Source: USA Today
The Chargers might know the "what." They're just not sure of the "why."
Sure, the Raiders embarrassed them in Sunday's 28-13 shellacking at San Diego. That much the Chargers got.
But how they could show up and give so little with so much at stake? That's the head-scratching part.
With their latest AFC West loss, the Chargers' safety net became even thinner. It's now do-or-die Sunday against the Chiefs, and is that really where the Chargers want to be in mid-December?
"I'm obviously very disappointed that the Raiders were able to run the football the way they did," coach Norv Turner said after the Raiders ran for 251 yards. "We've had moments where we've struggled with the run. In Houston, they had 99 yards rushing at halftime, and the second half we were able to shut that down. It's something that's been an issue. "
But not during the four-game winning streak that was snapped Sunday.
"I think we covered it up in a couple of those games, making some big plays and getting a lead," Turner said. "In this game, we were unable to make the big play to get us right back into it early."
The Raiders did more than beat the Chargers up. They also kept them off-kilter by using their speed against them.
"They were very patient and they had a good plan," Turner said. "They mixed the screens, the bootlegs, those type of plays in with the run to keep us off balance."
Off track is what this season has become. The Chargers have won four straight AFC West titles are were expecting to take No. 5.
But they enter this week's game with a 1-3 mark in the division. If they lose to the Chiefs, their season is kaput.
A loss there puts them three games behind with three to play. And they would have been swept by the Chiefs and Raiders.
That's why showing so little energy Sunday was bewildering. The Chargers wound up getting swept by the Raiders for the first time since 2001.
And if not they don't right the ship quickly, their season will be swept away as well.
—Rookie running back Ryan Mathews, the team's top draft pick, didn't get a carry despite being healthy; he earlier had a sprained ankle. "I thought Ryan would get 10, 12 carries in the game," coach Norv Turner said. "Obviously we've been getting to run the ball 25, 30 times a game over the last month. That's what we'd like to do. The way the game went and where we were in terms of our protection and using a lot of three wide receivers and the tight end, he just hasn't had the reps in practice of doing that type of thing." Mathews still needs to gain the coaches' trust in pass protection.
—Quarterback Philip Rivers was hamstring by the lack of a running game, and he was often aiming for inexperienced wideouts in Sunday's loss. Still Rivers took the blame. "I'm disappointed I didn't make some throws that I can make or play as well as I need to," Rivers said. "I didn't play winning football." Rivers was 23 of 39 for 280 yards, a touchdown and interception.
—Among the numbers leaping off the page in Sunday's 28-13 loss was the Raiders' rushing total: 251 yards.
"We didn't tackle very well," defensive end Luis Castillo said. "We didn't do a very good job of holding our gap responsibilities. I don't think we were physical enough. We knew they'd be committed to running the ball. We were prepared. This was a big game for us, and we came here ready to do a job. We didn't do a very good job of doing it."
—Running back Darren Sproles (concussion) was doing OK after Sunday's hit from linebacker Rolando McClain. "He felt pretty good (Monday)," coach Norv Turner said. "He's got a headache. He will go through the process in terms of being cleared and all that, but (trainer) James (Collins) was optimistic."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—TE Antonio Gates (foot) will be questionable leading into the Kansas City game. Coach Norv Turner said he was hopeful Gates could practice more this week.
—WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) won't go this week, and easily could be down until Dec. 26.
—ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) is trying to fight through his injury. He was in for only a handful of plays Sunday.
—RG Louis Vasquez (neck) will again test his injury, hopefully earlier in the week. Vasquez has missed the past two games.
—WR Legedu Naanee (hamstring) could be down Sunday after aggravating his injury Sunday.
—WR Vincent Jackson planned to do some side work Monday to see if he might practice Wednesday.
REPORT CARD VS. RAIDERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C — It's hard to be a quarterback in a one-dimensional offense, and Philip Rivers' numbers proved that. Rivers was sacked four times and was under duress on numerous occasions. The pass protection didn't have the luxury of a running game to lean on, and it showed. Antonio Gates fought through his foot pain and had the only scoring catch. Malcom Floyd made a sensation catch.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F — The Chargers ran for just 21 yards, and that is no misprint. Mike Tolbert found little running room in gaining 16 yards on seven carries. The run blocking got pushed around. Falling behind so early didn't help the Chargers' cause.
PASS DEFENSE: D — Jason Campbell was able to make plays with his arm and his legs, buying time and finding single coverage at the right time. Donald Strickland was burned for a touchdown. Antoine Cason was flagged for a critical penalty on a late Raiders scoring drive.
RUSH DEFENSE: F — The Raiders dominated here, pushing back the defensive line, linebackers and continually making the secondary try to tackle guys going downhill. The level of physical play the Raiders showed simply was not matched by the Chargers.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Darren Sproles fumbled a punt, which gift-wrapped seven points for the Raiders. Nate Kaeding was true on two field-goal attempts but was short on a 50-yarder, and his kickoffs were shy as well. The coverage units allowed a 28-yard kickoff return and a 16-yard punt return.
COACHING: D — Norv Turner's charges couldn't match the want-to of the Raiders. Both sides of the lines were simply beaten. The Chargers didn't show much fight with so much on the line. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera's unit expected the run, and that is just what it got — yet San Diego still couldn't stop the Oakland ground attack.