Source: Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP)—It was such a bad day for the San Diego Chargers that even their cheerleaders were booed by Oakland Raiders fans who had Qualcomm Stadium all to themselves after the local fans bolted in the fourth quarter.
A 28-13 beatdown Sunday by the hated Raiders—who shredded San Diego’s defense for 251 yards rushing—left the Chargers’ playoff hopes bruised and bloodied.
The Chargers need to win out and get some help from other teams to win their fifth straight AFC West title after they were outmuscled by the Raiders on both sides of the ball.
The Chargers are tied with Oakland at 6-6, two games behind Kansas City (8-4) with four to play. The Chargers host the Chiefs on Sunday, needing a win to remain in contention. The Chiefs beat the Chargers 21-14 on opening night.
“I think the disappointment ought to eat at you here for a little while longer, then you’ve got to shift gears quickly to Kansas City,” quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) said Monday. “We are still alive. Again, is it best-case scenario? No, but we’ve put ourselves in that by this game yesterday and games in September and October to where you don’t have any wiggle room.”
Besides trying to reel in the Chiefs, the Chargers need to be concerned about the Raiders. Oakland doesn’t have room for error, either, but it swept the Chargers for the first time since 2001, so it holds the tiebreaker. Oakland plays at Kansas City on Jan. 2, the final day of the regular season.
After hosting the Chiefs, the Chargers host the San Francisco 49ers four days later, then finish with games at Cincinnati and at Denver. The Chargers are just 1-3 in the division while Oakland is 4-0 and Kansas City is 2-2.
The Chargers had won four straight, including what they termed as their most complete game, a 36-14 victory at Indianapolis in which they intercepted Peyton Manning(notes) four times.
But against the Raiders, they looked more like the bumbling Bolts who staggered to a 2-5 start due to special teams blunders and turnovers. A fumbled punt by Darren Sproles(notes) and an interception by Rivers helped spot the Raiders a quick 14-0 lead.
“We didn’t play our best game,” Rivers said. “I would imagine numerous guys in that locker room would say individually that they didn’t play their best. I know I didn’t. As a whole, we didn’t. Oakland had a lot to do with it. They outplayed us. It certainly wasn’t just our lack of execution. It was a combination. And they had something to do with our lack of execution, certainly.
“They played a great game and they whipped us.”
While Darren McFadden(notes) ran for 97 yards and a TD, and Michael Bush(notes) ran for 95 yards and a score, Oakland stopped San Diego’s running game.
San Diego had just 21 yards rushing, tied for seventh-lowest in team history. After two straight 100-yard games, fullback Tolbert had only 16 yards on seven carries.
Rookie running back Ryan Mathews(notes) was active and supposedly healthy after missing two games due to lingering effects of a high ankle sprain. But he wasn’t in for a single play.
Coach Norv Turner said he thought Mathews would get 10-12 carries, but added that the rookie doesn’t have the same experience in pass protection as Tolbert.
Asked if it’s a matter of not trusting Mathews with keeping defenders off Rivers, Turner said: “He’s missed a lot of practice and the Raiders, along with everyone else in this league, when you start spreading them out and getting third-down protections, they make it very difficult. I thought Tolbert handled it very well. It wasn’t the best situation for Ryan to re-enter.”
Mathews has had three costly fumbles this season, including one in the loss at Kansas City.
Turner said he expects Mathews to play Sunday.
With the Chargers’ running game bottled up, Rivers didn’t have as good a game passing as he’s had.
“We’ve been able to do that in some other games. We just weren’t quite able to do it in this one,” Turner said.
Rivers mentioned that the Chargers have needed help before. In 2008, they won their final four games to win the division at 8-8 while taking advantage of Denver’s collapse.
“In a lot of ways it is in our hands,” Rivers said. “Not completely, but what we can control is winning this week and winning the games we get to play. Again, we’ve needed help before in previous years, and a lot more than we need now, and it’s worked out. If we look up Jan. 2 and it’s not enough, it’s not enough. But we’ve got to make sure that on Jan. 2, we’ve done all we can do, and it starts this week by winning against Kansas City.”
NOTES: Sproles, who sustained a concussion, had a headache Monday but otherwise felt good, Turner said. Sproles will have to go through the process of being cleared. … WR Legedu Naanee(notes) aggravated a hamstring injury.