Chargers blame selves for collapse
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—No use praising the opponents when you self-destruct.
That's how the Chargers felt Sunday after losing 27-21 to the New York Jets, an outcome determined in San Diego's view on its turnovers, penalties and utter collapse in the second half.
"We had them and we took our foot off the gas. I'm not giving credit to anybody," Chargers tight end Randy McMichael said after his team was blanked in the last two quarters after building a 21-10 lead. "This is our fault. It had nothing to do with anyone on their team. The guys in this locker room, we lost the game."
They lost it by committing 13 penalties for 95 yards, throwing two fourth-quarter interceptions that set up New York's last 10 points, and leaving cornerback Antoine Cason to cover Plaxico Burress all day. Burress managed a mere three TDs on his four catches.
"The San Diego Chargers beat the San Diego Chargers," McMichael said. "Nothing to do with the New York Jets. It's embarrassing."
San Diego (4-2) played a spotless game in beating Denver before having its bye. Against the Jets (4-3), it was as sloppy as possible.
"It's disappointing," said coach Norv Turner. He had the normal handshake after the game with Jets coach Rex Ryan, who earlier in the week seemed to diss Turner's coaching success with the Chargers.
"We played a game two weeks ago and had zero penalties for zero yards. We didn't handle that nearly as well today. There were a lot of bang-bang plays in the pass coverage. Those are tough calls on the officials. They are tough plays on the DBs."
Not so tough, according to safety Eric Weddle.
"Some of those calls were pretty bad," Weddle said. "It's frustrating when, as a defense, you play your heart out to win and they call them in key situations."
Plus, Burress had the big breakout game the Jets have been waiting for.
Leading 21-17, the Chargers were driving when Philip Rivers threw to Vincent Jackson and the ball tipped off the receiver's hands right to Darrelle Revis, who returned the interception 64 yards to the Chargers 19.
Revis had two interceptions on Monday night, including a 100-yard touchdown return, in a win against Miami.
After a few runs by Shonn Greene and a defensive holding penalty, Mark Sanchez found Burress on a slant for a 3-yard touchdown with 8:41 remaining. It was Burress' second three-TD catch game of his career, and first since 2007 with the Giants.
San Diego turned it over again on third-and-6 from its 41 and Kyle Wilson picked off Rivers for the first interception of his career.
Nick Folk's 30-yard field goal with 1:36 left made it 27-21. San Diego had one last shot for a winning drive, but couldn't really threaten.
"We just didn't finish off the game," Rivers said. "If we played the second half like we played the first, it would have been a two-touchdown victory."
The Jets headed into their bye-week break with two straight wins -- both at home -- after a three-game road losing streak. It's their first 4-0 start at home since 2004.
Sanchez finished 18 of 33 for 173 yards. Burress had just four catches for 25 yards, but he provided the red-zone presence the Jets hoped he'd be when they signed him as a free agent after he served 20 months in prison on a gun charge.
Greene had a season-high 112 yards on 20 carries. LaDainian Tomlinson, facing his former team for the first time since signing with the Jets last offseason, became the fourth running back in NFL history with 600 catches before leaving in the fourth quarter with the flu.
The Chargers took an early lead and would have been up by a bunch if not for their mistakes.
Mike Tolbert gave San Diego a 21-10 lead with 1:16 remaining in the first half on a 1-yard run. The drive went 87 yards on 11 plays, helped by a 29-yard run by Tolbert that drew an angry first pump on the sideline from Ryan. Three plays later, Malcom Floyd made an acrobatic one-handed catch.
From the 8, Jim Leonhard was called for pass interference on Antonio Gates, and Tolbert bulldozed his way into the end zone.
New York capped a 10-play drive on Burress' 4-yard touchdown catch that made it 21-17 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
The Chargers took a 7-0 lead just 1:49 into the game. Sanchez was hit and threw a wobbly pass to Dustin Keller, who caught the ball but had it ripped out of his hands by Donald Butler.
The linebacker ran down the sideline into the end zone, and capped his touchdown with a mock tribute to Tomlinson by sticking out his arm and flipping the ball off his fingertips, something the Jets running back does when he scores.
Tomlinson, sixth on the NFL's career rushing list, midway through the first quarter joined Larry Centers (827), Marshall Faulk (767) and Keith Byars (610) as running backs with 600 or more receptions. He got No. 600 on a 6-yard shovel pass from Sanchez on third-and-7 from the Chargers 22. The Jets kicked a field goal on the next play to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Weddle returned a second-quarter interception 25 yards to the Chargers 24 and San Diego went on a 14-play scoring drive capped by Gates' 2-yard catch.
Gates had missed three straight games with a flare-up of plantar fasciitis in his right foot after tearing scar tissue near the injury Sept. 18 against New England.
The Jets came right back as Burress caught a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10. The Jets were helped by four Chargers penalties -- two pass interference calls and two offsides -- on the drive.
Rivers was 16 of 32 for 179 yards and a touchdown, but also had the two costly interceptions.