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Chargers hit road in search of a cure

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SAN DIEGO — If misery does seek a companion, the San Diego Chargers have come to the right place.

The Chargers, losers of five of their last six games and three straight, play the reeling Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

It’s a trip back east for the Chargers and maybe getting out of San Diego will help a team that’s fading fast. But the Chargers (2-5) have lost all three road games this season — at Cincinnati, Minnesota and Green Bay. Then again, the wobbly Ravens might be the tonic the Chargers seek.

The perennial AFC powerhouse Ravens have fallen on hard times. Baltimore (1-6) is off to its worst start in franchise history.

The Chargers view the Ravens’ woes with little sympathy. They have enough issues on their fractured plate:

— Coach Mike McCoy is growing more testy with the media after noting the Chargers have lost eight of their last 11 games.

— The running game the Chargers bragged about establishing in the preseason has vanished. Rookie Melvin Gordon was benched last week because of fumbling issues and a sore ankle hasn’t help his cause. The Chargers are averaging 87.1 rushing yards per game, third worst in the AFC.

— The run defense continues to struggle, allowing 132.1 yards per game. Only the Cleveland Browns are worse in the AFC.

— There’s a tepid pass rush the Chargers can’t hide from.

— There’s a minimum of contributions from San Diego’s special teams.

So the team that rolls into Baltimore this weekend needs a win — badly.

“We got to go and pick ourselves up and go again,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I know I’ve said that it seems like five of the last six weeks now, but that’s all we can do.”

The Ravens will be doing likewise, trying to rally in front of the home fans that feel about the same way as Chargers backers feel about their bunch.

Baltimore, also with a three-game losing streak, is coming off a short week and a loss at Arizona on Monday. But like the Chargers, the Ravens desperately seek a victory.

“Obviously, we all want to win,” Chargers wide receiver Stevie Johnson said. “We have to just got to keep coming out and try to make something happen.”

The Chargers had better hurry before they are completely erased from the AFC West race. With just nine games remaining, they are getting farther from the first-place Denver Broncos (6-0).

Like Rivers said, it’s go-time for the Chargers before their once-promising season circles their drain.

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. The Chargers and Ravens have split the previous 10 games. The Chargers return to Baltimore, where they had one of their most exciting wins last season. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 383 yards in the 34-33 victory. The Chargers were the first West Coast team in 12 tries to beat the Ravens in Baltimore. The Chargers have won two of the past three matchups, with Baltimore winning 16-13 in San Diego in 2012. The teams have never met in the postseason.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

— The Chargers’ run defense, which could be without starting ILB Manti Te’o and free safety Eric Weddle, vs. the Ravens’ running game, which features Justin Forsett. The Chargers are ranked No. 31 against the run, getting punched for 132 yards per game. Te’o was playing well before an ankle injury kept him out of last week’s game and there is no guarantee he’ll be back Sunday. Weddle isn’t going to rattle many ball-carriers with his hits and tackles, but he does a keen job of getting everyone on defense aligned in the proper places and has the experience the younger players can lean on when things go bad. Forsett has 116 carries for 493 yards and two scores. He’s averaging 4.3 yards, which is OK. But if the Ravens get him rolling, it helps Joe Flacco’s ability to run the play-action.

— The Chargers’ running game, which is sputtering on fumes, vs. the Ravens’ run defense, which features inside linebacker Daryl Smith. Really, the Chargers want to run the ball and they think they have the goods in three-headed monster Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver. But for various reasons — bad blocking, bad reads, bad scoreboard situations — the Chargers have yet to establish the run with any consistency. Coach Mike McCoy said he is not giving up on the run, so look for the Chargers to at least pay lip service to it early in the game. But Smith leads a run defense that is allowing 102 yards per game. Smith is a load inside with 62 tackles. He also has an active C.J. Mosley (three sacks) next to him. But for the sake of Philip Rivers’ well-being, a running game has to be discovered.


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