JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Even with two losing teams that are all but eliminated from playoff contention, there is no shortage of story lines for Monday night’s game between slumping San Diego and reeling Jacksonville.
The Chargers (4-7) have lost six in a row after an uncharacteristically fast start. Philip Rivers has more turnovers through 11 games than he had in any of his previous seven seasons. His makeshift offensive line probably will be without left tackle Brandyn Dombrowski, who has been filling in for injured Pro Bowler Marcus McNeil. And speculation about coach Norv Turner’s future has become more prevalent than talk about a new stadium.
The Jaguars (3-8) have endured the newsiest week in the franchise’s 17 seasons. Owner Wayne Weaver fired coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday and announced he has agreed to sell the team. He also gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension, putting him in charge of the coaching search.
Interim coach Mel Tucker fired receivers coach Johnny Cox, reassigned quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard, waived starting receiver Jason Hill and changed the tempo of practices. The Jaguars also put three more players on injured reserve, giving them a league-high 20 guys done for the season.
All those angles could overshadow the game.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “I’ve never even heard of anything like this. It’s crazy, but it can’t make anything worse, right? There’s only one direction to go from here.”
The Chargers feel the same way.
They have their longest losing streak since dropping nine straight between the end of the 2002 season and the beginning of the 2003 seasons.
Rivers’ inconsistency and significant injuries have been the main culprits, which have left the Chargers three games behind Oakland with five to play.
“There is nothing I can say or nothing we can do to change any of the past games or change the fact that we’ve lost six in a row,” Rivers said. “But we get an opportunity to play again Monday and you just go. The spirits are high here, not in a sense of not disappointed. We’re disappointed and nobody is pleased around here, obviously, but as far as the mindset of, ‘Hey let’s go out and do all we can do win the next one.'”
Rivers has 17 interceptions after throwing just 13 all of last season, and he’s come up short in the fourth quarter several times. The result has been close losses, including two in overtime.
“If you try to play careful and keep from turning it over, you won’t make any plays,” he said. “I’ve never purposely been careless. You look at our turnovers this year. The majority of them have been just miss throws. I was fooled a few times and misreads and a few balls were deflected, but the majority of them are just miss throws. Those happen. Obviously you hope they don’t happen as much as they have, but they have happened.
“You can’t let really any past throw affect the next throw because you know you’ve got to go continue to make plays. You keep throwing it and that’s just what we’ve done and that’s just what I’m going to do.”
Although Dombrowski is unlikely to play because of a foot injury — the Chargers already have McNeil and left guard Kris Dielman on injured reserve — Rivers and the offense could get a boost with the return of receiver Malcolm Floyd.
Floyd has been sidelined since Oct. 31 because of a hip injury. He is expected to return Monday, giving the team a proven threat opposite Vincent Jackson. On critical passing downs, defenses have played bracket coverage on Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates, and forced rookie Vincent Brown to beat them.
Floyd should pose more of a challenge.
“He brings a different dimension,” Gates said. “Experience is experience. Him singled up is a whole different game.”
Jacksonville doesn’t seem equipped to cover anyone.
Having already placed starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox on IR, the Jaguars lost backup Will Middleton (knee) on Saturday. That means rookie Kevin Rutland likely will make his first start against the Chargers. Ashton Youboty, signed off the street on Nov. 15, will make his second start on the opposite side.
The Jaguars also will be without defensive ends Matt Roth (concussion) and Aaron Kampman (hamstring). Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (ankle) is questionable after missing the last three games.
With all that has happened in Jacksonville this week, players and coaches want to find rally around each other and make something positive happen.
“There’s always a good amount of pressure,” Tucker said. “Actually the pressure is a motivating factor. We’re not going to walk the halls with doubt relative to how we’ve prepared, and all you can do is prepare to win.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.