiefs earlier this year.
Kansas City is in danger of losing five straight for the first time since Nov. 29-Dec. 27, 2009. Coming off a 26-16 home loss to Oakland on Sunday, the Chiefs are the first team since at least 1940 to go their first seven games without holding a lead in regulation. Their only win came in overtime, 27-24 at New Orleans on Sept. 23.
"When you lose, it gets tough on you, mentally, you know?" Crennel said. "You wonder about who you played, what you could have done differently, why things are happening the way they're happening.
"You get down a little bit. We have to get them to put this behind us.''
Though in his first full season as Kansas City's coach, Crennel along with general manager Scott Pioli could be feeling the heat.
Matt Cassel will start at quarterback after Brady Quinn took a blow to the head against the Raiders. Crennel said Tuesday that doctors have not cleared Quinn to practice, so Cassel will be the starter and Ricky Stanzi the backup.
Quinn went 2 of 4 for one yard and a pick before getting injured last week. Cassel was 20 of 30 for 218 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his place.
The Chiefs have an NFL-high 25 turnovers and their passer rating is a league-low 64.4.
Kansas City needs Jamaal Charles to get back on track after he ran five times for four yards versus Oakland. Charles averaged 110.2 rushing yards the first five games, but has been held to 44 on 17 carries in the last two.
He recorded 111 total yards and two TDs against the Chargers in September. Cassel threw for 251 with two TDs and three picks in that contest.