Wrap-up: Panthers 31, Chargers 7

A look at another bad day for the Chargers:

What it means: In a season of lows, this game ranks up there on the disappointment level. The Chargers were completely manhandled by a team that came into the game 4-9. There was a sparse crowd, and the few fans who bothered to come out booed the home team lustfully. After an impressive win at Pittsburgh last week, San Diego fell flat again. The Chargers are 5-9 (they went 0-4 against the NFC South) and officially out of the playoff race. The Norv Turner-A.J. Smith regime has two more weeks to go in San Diego.

Tolbert bites Smith back: One reason Smith is very likely to be fired is he let too many talented free agents walk. Mike Tolbert is one of them; San Diego’s underwhelming run game misses him. Tolbert scored the first two touchdowns of the game.

Tough day for Rivers: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers’ fumbling issues were a problem again. He fumbled four times and lost two. It was a bad day for Rivers, whose offensive line is in shambles. For the fifth straight game, San Diego’s offense failed to gain 300 yards. It tallied a paltry 164 yards. It just gets uglier.

Mathews hurt: The injuries keep piling up for San Diego running back Ryan Mathews, who has been unable to take the next step in his third year. He suffered a shoulder injury and did not return. The Mathews pick in 2010 is also a reason Smith is in trouble. Update: The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Mathews broke his left clavicle and is out for the season. Mathews broke his right clavicle during the preseason in what has been a miserable year. The Chargers had expected much from him this season, but Mathews finishes with just 685 yards on 180 carries and a score.

Milestone for Gates: There was some good news for the Chargers. Star tight end Antonio Gates caught his 81st career touchdown reception. He tied Lance Alworth for most in franchise history.

What’s next: The Chargers travel to face the New York Jets on Sunday in their final road game of the season. That’s a long way to go just for pride.