What's wrong with the San Diego Chargers

By Randy Youngman

The Orange County Register

(MCT)

Spraying to all fields, wondering how much to read into the Chargers' 24-20 victory Monday night in Oakland:

Is the come-from-behind victory in the closing seconds against a 10-point underdog a sign of Chargers' struggles to come, or are the Raiders going to be a much-improved team this season?

It's too soon to know, but it's easy to figure out which way sports columnist Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune is leaning on that issue. He gave Norv Turner and his coaching staff a big fat "F'' after the Chargers' season-opening escape.

"It seems as though Norv Turner spent too much time talking about successful beginnings," Canepa wrote. "So did Edward Smith. Smith was captain of the Titanic. . . . The Chargers came out weak, feverish, a bunch of rotten banana peels thrown into a wood chipper, and were fortunate to come away with a win."

The Chargers were extremely fortunate to have an Oakland touchdown catch overturned after a video review — a questionable reversal at best.

They also were fortunate to survive LaDainian Tomlinson's first lost fumble in 987 touches, on a shovel pass in which he sprained an ankle, and to survive a go-ahead, 57-yard TD pass by Oakland's JaMarcus Russell on a fourth-and-14 situation with 2:34 left in the game. The burned Chargers defensive backs were pointing at each other even before Raiders receiver Louis Murphy had high-stepped into the end zone untouched.

It was sad to see, but the Chargers again looked better on offense when Darren Sproles was on the field than when LT was in the backfield.

The Chargers' winning 89-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes reminded me of the USC Trojans' winning drive against Ohio State. A composed Philip Rivers directed the clinching drive, like USC's Matt Barkley had, but it was Sproles who made the biggest plays and was the MVP of the march, like USC running back Joe McKnight was in Columbus, Ohio.

Some fans wondered publicly why USC's Aaron Corp didn't immediately talk about transferring after he lost his starting job to Barkley. Now they know.

Barkley's shoulder injury, regardless of its severity or lack thereof, is symbolic of the reason talented backups should stick around. And I'll be surprised only if both Barkley and Corp don't make significant contributions this season.

I feel sorry for UCLA's Rick Neuheisel, though, because he doesn't have the depth at quarterback that Pete Carroll enjoys.

Yes, USC third-stringer Mitch Mustain would start at QB for the Bruins.

Congrats to New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, the pride of Mission Viejo High, on winning his first NFL start in convincing fashion Sunday in Houston.

Does Carroll still think Sanchez made the wrong decision leaving USC?

And on the fourth day of training camp, the Ducks will play an exhibition game?

That's right, the Ducks already play back-to-back preseason games against the Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night and Thursday night at Honda Center.

It seems you would be more vulnerable to injury so early in camp in such a violent full-contact sport, but apparently all NHL teams expect their players to be in top shape when they report. And a week before camp opened, the entire Ducks roster was skating on its own at Anaheim Ice, the players having purchased the ice time. It's a sign the Ducks are hungry.

Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer says his brother Rob, a free agent who was not re-signed by the Ducks, has had a couple nibbles from NHL teams.

"Rob knew he would have to take a pay cut, but the offers are much lower than he anticipated," Scott said. So don't be surprised if Rob goes overseas to play.

Going into Tuesday's action, the Angels' magic number for clinching the AL West was 14. That means any combination of Angels victories and Texas losses totaling 14 would clinch the Angels' fifth division title in the past six years.

It also means the seven games left between the Angels and Rangers, beginning with a three-game series this weekend in Texas, will be doubly huge.

Serena Williams was fined — and rightfully so — for her obscenity-laced tirade against the line judge who called a foot fault in her U.S. Open semifinal match. So shouldn't Roger Federer be fined for muttering his disgust with the challenge system, and uttering an audible obscenity, in the direction of the chair umpire during Monday's men's singles final?

Gender equity in tennis should extend to discipline, too. Right, John McEnroe?

Ba-da-bing! From comedian Jay Leno, during his new variety show on NBC: "I had a strange thing happen yesterday. I set my TiVo to record 'The Biggest Loser' — and got the Lions game."

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