SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers returned to work Monday after their bye week, saying they're still confident despite a three-game losing streak that's put them in a perilous spot in the playoff picture.
The Chargers (5-4) host the winless Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Despite the Raiders (0-9) being on a 15-game losing streak, they almost beat the Chargers in Oakland on Oct. 12.
That was San Diego's last victory, before it lost at home to Kansas City, at Denver and then was routed 37-0 at Miami.
"I think normally if it was a non-divisional game you might view it a little different," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said about facing Oakland. "But this is the Raiders. We know how talented they are, we know how hard they play and if you take them for granted, if you look at them just for the record, you're a fool."
The Chargers stumbled around in the first game against the Raiders, allowing rookie Derek Carr to throw four touchdown passes, before coming up with big plays in the fourth quarter to win 31-28.
Rookie Branden Oliver scored on a 1-yard run to put the Chargers ahead by three with 1:56 left and rookie cornerback Jason Verrett made a leaping interception with 1:13 left to clinch the win.
Since then the Chargers have had trouble running the ball, protecting Philip Rivers and mounting a pass rush.
Against Miami, they had trouble doing pretty much everything.
The losing streak is "in the past but it's also kind of right there on your mind," wide receiver Eddie Royal said. "As a competitor you just hate losing and you know that feeling and you never want to have it again. So that kind of motivates you to come out and work that much harder, study a little bit more film, just so you don't have that feeling again."
Center Rich Ohrnberger said the key to protecting Rivers better is to "block them forever, a tick longer where you're holding up and you're a little stouter, because we've got one of the best in the game right behind and if you give him time he's going to hurt the opponent."
The Chargers are expected to get back running back Ryan Mathews, who missed the last seven games with a knee injury.
Ohrnberger said the struggles in the running game have been due to the offensive line, not the running backs who've replaced Mathews.
"I don't think it's by any fault of the guys who stepped in there. I think they did a great job," Ohrnberger said. "If anything, I'll point the blame directly on me and the rest of the offensive line. We should have been doing a better job, we can do a better job."
The Chargers also might get back linebacker Melvin Ingram, who's been out with a hip injury.
But coach Mike McCoy cautioned that everyone around them has to play better.
"You're definitely excited but those two guys aren't going to change everything we do," McCoy said. "The other 10 guys on the field have got to play better with him. Ryan Mathews does not guarantee 200 yards rushing. We ran the ball fairly well with No. 43 (Oliver) back there plenty of times. So we won five games without these guys. It's not just a couple guys coming back that all of a sudden you're winning a football game. All 46 have got to play better, we've got to coach better. It's great to have those guys back when they get back out there, without a doubt. I'm not complaining about that at all.
"He's a talented player without a doubt, but he can't do it all on his own," McCoy said of Mathews. "Melvin can't do everything on his own, either."
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