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Chargers cannot win the close ones

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The answer to what ails the San Diego Chargers was simple: Once again, it was that they couldn’t make the critical play at the end of the game.

“Unfortunately we didn’t make the play at the end,” echoed coach Mike McCoy after the team fell to the Baltimore Ravens 29-26 on Sunday.

McCoy was right, of course — just like after the other five losses.

That Sunday’s game again went down to the wire was of little solace.

The Chargers (2-6) were desperate for a win at Baltimore, to pump whatever life was left in their deflating season. If only the Chargers could prevail against the Ravens for their first road win, the Chargers’ remaining schedule provided the makings of a mini-run.

Instead it was another near-win, and too bad that’s not a category in the NFL logs.

Those standings show the Chargers are at the bottom of the AFC West, with a Monday night game against the Chicago Bears up next. The chatter the national TV audience will hear about the Chargers – or the club’s head coach – won’t be good.

The team is floundering, and McCoy — now 20-20 in two-plus seasons — is left searching for new tonics. Until one pops up, McCoy will stay the course will staying the coach.

“We are going to keep fighting,” McCoy said. “There is only one way to get out of this and that’s with hard work. We have to do a little more and keep grinding away.”

Grinding away and circling the drain may mean the same thing as it relates to the Chargers. It’s up to McCoy to flip the script. For the team’s well-being, as well as his own.

REPORT CARD VS. RAVENS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B. Philip Rivers threw for 300 yards for the fifth straight game but it was not enough — once again. Rivers threw for three touchdowns with him almost willing the Chargers to a victory. But he and the team fell short once again despite tight end Antonio Gates coming back. Gates was decent, but the loss of wide receiver Keenan Allen during the game was significant. Pass-blocking was good; Rivers did get rocked on occasion. But again a good day that ended in a familiar result.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C. A pulse was detected here and it’s been some time. That the Chargers ran for only 81 yards underscores that. Rookie Melvin Gordon got his first extended playing time and was OK, averaging 4 yards per carry. The front line was in flux for all four quarters, which might explain the few running lanes. Running back Danny Woodhead had only three carries, which was strange although the staff seemed intent on getting Gordon in the flow.

–PASS DEFENSE: D. It came down to a big play at the end, and the back end was again to blame. Cornerback Steve Williams was flagged for pass interference, which set up the game-winner. Cornerback Brandon Flowers was in and out of the game with a balky knee. That injury is worth watching and might explain his uneven play of late. Two boneheaded penalties by safety Jahleel Addae were killers. Linebacker Melvin Ingram, with 1.5. sacks was solid.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C. Despite missing defensive end Corey Liuget for most the game, the line held up well. And the linebackers were active, with backups littered across the unit. The Ravens ran for 72 yards, which is cause for a celebration considering the Chargers’ run defense.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: D. K Josh Lambo nailed two more field goals, proving again this rookie has the goods. That was not the case for veteran Jacoby Jones when he let a punt drop around the 20-yard line and stop inside the 5 — a devastating decision that indirectly led to the loss. The return games for the Chargers were not productive. P Mike Scifres was on his game.

–COACHING: C. Coach Mike McCoy was working on the fly and for that, his staff deserves some credit. A dozen Chargers left during the game, so his early plans had to be adjusted. McCoy tried to get Melvin Gordon going, and we can’t argue with that. Philip Rivers needs some help. But defensively, when a stop was needed, again it could not be produced. Defensive coordinator John Pagano was creative, but possibly didn’t have the personnel.


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