AFC West: San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO – Executing an opposing team’s offense in practice can be tedious at times, but the San Diego Chargers have an experienced hand helping them prepare for the St. Louis Rams in second-string quarterback Kellen Clemens, who spent three seasons in St. Louis, finishing 4-8 as a starter for the Rams.

Clemens is very familiar with St. Louis offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s West Coast-based offense, having played in that scheme with the Rams and the New York Jets. Clemens also intimately knows the Rams’ personnel from his time in St. Louis.

“It’s huge for us,” Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “For him to be able to stand in the huddle and say, ‘This is how this is run,’ or those types of things when he sees a play. He’s got his job to do, and he’s still got to prepare. But when he has the opportunity to look at the plays and talk to guys about certain routes, it’s always huge for that.

“But you can’t put too much into that. Regardless of him, we have to go out and play, and we have to go out and execute. And that’s the most important thing.”

Clemens also downplayed his role in getting San Diego’s defense prepared for Sunday.

“I think I can give them as good of a look as I can, up until this point,” Clemens said. “I know the offense. I know how they’re going to read it. I know how they’re going to try to attack it, and the adjustments they’re going to make.

“There’s little things that I can see while running the scout team in terms of how they’re going to run things. But a significant difference? I wish I could claim that, but I don’t think I can.”

Clemens a two-year, $3 million contract with San Diego as a free agent, and said he holds no bad blood toward his former team. Clemens said he looks forward to seeing old teammates and friends made while in St. Louis on the field before the game starts.

“I’ll be out a couple minutes early probably to get my warmup in,” Clemens said, smiling.
Defensively, the St. Louis Rams made Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos’ potent offense look pedestrian in a 22-7 victory last Sunday.

The Rams harassed Manning into two interceptions, sacked him two times and had the Broncos on their heels the entire contest. St. Louis held the Broncos to 397 yards, including just 28 yards on the ground.

So how did they do it?

“It was a team effort,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “We ran the football, and Shaun [Hill] did a nice job of keeping the offense on the field through most of the game, with respect to third-down conversions.

“Our hope and intention going in was to do that – win time of possession and be able to run the football. And, of course, we got some pressure on him at times, and we came up with the two turnovers. And then I thought our special teams did a nice job with respect to covering kicks and field position.”

Added St. Louis middle linebacker James Laurinaitis: “We were aggressive on their short routes. We were able to affect Peyton pre-snap and post-snap. And really we just played fast. The challenge is how can we play fast again here this week against a very similar offense – with some differences – but very similar scheme-wise.”

Laurinaitis said a point of emphasis for his defense will be making sure to watch the ball and not anticipate Rivers’ cadence. Rivers coaxed four false-start penalties from the Oakland Raiders last week. Laurinaitis said Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at drawing defenses offside.

“Being an aggressive defense, we definitely have to be cognizant of that, because if we’re not, those are easy yards,” Laurinaitis said. “And it’s not only the 5-yard penalty, because a lot of times it’s similar to Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, when somebody jumps offsides, most quarterbacks go up top.

“Philip does a lot more deep shots and deeper passes that we need to be very aware of. Peyton was a lot more timing stuff and anticipation. Philip has the arm strength and just really the guts to throw it deep. He goes up top to [Malcom] Floyd a whole bunch, and we have to be disciplined in the back end.”

Fisher said Rivers’ anticipation and ability to direct the offense at the line of scrimmage makes San Diego’s offense tough to stop.

“He sees so well and makes good decisions,” Fisher said. “He’s accurate, and he’s got a good group around him. I think the offensive line is playing well. They’re giving him time. I’d say they’re doing more things just from a formation standpoint that kind of puts stress on the defense.

“They create matchups. And with the up-tempo, he’s usually putting them in the right situation all the time, run or pass. I think he’s doing a lot more on the line of scrimmage than he has in the past.”
SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Gates was right, to a point.

The San Diego Chargers listed quarterback Philip Rivers on Wednesday’s injury report with a chest injury. Gates told reporters after his team’s win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday that Rivers had been playing with a severe rib injury for three or four weeks.

Gates later backed off of those comments a day later on Monday, stating his words were taken out of context. Chargers coach Mike McCoy did not confirm that Rivers had a rib injury, saying his quarterback was healthy.

McCoy maintained his position after practice on Wednesday.

“He had a great practice today like the last 11 weeks,” McCoy said. “He didn’t miss a snap. He had a great day’s work.”

Asked if there was any change in Rivers physically, McCoy had this to say: “He looked great out there today at practice. He’ll play on Sunday.”

Rivers did his best to clarify his injury status after practice, stating he suffered the chest injury falling on the ball while being sacked by Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter against the Raiders this past Sunday. Rivers has started in 138 consecutive regular-season games, a streak that is second only to Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

“Unfortunately it was more made of it than he intended it to be,” Rivers said about his teammate’s comments. “I think as a buddy he was trying to give a compliment, and it ended up being, ‘Oh, what’s the matter.’ So I can honestly say there’s nothing going on that’s hindering me in any way. There’s a lot of guys in that locker room that are playing, that are a lot sorer than I am.”

Rivers also was asked about his trademark toughness, saying that was learned as a kid growing up playing for his father, Steve Rivers, back in Alabama.

“Growing up around it, my dad always said unless you can’t walk, you find a way to play -- or find a way to get off of the field,” Rivers said. “That was the main thing -- don’t lay out there on the field. So I found my way off a few times on Sunday.”

Center Rich Ohrnberger said the offensive line will continue to work to keep Rivers clean on Sunday against a talented St. Louis Rams’ defensive front.

“Week to week, we’re motivated to take care of him because when we do, he does an excellent job,” Ohrnberger said. “So I don’t think it matters what the circumstances are, or the team we’re playing. Whatever it is, our goal is to make sure he’s on his feet the entire game.”

Ryan Carrethers (elbow), Dwight Freeney (rest) and Ohrnberger (back, ankle) did not practice for the Chargers. Along with Rivers, Sean Lissemore (quad) returned to practice and was a full participant.

Safety Jahleel Addae also appears to have fully cleared the NFL concussion protocol. Addae was a full participant in San Diego’s fully padded practice on Wednesday.
SAN DIEGO – The NFL announced that San Diego Chargers punter Mike Scifres was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his effort in his team’s victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Scifres placed five of his nine punts inside the 20-yard line. Scifres’ booming punts also helped the coverage units, as he finished with a 41.4-yard net punting average against the Raiders. It’s the second time the 12-year pro has won the award.

Scifres is the fourth San Diego player to earn AFC player of the week honors. Antonio Gates won the award after a Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Corey Liuget earned it on defense after a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. And Nick Novak won the special teams award following his Week 4 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Keenan Allen needs to make impact plays

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19

ESPN Chargers Eric D. Williams says receiver Keenan Allen can pick up his game in the backstretch of the season.
SAN DIEGO – Riding a five-game win streak early in the season, the San Diego Chargers missed the quiet presence of Ryan Mathews in the huddle and his bulldozing running style at the line of scrimmage.

“It was very humbling to be back out there in front of the fans, hearing my name called again,” Mathews said.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
AP Photo/Gregory BullRyan Mathews returned for the first time in two months and had 16 carries against the Raiders.
The Chargers’ physical running back returned Sunday in a 13-6 victory over the visiting Oakland Raiders. It’s no surprise the swagger the offensive line played with last season also made an appearance. Offensive linemen such as Chad Rinehart and D.J. Fluker were finishing blocks down the field and looking to spring loose Mathews for a few extra yards.

In his first game since he suffered a knee sprain in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, Mathews led the Chargers with 70 yards on 16 carries, including a long of 20 yards. The Chargers totaled 120 yards on the ground, the most the team has run for in the past five games.

“He showed that he felt comfortable out there, right from the start -- even after missing all of that time,” Rinehart said. “Just the amount of carries he got last year, and we’re still running similar things. So he’s able to jump right back in. It was awesome having him back.”

Most importantly, the return of Mathews and the running game helped San Diego create some balance on offense, something that has been missing for most of this season. The Chargers ran the ball 32 times -- including 10 times in the fourth quarter -- and threw 34 times.

San Diego’s ability to run helped the Chargers control the tempo of the game and keep Oakland’s offense off of the field.

With quarterback Philip Rivers having an off-day, Mathews set the tone for San Diego’s offense.

“He’s physical, fast and a tough back,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. “We have been missing that, obviously a lot, the past three weeks. So it was good to get him back in there and see that smile on his face as he punishes the defensive backs and linebackers. It’s an element that we have been missing.”

Now that Mathews has returned, the goal for Chargers coach Mike McCoy is to keep him healthy. Mathews left the locker room with his knee heavily taped as a precaution to keep the swelling down after his first game back. He also wore a brace on his injured right knee during the game.

Mathews’ injury history is long. He’s only played a full, 16-game season one time in his five-year NFL career. Mathews was unable to finish the AFC divisional playoff game against Denver last season because of a severely sprained ankle. The Chargers can’t afford to be without Mathews again late in the season, when the games matters most.

“He ran the ball hard,” McCoy said. “We knew it was going to take him a couple plays to get rolling, but that was expected. He got in a groove, and he was telling us how he felt throughout the game. He just kept pounding it the way he likes to run it.

“We just want to make sure he’s fresh for four quarters [and] not worry about overloading him too quick in the game and just communicate.”

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 13-6 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

What it means: The Chargers ended a three-game losing streak by defeating the Raiders for the second time this season. With the Denver Broncos losing to the St. Louis Rams, the Chargers (6-4) are a game behind the Broncos (7-3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) in the AFC West.

Defense stymies Raiders: The return of linebackers Manti Te'o, Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram provided a spark for San Diego’s defense, which kept the Raiders out of the end zone. The Chargers finally played better on third down. Heading into Sunday’s contest, San Diego’s defense was the worst in the NFL in third-down efficiency. But the Chargers held the Raiders to 3-of-15 on third downs. The Raiders punted nine times.

Solid return for Mathews: In his first game after missing seven with an MCL knee strain, running back Ryan Mathews shook off some rust early. He finished with 70 rushing yards on 16 carries, including a long of 20 yards.

Stock watch -- Down: For a second straight game, Philip Rivers struggled to get into a rhythm. Rivers finished 22-of-34 for 193 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd. Rivers did not throw an interception and was sacked twice. The Chargers have scored one touchdown in their past eight quarters of play.

Game ball: Inside linebacker Kavell Conner was all over the field and finished with a combined nine tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack against the Raiders.

What’s next: The Chargers play the second of back-to-back games at Qualcomm Stadium on Nov. 23 against the Rams.

W2W4: San Diego Chargers

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
The San Diego Chargers (5-4) look to end a three-game losing streak when they host the Oakland Raiders (0-9) at 4:05 p.m. ET at Qualcomm Stadium.

Here are three things we’ll be watching for with the Chargers on Sunday.

1. Can the defense get off the field? San Diego’s third-down play defensively has been atrocious the past three weeks. The Chargers are last in the NFL in third-down defense. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said his defense evaluated every third-down situation from the first half of the season during the bye week and that fixing his group’s issues on third down is about better execution and tackling. Expect to see Donald Butler and Kavell Conner used on early downs and Manti Te'o and Andrew Gachkar on the field in third-down, red-zone and passing situations. “Something that we did in our study is there were 10 to 12 (missed tackles) where we are off the field,” Pagano said. “That’s 10 to 12 plays that would move our percentage a big jump. It’s such a fine line in the percentage on third down. It’s just tackling. It’s techniques and fundamentals that we’re going to keep demanding more and more. You can’t let it go by the side. We’ve got to get these guys coming to balance, breaking down and finishing.”

2. Create a pass rush: The Chargers have to generate more of a pass rush with just four guys up front and not rely on blitz packages to manufacture pressure. San Diego has been held without a sack in three of the team’s past four games. Having Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu back should help San Diego’s pass-rush package on third down, allowing the team’s best pass rusher, Dwight Freeney, to be used more sparingly. The Raiders have given up just 10 sacks this season, which is No. 2 in the NFL to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos (9). “The more guys you can get out there hitting the quarterback, the better,” Freeney said. “It’s like hockey -- rotate the guys out there and keep us fresh.”

3. Run the football with authority: The Chargers have not rushed for more than 100 yards as a team since facing the Raiders the first time this season last month. San Diego averages a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry. Having Ryan Mathews back should help, but it won’t solve all of the Chargers’ problems in the run game. The offensive line has to do a better job of getting a push up front, and the coaching staff has to do a better job of calling plays that use the running backs effectively. Overall, the Chargers need to run the ball to establish more balance on offense, taking pressure off Philip Rivers. “You want to impose your will on the other team,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “We have a good passing attack, so we have to take advantage of that, but we need to be able to run it effectively when we need to.”
video When: 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego TV: CBS

Looking to rebound from a three-game losing streak, the San Diego Chargers (5-4) hope the Oakland Raiders (0-9) offer the tonic needed to get back on track.

The Chargers have won two straight and five of the past six matchups against the Raiders.

However, the Chargers have lost four of their past five games coming off a bye week. Last year, the Chargers lost three straight after the bye before turning things around and eventually making the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Sunday’s matchup is important for San Diego if it wants to stay in the playoff hunt. According to ESPN Stats & Information, under the current playoff format established in 1990, teams that have reached 6-4 have earned a playoff berth 61 percent of the time.

A loss for Oakland would mean the Raiders were mathematically eliminated from postseason consideration. Raiders coach Tony Sparano is working to hold that off for another week.

“Everybody wants to know answers,” Sparano said. “And you have to have a plan. And so I continuously each week try to come up with the best plan of attack that I can come up with as we go forward right now.”

ESPN NFL analyst Matt Williamson and ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams preview the game:

Williams: Matt, although he has nine interceptions, Derek Carr has completed more than 60 percent of his passes and thrown 13 touchdown passes. He’s also been pretty effective in the red zone. It looks like the Raiders have finally found their franchise quarterback, no?

Williamson: I think they have. Carr has a big-time arm and all the physical traits you look for in a franchise quarterback. After watching him in college, I worried about how he dealt with pressure, but he has really excelled in that department thus far. Raiders fans should be excited.

Eric, to me the Chargers needed this bye week in a huge way and could be primed to make a real run out of the bye to finish the season. Agree?

Williams: Sure do. Players such as Dwight Freeney and D.J. Fluker said this week the time off helped heal nagging injuries that they have been playing through leading up to the bye week, so the extra rest certainly helped. The Chargers also did a lot of self-scouting to fix specific schematic issues such as improving the run game and executing better on third downs defensively. The Chargers should get an added boost with the return of players such as Ryan Mathews, Melvin Ingram, Manti Te'o and Jeremiah Attaochu from injuries. The improved depth will help bring energy to both sides of the ball, setting up San Diego for a very tough stretch run to try to reach the postseason for a second straight year.

Matt, what’s your evaluation of how rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has played so far this season?

Williamson: Much like with Carr on offense, the Raiders have found their cornerstone player on defense in Mack. Since his sack numbers are not great (Mack does not have a sack this season), it might not look like he has been great rushing the passer. However, the film tells a different story. He is also already an excellent player against the run.

Eric, San Diego’s pass rush has been a big problem. Do you think that continues? Also a healthier secondary (and not-so-exciting Raiders wideouts) should help as well.

Williams: The Chargers have been held without a sack in three of the team’s past four games. San Diego’s best pass-rusher, Freeney, hasn’t recorded a sack since September. However, Freeney has been playing with a balky knee and has probably been playing too many snaps with the Chargers thin at edge rusher. San Diego will get some depth back at edge rusher with the return of Ingram and Attaochu this week. Getting those two players back, along with Te’o, should add juice to San Diego’s pass rush, particularly on third down.

Matt, the Raiders have the fewest rushing attempts in the NFL at 165, and average just 3.4 yards per carry. Why do the Raiders continue to struggle running the football?

Williamson: I think there are a few reasons for it. First off, the offensive line is better suited toward protection than moving people off the ball, but the two biggest reasons are (A) they simply are not very good at the running back position, and (B) opposing defenses don’t fear Oakland’s receivers to get deep or blow past them, so they can get more bodies closer to the line of scrimmage.

Eric, do you expect Mathews to step in right away and carry the load?

Williams: While I believe Mathews will be San Diego’s starter this week if he’s active on Sunday, coach Mike McCoy likely will ease him into the game. That means we will see a good bit of Branden Oliver and Donald Brown running the football as complementary pieces to Mathews. After missing seven games with an MCL knee sprain, the Chargers want to make sure that Mathews can make it through the season healthy, particularly considering his lengthy injury history. But there’s no doubt that the Fresno State product’s physical running style can help improve one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL.


Chargers expect Attaochu to give pass rush a boost

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12

Chargers reporter Eric Williams says rookie linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu’s return from injury should give San Diego's pass rush a boost this week.

Chiefs taking advantage of forcing turnovers

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12

Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says Kansas City will beat the world champion Seahawks if it can continue to force turnovers.

The Film Don't Lie: Chargers

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
A weekly look at what the San Diego Chargers must fix:

After a week off, the Chargers will host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. San Diego's struggles running the ball have been well-documented this season. The Chargers are averaging a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry.

However, the last time San Diego rushed for more than 100 yards as a team was Oct. 12, in a 31-28 victory over the Raiders in Oakland. The Chargers have just three rushing touchdowns this year, which is tied for second worst in the NFL.

Although coach Mike McCoy has downplayed Ryan Mathews' return to the practice field, having a 1,000-yard rusher back in the lineup will certainly help. The Chargers averaged 123 rushing yards a game in 2013, which ranked 13th in the NFL. And Mathews' physical running style helped lead the charge for San Diego's running game.

The week off also should help the offensive line get recharged and refocused on playing with more chemistry and cohesion up front. Rich Ohrnberger has a lingering back issue, and D.J. Fluker has been dealing with an ankle injury. The time off should help both guys play with more athleticism in the run game.

The Chargers also need to create more explosive runs. San Diego has just three rushing plays of 20-plus yards, which is tied for No. 24 in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers have 36 rushes for negative yards this season, which is tied for fifth worst in the league.

But the No. 1 priority for San Diego is better execution on bread-and-butter run plays. And that means the offensive line has to stay on its blocks longer, the running backs have to do a better job of reading where the openings are going to be and quarterback Philip Rivers has to keep the offense on schedule so the Chargers can stay in more manageable down and distance situations. Doing those things should give the Chargers more balance on offense.
SAN DIEGO -- Every-down running back Ryan Mathews, inside linebacker Manti Te'o, safety Jahleel Addae, and outside linebackers Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram are all expected to return from various injuries and practice this week.

Having those playmakers back should give the San Diego Chargers, losers of three straight, a boost on both sides of the ball. But don’t tell that to Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, who said the rest of the team has to play better in order for those injured players to have an impact on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

“Ryan Mathews does not guarantee us 200 yards rushing,” McCoy said. “It’s the other 10 guys on the field that have to do their jobs better. We’ve talked about that as a football team. We ran the ball fairly well with No. 43 (Branden Oliver) back there plenty of times. We won five games without these guys.

“So it’s a matter of everyone playing better. And it’s not just a couple guys coming back that’s going to make it so all of a sudden you’re winning a football game. All 46 players have to play better. We have to coach better.”

That said, receiver Eddie Royal acknowledged the return of Mathews could bring more of a physical presence to San Diego’s offense. Mathews has been out since Week 2 with an MCL knee sprain but practiced last week.

“He runs physical,” Royal said. “He’s fast also, so he can make that long run. It’s just brings a physical nature to our team, having that guy in the backfield that guys don’t want to come up and tackle. It adds another dynamic to our offense.”

Ingram, placed on injured reserve designated to return on Sept. 20 with a hip injury, is eligible to return to practice this week after missing seven games and could play against the Raiders on Sunday.

Te’o suffered a fractured foot against Buffalo in Week 3 and has not practiced since. Attaochu missed five games with a hamstring injury. Addae missed the Miami game while recovering from concussion-like symptoms.

McCoy said players had meetings and went through a light walk-through Monday. McCoy said he’ll give players the day off on Tuesday, and the Chargers will get back on a regular schedule with a Wednesday practice.
» AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South | Preseason picks

Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams reviews his season prediction at the midway point of the season:

Preseason prediction: 10-6

Prediction holds: 10-6

Why the San Diego Chargers will finish 10-6: There will be no revision of my preseason prediction. At 5-4 with four out of seven games remaining at home, I believe the Chargers can win five more games and get to 10-6. Will it be easy? Nope. The Chargers face potential playoff teams Baltimore, New England, Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City in the final five games of 2014, with three of those on the road. And coach Mike McCoy’s group lost the team’s first three games after the bye week last season. However, San Diego should be healthier after the bye. Defensive coordinator John Pagano will make some adjustments so that his group performs better on third down, and offensive coordinator Frank Reich will do the same thing to improve his unit’s issues running the football. A healthy Ryan Mathews will add juice to the run game. And the Chargers have Mr. December, Philip Rivers. Since taking over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2006, Rivers is 30-6 in December. It’s the most wins in that month by an NFL quarterback over that time frame. In September I predicted the Chargers would finish the season 4-3. San Diego will have to do one game better, going 5-2 down the final stretch, to get to 10-6. And if the Chargers get to 10 wins, I think they'll reach the postseason for a second straight year.
SAN DIEGO -- Rookie offensive lineman Chris Watt won’t be heading back home to the Midwest this weekend.

Instead, this year's third-round draft selection for the San Diego Chargers said he’s sticking around town for the bye week, but he will travel to Arizona to watch his college team, Notre Dame, take on Arizona State on Saturday.

“What’s great about a bye week is you can kind of evaluate what you’ve done so far during the season,” Watt said. “And you can see what you need to improve on going into the next week of practice.”

After watching and observing the first three weeks, San Diego’s coaching staff has trusted Watt to get out on the field more. He’s averaging about 30 offensive snaps a game the past six weeks, rotating at right guard with starter Johnnie Troutman.

And with Rich Ohrnberger dealing with a lingering back issue, Watt also has seen time at center.

“I’ve done some good things I feel like when I’m in there,” Watt said. “But also there are some things I definitely need to work on. At center, being in there for an extended period of time in a game situation, I did some good things. But also there were a couple little things with my hand placement, or getting my hands inside a little quicker. Just little things like that I can see, and work on them getting out here and practicing this week.

“Getting the reps has been great. I’ve been grateful for every rep that I’ve gotten. I’ve gotten to play a lot of football, which is great. I love football, so it’s always fun to get in there. The first three games I was watching, and now I’m contributing. It’s definitely valuable experience going against those guys and getting more comfortable.”

Watt also believes the Chargers will run the ball better after the break. San Diego averaged 3.1 yards per rush through nine games, second-worst in the NFL.

“It’s just simplifying it and going after guys coming off of the ball as a group,” Watt said. “We have to do that in practice, because what we do in practice is going to carry over to the game. So working hard in practice and staying on our blocks longer -- just little things like that are things you can do to open up those holes a little wider in the run game.”