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Chargers try to right the ship against lowly Chiefs
(Sports Network) - As the quarterback carousel continues to revolve for Kansas City, the coaching carousel is at least being warmed up in San Diego.
Matt Cassel will be back under center for the Chiefs on Thursday night when the club visits its AFC West rival, the Chargers and embattled head coach Norv Turner.
Cassel will start Thursday in place of Brady Quinn, who has not been cleared to practice after suffering a concussion in Kansas City's 26-16 setback to Oakland last Sunday. Cassel, of course, began the season as the starter for the Chiefs before losing the job due to ineffectiveness along with his own concussion, suffered in early October against Baltimore.
"Sometimes a second chance energizes a guy," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said when talking about Cassel. "He wants to do well, and whatever role he was in, he didn't like it, but he said, 'I'm going to do my job. I'm a Chief, and I'm going to be ready if I'm called on.'"
"I'm excited to be playing," Cassel added. "My approach doesn't change. I'm going to go out, I'm going to work hard. It's unfortunate for Brady, but at the same time, we have to move forward. It's a short week. Preparation has to be put in."
Quinn will not be available at all on Thursday. meaning Iowa product Ricky Stanzi will serve as the backup to Cassel and will be a play away from getting his chance to cure the Chiefs' offensive woes.
Quinn was hurt in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Raiders after getting hammered on back-to-back plays. He was sacked by Rolando McClain and then took another hard hit on a pass attempt that was picked off by Matt Giordano.
Cassel finished 20-for-30 with 218 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief for the 1-6 Chiefs, who have yet to hold a lead in regulation this season and have dropped four straight games overall.
"We were in the game and then some things happened that turned the game around," Crennel said. "In the second half, particularly, we weren't able to come back and get done the things that we needed to do to win the game."
A promising 3-1 start, which included a 37-20 drubbing of the Chiefs in the City of Fountains on Sept. 30, has morphed into three straight losses for Turner and the Chargers, including's last Sunday's impotent 7-6 setback in the rain and wind of Cleveland.
The Browns' Trent Richardson had a 26-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter which proved to be the difference in that one, as Cleveland held off San Diego the rest of the way.
Philip Rivers connected on 18-of-34 passes for 154 yards for the Chargers in Cleveland while Ryan Mathews carried the ball 24 times for 95 yards.
San Diego had one last chance to pull the game out in the waning moments, starting from its own 12-yard line with 2:36 to play. Rivers led the visitors to the 44-yard line of the Browns. However, four incomplete passes in a row resulted in a turnover on downs.
"The conditions didn't help," Rivers said. "We just need to finish some of those drives."
Playing poorly for significant stretches has been a problem for the Chargers under Turner recently. San Diego got off to a 2-5 start in 2010 and went through an ugly six-game losing streak in 2011, missing the playoffs in both seasons.
"We've not been able to put together the kind of consistency we need to," said Turner. "It is an extremely challenging situation for our football team."
To make matters worse for Turner, the fans in San Diego have started to show their unhappiness with their wallets and the team's home games are often on the brink of a local blackout.
"You're coaching on a week-to-week basis," said Turner. "I'm coaching to do the best job I can to get our team ready to play Kansas City. All those other conversations (about his job), they're going to take place."
The Chiefs lead the all-time series with a slim 52-51-1 advantage but San Diego has won nine of the past 12 meetings, including four straight in Southern California.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
With the unsettled situation continuing at the quarterback position, look for Kansas City to rely on running back Jamaal Charles, who spearheads an AFC- best rushing attack which averages 155.1 rush yards per game. Charles, however, is coming off an awful performance in Cleveland when he carried the ball five times for just four yards.
Charles is averaging 6.2 yards per carry in his career vs. Chargers (56 att., 346 yards) and has been effective for most of this season, netting 103.7 scrimmage yards per game.
Cassel, on the other hand, has performed poorly in 2012 but he's clearly still the better option over Quinn, who settles for his check down far too early and often. Cassel, who has been responsible for 16 turnovers by himself -- more than all but three NFL teams, needs to take better care of the football.
"He knows he's going to have to play, and he's going to do the best he can," Crennel said. "We have to help him as well, and if we all take the same attitude we'll be successful."
The Chargers would love to put the heat on Cassel but their pass rush has been virtually non-existent so far this season. Shaun Phillips has been San Diego's top pass rusher with five sacks but the team as a whole has just 12 on the season.
"He's a good player and I know he's capable of making the plays," Turner said when talking about Cassel. "They have outstanding receivers. They have been a very productive offense with the one factor; that they turn the ball over. They run the ball extremely well and they throw the ball extremely well. He leads the offense very well."
San Diego has not scored a touchdown in six quarters and that's just not acceptable when your head coach is supposed to be an offensive genius and your quarterback is a veteran Pro Bowler. Long one of the NFL's most successful and prolific passers, Rivers has been pedestrian this season thanks to some faulty pass protection.
Conversely about the only positive for the Kansas City defense so far has been its bookend pass rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. That said the Chiefs have allowed a mind-numbing 29.9 points per game.
Things won't get any easier this week since San Diego could be without two of its top three receivers. Eddie Royal is listed as doubtful after not practicing the entire week due to a hamstring injury that also kept him out of loss in Cleveland while Robert Meachem is also dealing with a sore hamstring, but went through limited practices the past two days and is questionable on the final injury report.
"I think that it's about execution," Chargers running back Ronnie Brown said when talking about the team's offensive woes. "Everybody has to be on the same page. I think the difference between being a good team and a great team is being consistent. Right now we're not at that point. But at the same time we're striving and pushing in the right direction. Mentally, everyone is focused on trying to do that."
Rivers did throw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers 37-20 win at Kansas City back on Sept. 30. Overall, the veteran is 6-1 at home against the Chiefs but did throw nine interceptions in those games.
It's been a disastrous season so far for Kansas City, which is the first team since 1940 to go seven games into a season without holding a lead during regulation at any point. The Chiefs have given the ball away an NFL-worst 25 times and their team passing rating is a league-low 64.4. Needless to say, that's not a recipe for winning football.
"When you lose, it gets tough on you, mentally, you know?" Crennel said. "You wonder about who you played, what you could have done differently, why things are happening the way they're happening. You get down a little bit. We have to get them to put this behind us."
Since the AFC West is no longer one of the top divisions in football, a struggling Chargers team has a chance to climb right back into the mix if they can hold serve against a bad Kansas City club.
The Chargers typically have big hiccups under Turner and then find their stride sometime in late October or early November. The Chiefs, who are on the verge of losing five straight for the first time since Nov. 29-Dec. 27, 2009, are the perfect club to kick start things against as long as San Diego's offensive line can keep Rivers clean.
"It is a quick turnaround," Turner said. "I think our guys have responded extremely well. Our focus is obviously getting ready for the game. There are things that you'd like to spend more time covering from the last game, but that's hard to do."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chargers 24, Chiefs 14
11/01 09:29:29 ET