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Turner defends QB despite mistakes

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SAN DIEGO (AP)

In the wake of another come-from-ahead loss, coach Norv Turner brushed aside any notion that the San Diego Chargers would consider sitting mistake-prone quarterback Philip Rivers.

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Rivers' latest big blunder was a pass thrown straight to Tampa Bay cornerback Leonard Johnson, who returned it 83 yards to give the Bucs a 10-point lead in a game they would win 34-24 on Sunday.

On Monday, Turner was asked if he'd consider sitting Rivers, like he's done with running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Robert Meachem after they made crucial mistakes that contributed to losses.

''You know, Philip Rivers gave us a chance to win that game,'' Turner said. ''He made so many plays that a lot of guys can't make. It's hard for me to answer that question because I just don't think people have an understanding of what that question means. What you do is you go put together a team, put together a lineup that gives you the best chance to win, OK?''

Rivers threw another interception in the fourth quarter Sunday, giving him 40 turnovers in the last 25 games.

''He was 40 of 46 over the last couple of weeks, and then had the interception,'' Turner said. ''Obviously it's a ball he'd like to have back. If he had it over again, he'd throw the ball away.''

Rivers has struggled this season, in part because he's under siege behind a leaky line. His throws have been hurried and he often throws off his back foot.

The Chargers lost Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman from the left side of their offensive line due to injuries and haven't adequately replaced them. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson left when he became a free agent, and the Chargers replaced him with Meachem and Eddie Royal. Combined, Meachem and Royal haven't come close to matching Jackson's 769 yards and six touchdowns on 36 catches.

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''The thing about Philip is there's no one who works harder at it, there's no one who cares more about it, there's no one who tries harder,'' Turner said. ''He wouldn't be going out there and completing 82 percent of his passes over the last two weeks if he wasn't spending an unbelievable amount of time in his preparation and helping other guys prepare. He obviously is trying as hard as he can to go win and in a couple of those cases he's trying to do too much. It's not 20 plays. It's one or two plays in two or three of the games.''

''It's frustrating,'' the coach said. `'It's frustrating for him; it's frustrating for all of us. We're spending a lot of time working on it.''

San Diego (4-5) is two games behind Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. The Chargers visit Denver on Sunday, and a loss would seriously damage their playoff chances.

On Oct. 15, Manning rallied the Broncos from a 24-0 halftime deficit to a 35-24 victory at San Diego. It was the second straight game in which the Chargers blew a double-digit, second-half lead.

If the Broncos win Sunday, they would be up three games with six to play, but it would effectively be a four-game lead because they would hold the tiebreaker.

In the wild-card race, the Bolts are two games behind the Indianapolis Colts and 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh, which played Kansas City on Monday night. Two of the Chargers' four wins have been against the Chiefs, who went into Monday night's game with a 1-7 record.

San Diego has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and has only one playoff win in four seasons under Turner and general manager A.J. Smith.

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Asked if he's happy with the roster he's been given by Smith, Turner said: ''As you go look at our team and go play Tampa, I think Tampa's a talented team. I thought we matched up awfully well with them. We were capable of winning that game. We didn't.''

The Chargers haven't made team president Dean Spanos or Smith available to comment on what's wrong with the Bolts.

''Obviously this thing is about going out and playing good on Sundays,'' Turner said. ''We've been able to do it in spots. We haven't been able to do it for a complete game.''

Tagged: Broncos, Buccaneers, Chargers, Philip Rivers, Robert Meachem

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