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Smith: Inconsistent play could lead to disaster for Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- Shocked by their 1-3 start, the San Diego Chargers are thankful the AFC West is so mediocre.

If they were in any other division, they might really be in trouble.

"We're not playing well," general manager A.J. Smith said Monday, a day after the Chargers let the Kansas City Chiefs score 24 straight points in the second half to take a 30-16 win at Qualcomm Stadium. "We've had very inconsistent play. As a matter of fact, we're playing in spurts, and that usually means disaster.

"We need to come out of this. We need to make a move quickly. I mean, the only good thing I see out of this is that I think we're fortunate. When I look at the division, and we're looking up, there are three teams that are 2-2. We're fortunate that somebody in our division did not pull out of the gate 4-0 or 3-1."

Every other division is led by a team that's either undefeated or has only one loss.

The Chargers have lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2003, when they were an NFL-worst 4-12.

The loss to Kansas City opened a stretch of three straight division games for the Chargers, who were a league-best 14-2 last year before their playoff meltdown against New England. The play Sunday at Denver, where they hardly ever win.

Yes, the Chargers won at Denver last season after rallying from a 24-7 deficit for a 35-27 victory. But the Chargers haven't had consecutive wins in Denver since 1967-68, back in the teams' AFL days. In the last 24 years, San Diego has won only four times in the Mile High City.

"Obviously the odds are against you when you get behind like that in Denver," quarterback Philip Rivers said Monday. "We need to get off to a good start again and hopefully put a game together."

That's been the big problem.

After winning their opener against the Chicago Bears, the Chargers were embarrassed at New England, blew chances at Green Bay, then came from ahead to lose to the Chiefs, who had scored only 26 points combined in their first three games.

After taking leads of 10-0 after their first two possessions and 16-6 at halftime, the Chargers were shut out by the Chiefs in the second half.

Rivers had two interceptions and one fumble Sunday, which led to 17 Chiefs points. He completed only 21 of 42 passes for 211 yards and no touchdowns. His passer rating was 44.8.

Rivers was one of the team's 11 Pro Bowlers last year, although he didn't play due to a foot injury. He's already committed nine turnovers -- six interceptions and three fumbles -- compared to five TD passes.

"Just way too many turnovers," Rivers said. "Again, I'm going to work to get that fixed. That's never been a problem that I've had and I don't expect it to continue to be one."

While LaDainian Tomlinson finally cracked triple digits in a game by rushing for 132 yards and one touchdown, the reigning league MVP carried only six times for 16 yards in the second half.

The Chargers gave up a 51-yard catch-and-run from Damon Huard to rookie Dwayne Bowe, and rookie cornerback Tyron Brackenridge picked up Rivers' fumble and ran it back 50 yards for another score.

Even the fans piled on. When they got tired of booing Rivers, they started chanting "MAR-TY! MAR-TY! MAR-TY!" That was in reference to Marty Schottenheimer, who was fired as coach in February in large part because of his icy relationship with Smith. He was replaced by Norv Turner.

Smith heard the chants. He didn't think much of them, "except the fans are passionate. They want to win every game and win a world championship. Period. It's day-to-day for them."

The Chargers have looked unproductive and disorganized under Turner and new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. But the coaches aren't to blame, outside linebacker Shaun Phillips said.

"I just hate the fact that Norv has to take scrutiny, and it's not his fault," Phillips said. "Coach Turner, he's the head man and he runs the show. But bottom line, we take every snap. Norv ain't never had a chance to throw a fourth-down pass or cover somebody on fourth down in the NFL. So it's all about us, and we need to hold ourselves accountable."

Turner's overall record in three NFL head coaching gigs tumbled to 59-85-1.

"I understand the responsibilities of the job I have," Turner said. "I'm ultimately the one who's responsible. So it's my job to get the things done we're talking about. The inconsistencies, the problems we're having with turnovers, giving up plays. I've got to get those things eliminated."

The Chargers don't think their frustration is going to spin out of control.

"I think we've got the right guys to bounce back," Rivers said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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