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NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
The San Diego Chargers have taken two bites out of the meat of the schedule and it's clear they're reaching for something to settle their stomach.
Sunday's loss, their second straight, is stuck in their throat after falling to the Broncos, 28-20. The Chargers rallied from a 21-6 deficit to make it a one-possession game with more than four minutes remaining.
But a dreadful series -- fumble, sack, incomplete pass -- forced the Chargers to punt and that would be the last time they saw the football.
The latest loss comes on the heels of the overtime heartbreaker in Washington, D.C., when the team couldn't score late in regulation from the Redskins' 1-yard line despite having a first down.
Up next are trips to Miami, Kansas City and a visit by the Bengals.
Where or where did the Chargers momentum go?
Truth is, this team is in a rebuilding phase and they are proving it as the season matures. The Chargers (4-5) have sunk below .500 and of their four wins, but one has come against a winning team (Colts).
Chargers coach Mike McCoy got beat by his old team, the Broncos -- he was Denver's offensive coordinator last year.
He was in no mood to compare how good this year's Broncos team is to last year, with his hands full on trying to get the Chargers back on track.
"It's a new football team, very similar to here," McCoy said. "I'm not worried about how they were last year. We have to try and find a away to beat them this year."
The Chargers will have trouble beating anyone as long as their offense continues to struggle when deep in rivals' territory and a pass defense which gets torched on a weekly basis.
Add the mounting injuries that any NFL team faces this time of the year and the Chargers seem closer to producing their second straight losing season than breaking their three-year streak of not making the playoffs.
"It's all about winning and losing," inside linebacker Donald Butler said. "And we lost."
What has to be found, for the second straight week, is amnesia. This one, like the debacle in D.C., has to be put away early with another East Coast trip on the horizon.
"We have to find a way to turn this thing around this week," McCoy said.
That's an entree the Chargers would welcome.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Chargers knew what Denver QB Peyton Manning was going to do and that still didn't help slow him down. "We just have to do a better job of communicating and make sure the guys are lined up," ILB Donald Butler said. "But I think we knew right off the bat what they were going to do going in."
--Containing Manning is one thing, and doing so to the tune of 28 points should be a feather in the Chargers defensive cap, no? Not so according to DE Corey Liuget. "No moral victories at all," he said. "We don't care for moral victories. Those don't get you where you want to be. We've just got to get prepared for the next one and keep on fighting and clawing."
--The Chargers had to play with a fluid offensive line on Sunday, with injuries to LT King Dunlap (concussion) and Nick Hardwick (stinger; neck). Only one lineman, LG Johnnie Troutman, started and stayed in one spot the entire game. "They handled it well," QB Philip Rivers said. "We kept fighting. One thing we're used to around here over the years is having to shuffle guys in and out. We also know nobody cares on the outside; it's not an excuse."
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--CB Derek Cox, a $20 million free-agent pickup in the offseason, continues to struggle. He was briefly benched for the second straight week. He later returned to play, but his performance is causing much frustration to the Chargers' coaches.
--RB Ryan Mathews has doubled his rushing touchdown total from last year by gaining his second of the year on Sunday.
--Rookie OLB Tourek Williams, filling in with injuries to Jarret Johnson and Larry English, had a nifty sack of Denver QB Peyton Manning, which also forced a fumble.
--LT King Dunlap (concussion) has suffered his third head injury this season. His availability going forward is uncertain.
--OLB Larry English (biceps) is day to day.
--OLB Jarret Johnson (hamstring) was hurt in the practice leading up to the game and was unable to go on Sunday. He could be down another week.
--C Nick Hardwick (neck; stinger) will continue to be evaluated later in the week.
REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Philip Rivers didn't turn the ball over and threw for a touchdown. But the offense's inability to cash in on three trips inside the Denver 23 yard line has to fall on the passing offense to a degree as the Chargers have proven they'd rather not run the ball when in or near the red zone. Pass protection was spotty with four sacks. But that speaks to the upheaval on the offensive line. Not much deep stuff here, with most of the receptions coming on underneath routes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Ryan Mathews continues to show he has the goods, averaging 4.2 yards on 14 carries with a long of 35. And he scored as well. The Chargers were intent on establishing the run and bleeding the clock and it was proven with 131 rushing yards. Kudos to the run-blocking off the offensive line as it was a mix-and-match of players because of injuries. All three running backs had at least six carries.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- Peyton Manning had his way with this secondary, which has been blistered the entire season. It wasn't ready for the up-tempo style despite working on it all week. There were communication breakdowns and Manning set the tone early in the game and late in the first half when he casually gained touchdowns as the secondary was playing soft. The pass rush from the outside was decent at times, with Tourek Williams and Larry English getting sacks and DE Corey Liuget was also able to get some body blows on Manning.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Broncos gained but 84 yards on the ground, and that was more to them not having the ball very long in the first half, and for the game for that matter. With Manning having such an easy time picking up chunks of yardage through the air, there was no real need to run the ball. But the run defense looked better, thanks in part to ILB Donald Butler (seven tackles) being back in the middle after missing time with a groin injury.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Miss a field goal, it brings down your grade. Nick Novak misfired from 37 yards and that only highlighted the Chargers not getting many points despite penetrating deep into Denver territory. Great fake punt on Chargers' first possession with Eric Weddle picking up the yard for a fresh series. But the bottom line was the Chargers didn't turn that gamble into points. Mike Scifres was keen on his punts; four inside the 20 and a long of 61. Coverages were solid for Chargers; nothing to speak of on their returns.
COACHING: D - The defense got punched around, but that really isn't a surprise considering Manning was at the controls. What was odd was the lack of pressure in the first half, when the defense played it soft and got carved up by Manning, Offensively, the plan of attack to hog the ball was right-on -- but only if those ball-hogging drives result in touchdowns and not field goals. The Chargers' offense has scored but two touchdowns in each of its past two games, despite going against shaky defenses in the Redskins and Broncos. The coaching staff has to rally up this week or a losing skid could grow longer.