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Philip Rivers cradles the ball after being sacked. Photo by Bill Reilly
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Chargers can’t muster energy against Newton, Panthers

SAN DIEGO — Sir Isaac Newton created his three laws of motion to describe how objects react when affected upon. 

It was indescribable whatever the force acting against the Chargers was on Sunday, which had them moving even further backwards, ensuring a losing season record following their 31-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The forces at play weren’t the struggling Panthers or even the versatile maneuverings of second-year quarterback Cam Newton.

For the Chargers, it’s a season that’s yielded little answers as to why they won’t be making a playoff appearance for the third consecutive year.

Head coach Norv Turner was asked to name a common denominator as to why he thought that was in the press conference Monday.

“I think you can overcome one set of circumstances,” Turner said. “We’ve had a combination of…going back the three years, we’ve had the holdouts, players not play because of holdouts, we’ve lost really good players to free agency and we’ve had injury situations. So if one of those things were the issue, I think you might overcome it.

“I think when you tie them all together; it’s been a real challenge for all of us.”

Even though Newton appeared to move the ball with ease against a generally reliable Chargers defense, Newton’s tallying of a modest (by his standards) 238 yards, shouldn’t have been the reason for the lack of Chargers’ presence on the field.

“Stating the obvious, we weren’t very good, but they (Carolina) had a lot to do with it,” said Philip Rivers after the game.

The one touchdown for the Chargers happened to be a career achievement for Chargers veteran tight end Antonio Gates, though.

The pass was Gates’ 81st career touchdown pass, which ties the organization’s current record held by Lance Alworth for most touchdown receptions.

Gates called the record-tying catch an “individual accomplishment,” that, he said, came at a time when the team is struggling.

“We have a ton of fight in us, and we just didn’t have it today,” he said after the loss. “For whatever reasons, I don’t know why we didn’t. But we didn’t have the fight that we normally have. It’s not who we are as a people; it’s not who we are as a team.

“One thing that we say in the locker room is that despite the wins and losses you play for your respect, you play for your pride,” Gates said. “And that’s something that I will continue to carry these last two weeks.

Gates understands that with these last two weeks the players are playing to keep their jobs. “Ideally, you don’t want to hear that,” he said, “but that’s what it’s about. It still is a business. There’s no moral victories in this business; you either win or you lose.”

He added that talk in the locker room about this season is how it will build character. “These are moments that you remember,” Gates said. “You’ll remember this taste in your mouth; you’ll remember how it feels to not have a winning season and hopefully you can learn from it and move forward.”

Rivers said his intention is to finish the season the right way. “Obviously, I intend for that to be winning the next two, but finishing it the right way from the standpoint of the way we prepare, the way we work and how hard we’re going to play.”

Turner said he was excited about preparing to play the New York Jets next Sunday.

“It’ll be a real challenge with our offensive situation because they’re a very physical team,” he said.

The Jets are coming off of a Monday Night Football loss that eliminated them from playoff contention.

The Chargers’ running back situation against the Jets is also yet to be determined, Turner said, stemming from the loss of Ryan Mathews, who broke his left clavicle during the game. But Jackie Battle will get a chance to play, Turner said, adding that they may see Ronnie Brown return. Brown was listed as inactive against the Panthers.

The Chargers face the Jets at 10 a.m. Sunday and will wrap up the season at home against the Oakland Raiders Dec. 30.