Like most of you, I was frustrated and disappointed not only with the fact that the Chargers lost to the Patriots this past weekend, but with the manner in which they lost. Poor coaching, poor execution, and inexplicable mental errors lead to losing a game that they might have won. At the same time, I think it's important to try and maintain perspective and not attach too much importance to one loss. Some of the overreaction to one game in Week 2 (!) of a 16-game season borders on the manic.
The obvious: the Patriots are probably the best team in the NFL right now. They certainly were last year, and things don't appear to have changed. The Chargers had to go on the road, in Week 2, to play in the Patriots' home opener on a day in which they honored the memory of Myra Kraft. All these factors pointed to a game that would be near impossible for San Diego to win. And they didn't win. But you know what? It wasn't as terrible as it could have been. Despite all those factors going against them, the Chargers had their chances late and didn't get blown out. They lost by two touchdowns--a solid defeat to be sure, but not a blowout. And the things that lead to the loss--poor gameplanning and mental errors, are eminently fixable. Sometimes they get fixed (like in 2007 and 2009), and sometimes they don't (like in 2010), but it's far easier to deal with those things than with an overall lack of talent, which these Chargers certainly don't have. After all, we could be the Chiefs.
Let's look at some other teams who have suffered losses as bad or worse than the one the Chargers just endured:In 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers were 15-1 and the #1 seed in the AFC. The one loss, however, was a Week 2 smackdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens (who would finish 9-7; hardly world-beaters) where they lost 30-13. Pittsburgh didn't lose another game until the AFC Championship.
Also in 2004, the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots, finished the season 14-2, one game behind the Steelers. Despite this, they suffered a stunning loss at the hands of the 4-12 Miami Dolphins in Week 15 on Monday Night Football. Such eminent names as A.J. Feely and Derrius Thompson handed New England their second loss of the year.
In 2010, the New England Patriots finished the season 14-2 and were the AFC's #1 seed. Their two losses were a Week 2 contest at New York against the Jets, which they lost 28-14, and a game at Cleveland in Week 9, where the 5-11 Browns would win handily by a score of 34-14.
Also in 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, lost at home in Week 10 to the Patriots 39-26 in a game the Patriots dominated.
Lastly, right now in 2011, the Steelers were utterly destroyed in Week 1 on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, a game they lost 35-7. Despite this, the Steelers remain a heavy favorite in the AFC, and no one thinks they're going to miss the playoffs or threaten to return to the Super Bowl.
The point of this exercise is to illustrate how it's important not to get hung up about one loss, on the road, in Week 2, to the best team in football. The Chargers may not see the Patriots again. If they do, it'll be a new day and a new game, one in which perhaps they make fewer mistakes, or the Patriots make A mistake.
So vent to your heart's content. But remember, there are still 14 games to go. This was the absolute hardest game on the Chargers' schedule, period. It only gets easier from here.