Football is a game of intensity and emotion. As four time defending division champs, a team with a history of reinventing themselves in Nov. and Dec., and being consistently told that you are the most talented team in football, the Chargers had a hard time getting up for teams they were suppose to beat. When teams started fast and got out to an early lead (KC, Cincy, Oakland, etc.), the Chargers didn't panic (which is good) but sometimes didn't react at all (which lead to losses.) As crappy as the special teams were with Crosby rightfully canned, the Chargers have too much confidence in their own "talent" and offense to save them and rack up points like a bouncing ball in a pinball game.
As much as Philip Rivers has become more mainstream and likeable to the national press, I worry that he has come too much like his coach, Norv Turner. He has grown more cerebral and mature and while still hyper-competitive, he seems to work to control outward displays of his emotions much like Norv. I don't believe that Norv is an idiot or should be fired, but I think even his supporters will admit that motivating players is not his strength.
I kind of missed the Jawing Rivers who got under people's skin. I saw him sometimes yelling at his practice squad receivers who misran routes and dropped routes but I'd like to see him be even more impatient. In the past, he maybe broke the decorum of a franchise quarterback by trash-talking to defenders and fans, but it gave the Chargers some swagger like other playoff teams (Tom Brady's pointing and Aaron Rodgers belt-wielding.) Yes, it is the NFL; this team has been there before and they are highly-paid professionals but just like Shaq when he played with Lakers, its hard to get up for a regular season game against a lowly team when you've already made it to the playoffs for four consecutive years.
On the other side of the ball, Rivera also did a great job with having people do their jobs but also took a cerebral, methodical approach. Rivera made the most of players and focused on minimizing the big plays which led to the #1 defense in terms of yard allowed and 2nd in sacks but not the #1 defense in terms of points allowed where they finished a respectable tenth yet forced only 23 turnovers. The lack of turnovers which was much less than other top defenses that made it to the playoffs such as the Packers (32), Patriots (38), Steelers (45), Bears (44), and pretty low for a Rivera defense that focuses on creating game-changing turnovers. The focus was on doing their jobs and getting off the field but the emotion on defense comes from forcing turnovers, scoring and changing the game.
Know that Norv is not likely to change, the Chargers need emotional leaders to kick some asses, light a fire when they fall behind, and create some urgency in games. Rivers has the credibility and likeablity to be that on offense. With Merriman gone, veterans like Cooper or possibly Jammer, Weddle or Phillips need to step up to fill that role on defense. The problem is that if all the leaders are hyper-rational and calm then the game becomes just going through the motions which is what I believe happened last year. Emotional leadership doesn't have to be trash-talking in the Jets mold but can be rallying the troops and yelling a little like a Marino, Fouts, Peyton or Drew Brees.