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Weddle calls out younger Chargers

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SAN DIEGO — Safety Eric Weddle was holding court while holding his San Diego Chargers teammates accountable.

The Chargers have a huge game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, their first in AFC West play. While the Raiders are fresh from a bye, the Chargers are still smarting from a week which brought two losses in the games’ final minutes.

Losers of four of their last five games, including one last Sunday at Green Bay, 27-20, the Chargers need to get right. Quickly.

But does what ails the Chargers have more to do with what happens during the week? Are the Sunday outcomes a reflection of how focused or prepared the team gets during the week?

That was the topic discussed by Weddle, the All-Pro veteran who is playing out his contract. Specifically he questions the work ethic of the team’s younger players.

“It’s up to the individual players,” said Weddle, in his fourth season as defensive captain. “It’s up to them if they want to do it or not. You can’t go home. You can’t push them.”

The Chargers need some kind of nudge over a hill which they can’t conquer. They are already behind the first-place Broncos by four games with 10 left to play. Is there time to get on a roll?

One might think so, especially when peeking at the upcoming opponents: Raiders, Ravens, Bears, Chiefs and Jaguars. And the Raiders’ game will be the Chargers’ first of the season against an AFC West rival.

But Weddle said the answer isn’t in numbers or the name of the opponent, but a matter of whether the players want to go the extra mile it takes to win in this league.

“You can do as much as you can as a teammate to try and guide them and give them as much info as you can,” Weddle said. “But if they do, they do and that’s great. If they don’t, it shows.

“For me, I’m just going to try to do over the last nine years and help them. It’s up to them if they want to do it or not.”

Coach Mike McCoy echoed Weddle’s observation. All teams, McCoy said, have skill. What separates them is the preparation.

“There’s a learning curve,” McCoy said. “You can’t just go out there and win on talent anymore.”

Especially on Sunday against a Raiders team which has shown a pulse. It’s easy for the Chargers (2-4) to sense as they look up to Oakland (2-3) in the standings.

Quarterback Philip Rivers, fresh off throwing for 503 yards, said the belief is still there. The key part, Rivers said, is that the Chargers are entering the AFC West competition.

“We are not where we ought to be in after six weeks,” Rivers said. “But this starts our division play and we know how important it is to win games in this division. It is big and this is our first opportunity.”

And Weddle is warning his teammates that they are out of time and cannot squander this opportunity.

SERIES HISTORY: 111th regular-season meeting. The Raiders lead the series, 58-50-2. Despite the Raiders having the edge, the Chargers have had their way in this matchup in recent years. San Diego has won six of the last seven games. From 2003-09 the Chargers won 13 straight over the Raiders. The Chargers most painful loss to the Raiders came in the only time they played each other in the playoffs: the 1980 AFC Championship Game. The Raiders prevailed, 34-27, to prevent the Chargers from reaching their first Super Bowl.

GAME PLAN: The Chargers do few things well on a consistent basis, but throwing the football is No. 1. So the Chargers will attack the Raiders through the air, letting Philip Rivers do is thing. Despite not having a running game, the Chargers were able to hog the ball for 33 minutes against the Packers.

With the Chargers defense playing up-and-down, the smart thing is to keep the ball and keep them the Chargers defense off the field. The Chargers can’t run it, but with Rivers using Danny Woodhead out of the backfield and having his old safety value back in tight end Antonio Gates, the short passes for pass for the Chargers running game and allows them move, and keep the football.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Chargers offensive tackles vs. the Raiders speed rushers off the edges.

The Chargers could get left tackle King Dunlap back this week after he missed three games because of a concussion. At right tackle, Joe Barksdale has been among the few Chargers offensive linemen to take the majority of the snaps. Each will have a speed rusher in the Raiders’ family new 3-4 scheme.

Dunlap should get Aldon Smith, the former San Francisco player. For Barksdale, it’s Khalil Mack, who is seventh in the NFL with 17 quarterback hurries. Philip Rivers doesn’t need much time to release the ball and that’s a plus this week.

–Chargers cornerbacks vs. the Raiders wide receivers.

Corners Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers will be tested by rookie Armani Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree. Verrett, a second-year player, probably draws Cooper, who has proved he is the real deal. Flowers, who lost a step, likely gets the veteran Crabtree but that’s no treat, either. The key is the corners getting some help, and that includes Patrick Robinson, who has been subbing in for Flowers.


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