I know the defense was missing their best cornerback (Shareece Wright) and both starting inside linebackers (Donald Butler and Manti Te'o). I know that a gaffe with filing the inactive list left Tourek Williams as a healthy inactive player and Butler as an unhealthy active player, but the San Diego Chargers defense once again blew a fourth quarter lead by being passive with their playcalling.
This was an ugly game from the beginning, filled with plenty of missed tackles, dropped passes, penalties and injuries for both sides, but the final game-winning drive by Jake Locker and the Tennessee Titans really helped to file it under "heartbreak losses for the Chargers." Especially when Marcus Gilchrist dropped an easy interception that would've sealed the win for San Diego.
On paper, San Diego should've won this game. They didn't turn the ball over once. Philip Rivers had four incomplete passes for the entire game. Ryan Mathews' 3.6 yards-per-carry wasn't great, but wasn't terrible, and Danny Woodhead's 6.2 yards-per-carry was fantastic.
So, why didn't the offense score more points? Well, Philip Rivers wasn't as good as his numbers suggest. It wasn't entirely his fault. With D.J. Fluker and Chad Rinehart missing all and most of the game, respectively, and King Dunlap missing the last series, the Chargers had a tough time keeping pressure away from Rivers. Pair that with Malcom Floyd's absence and there was almost no big-play threat for San Diego. They tried to dink-and-dunk their way down the field and it didn't work (two of their three scoring drives started in Tennessee territory).
This is also a good place to point out that Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt are terrified of what Rivers might do in the fourth quarter of a close game, and defenses are picking up on it. Until the final drive, where the Chargers were trying to go 80 yards in 15 seconds, San Diego had passed the ball once in the fourth quarter and ran it nine times. When they were up 17-13, with the ball and six minutes left in the game, San Diego ran the ball seven consecutive times before punting. Not a single pass was thrown. If the Chargers want to start winning these close games, they're going to need Rivers to be steady enough to balance the offense and make plays in the fourth quarter.
The defense was about as useful as a wet paper bag. Jake Locker, who is not a very good QB, racked up 299 passing yards and 68 rushing yards all by himself. Chris Johnson picked up 90 rushing yards without breaking a sweat. Nate Washington had 131 receiving yards on 8 catches, making it obvious that Johnny Patrick can't cover an NFL wide receiver. The two times that they got to Locker for sacks included Reggie Walker being unblocked and Larry English getting a coverage sack.
The depth isn't there. That much we already knew. We hoped that the coaching might be enough to overcome the depth issues against a Tennessee team that is obviously limited on offense, but John Pagano looked completely clueless on how to adjust his defense to stop Locker's runs or how to defend deep passes.
This is by no means the end of the season, but the Chargers went into this game with a fairly normal amount of injuries. Barring some sort of miracle string of good health over the next fourteen weeks, San Diego can expect to be giving up a lot more yards and at least a few more game-winning drives for opposing teams.