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Breaking Down The Chargers

BREAKING DOWN THE CHARGERS
* The skinny: The Chargers lost their past three games and last won a game when they played the Raiders on Oct. 12. They got outscored 95-41 in those three losses. Few remember that the Chargers won five straight games after a one-point loss to the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals in their opener. This is the kind of game that the Chargers have to win if they are to emerge from a crowded field of playoff hopefuls. The Chargers feature a pass-heavy attack because of their inability to run the ball well. The expected return of lead back Ryan Mathews figures to give the run game a much-needed jolt and take pressure off quarterback Philip Rivers in the passing game.

* Players to fear/Offense
Rivers. He has 20 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. He also has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,351 yards.
WR Malcom Floyd. He is third on the Chargers with 28 receptions. However, he has averaged 18.9 yards per reception and scored three touchdowns as the big-play threat.
TE Antonio Gates. Nine of his 35 receptions went for touchdowns the first nine games. He always tends to give the Raiders fits.

* Players to fear/Defense
S Eric Weddle. He leads the Chargers with 61 tackles. He also has a penchant for making game-changing plays, especially against the Raiders.
DE Corey Liuget. His 2 ½ sacks are more than anyone else on the team. However, his real value lies in his ability to be a disruptive force in the passing game on a consistent basis.
CB Brandon Flowers. He has two of San Diego’s four interceptions this season. He also tends to match up against the opposing team’s top receiver.

* Key numbers
3.1 – Average yards per carry through nine games, which represents the worst in the league. They also are 30th in average rushing yards per game at 81.8, better than only the Cardinals and Raiders.
14 – Number of field goals made this season by Nick Novak without a miss.
102.6 – Rivers’ passer rating, which is sixth-highest among regular starting quarterbacks
18 – Victories over Raiders in past 22 meetings, dating to second matchup between the team in 2003.

* Injury report: S Jahleel Addae (concussion), WR Seyi Ajirotutu (non-injury related), LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring), LB Dwight Freeney (non-injury related), NT Sean Lissemore (quadriceps), RB Ryan Mathews (knee), C/G Rich Ohrnberger (back), LB Manti Te’o (foot) and CB Jason Verrett (shoulder)

* Vegas says: Chargers by 10

* What others are saying: Twelve of the 13 so-called ESPN experts that predict the outcome of games each week have the Chargers beating the Raiders.

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Broncos 20, Raiders 10 — Halftime

The Broncos converted a drive that bridged the first and second quarters into a go-ahead field goal. Again, the Raiders defense stiffened when the Broncos got inside the 20-yard line.
Free safety Charles Woodson made a nice open-field tackle on a third-and-10 play that yielded only 5 yards and forced the Broncos to settle for a field goal once again.
The Broncos held the Raiders offense without a first down on the ensuing drive and took over at their 32-yard line after a Marquette King punt.
That’s when Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck made a highlight reel play to swing the momentum back to the Raiders.
He timed a Peyton Manning short pass, batted it into the air and then completed the play with a diving grab for an interception.
Derek Carr parlayed the turnover into a Raiders touchdown when he connected with wide receiver Brice Butler for a 5-yard touchdown. Carr spotted Butler working along the back of the end zone, delivered a strike and relied upon Butler to do the rest.
Butler handled his part of the equation by securing the ball and getting down both feet before he ran out of the back of the end zone.
That gave the Raiders a 10-6 lead, placed more pressure on the Broncos and energized the crowd.
The Broncos came right back, however, and marched down the field with relative ease. Twice Manning completed passes on third-down plays that yielded first downs.
Yet, the Raiders defense held firm and forced another punt when Manning’s third-down pass for receiver Emmanuel Sanders fell incomplete, with DJ Hayden in tight coverage.
The Raiders weren’t able to do much with their next possession, as Carr’s third-down pass to James Jones was well covered by the Broncos. Jones got tackled well shy of the first-down marker.
That gave Manning another chance to try to get into a rhythm for the first time all day. The possession started at the Broncos 43. Again, the Broncos got stymied by the Raiders defense.
A short time later, Carr got hit as he attempted a pass, which caused the ball to flutter. Broncos rookie cornerback Bradley Roby intercepted the errant pass.
Three plays later, Manning dumped a pass to running back C.J. Anderson in the left flat on a third-and-8 play. That’s where the head-scratching defense started.
Linebackers Miles Burris and Khalil Mack whiffed on open-field tackles, then free safety Charles Woodson, then a couple others as Anders made his way down the sideline, then cut all the way across the field for a 51-yard touchdown.
Instead of getting the ball back one more time before halftime, the Raiders allowed a go-ahead touchdown.
Worse, the Raiders failed to get a first down on the ensuing drive, with the third-down play being an incomplete pass from Carr for receiver Butler.
That gave Manning almost two minutes to cover 62 yards. He needed far less, with the final 32 yards coming on a perfect throw for Emmanuel Sanders, who ran past cornerback DJ Hayden and made a diving catch at the goal line.

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Broncos 3, Raiders 3 — end of 1st quarter

The Raiders won the coin toss and opted to kick off to the Broncos to start the game. There’s never a good time to put the ball in the hands of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. However, this time the moved proved rather prescient.
Manning’s pass for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders sailed high, with cornerback DJ Hayden swooping in to snare the errant pass with his right hand and corral it for an interception.
The Raiders took possession at the Broncos 49-yard line and quickly moved inside the 25. The drive stalled at the 23, as the Raiders relied upon a steady diet of short, safe passes from Derek Carr.
Ultimately, the Broncos sniffed out the passes and prevented the Raiders from getting inside their 20. That forced the Raiders to settle for a Sebastian Janikowski 41-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Broncos wasted little time in answering, as Manning marched his team down the field with ease before the drive fizzled out near the Raiders goal line.
The Broncos settled for a game-tying field goal after Raiders linebacker Miles Burris tackled Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas at the 2-yard line on a third-and-goal play from the 9.
Two plays earlier, Manning’s lob pass to wide-open running back Ronnie Hillman was a tad short, with Hillman dropping the pass near the goal line.
The Raiders second drive ended without a first down when Carr’s third-down pass for seldom-used receiver Vincent Brown was clanked near the sideline. The Raiders then summoned Marquette King to punt for the first time today.
As the quarter ended, the Broncos were deep in Raiders territory, with the ball at the 20. A pass interference penalty on cornerback Tarell Brown gave the Broncos a first down at the 15.
It’s now third-and-10 from the 15 as the second quarter begins. All in all, a pretty good start for an 0-8 Raiders team against a 6-2 Broncos team.

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