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SAN DIEGO – The Chargers on Monday assessed what happened in the loss that finalized their 2011 fate and began shifting toward a 16th and final regular-season game at Oakland.
The 38-10 loss at Detroit was difficult for a number of reasons, chief among them being assured of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
It also dropped San Diego to 5-10 on the road the last two seasons and was the worst under Head Coach Norv Turner, whose Chargers teams have lost by more than 14 points only one other time (38-14 at New England in the second game of ’07).
The defeat felt all the more striking to some after three consecutive wins, including a dominant effort against an 11-win Baltimore team less than a week earlier. But Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions presented a different sort of quarterback and matchup than the Jaguars, Bills or Ravens and more closely matched the offensive approach of New England, Green Bay and Chicago, other losses this year.
“A lot of it is matchups and the style of offense. We have not played well against a wide-open spread offense,” Turner said. “We’ve struggled against teams that spread you out and use three or four receivers. Obviously their tight end had a big day. We were concerned about that going in. I thought we’d play better than we played, though.
“We couldn’t get (Detroit’s offense) off the field on third down. Offensively, once they got up, the run was a non-issue and we just couldn’t make enough plays in the passing game to get back into the game.”
Turner also felt like the team missed an opportunity after Eric Weddle recovered an onside kick in the third quarter near midfield. The Chargers drove inside the 5-yard line but could not score a touchdown that would’ve gotten San Diego within 24-14. Detroit halted whatever momentum a field goal created by scoring a touchdown on its next drive.
Since a 13-3 season in 2009, San Diego is 16-16 and has missed the playoffs with back-to-back Week 16 losses, both by wide margins. The Chargers need to win on the road Sunday to avoid a losing record for the first time since ’03.
“Really since (’09), whether it be circumstances with contracts or injuries or guys leaving the team, we have not been able to keep that team on the field for an extended period of time, and that’s a challenge for everybody,” Turner said. “We haven’t handled it as well as we’d like to, but I think our guys have worked awfully hard at handling those situations.”
As for motivation, Turner said a December loss to the Raiders last year as well as a 24-17 defeat Nov. 10 will incite the players and coaches to put forth a great effort, as well as an interest in acquitting themselves after Saturday’s performance.
The players and assistant coaches have done a commendable job of focusing on the task at hand despite some difficult circumstances, Turner said.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Chargers reported a handful of injuries Saturday, but Turner expects everyone who played to be available for the season finale.
Travis LaBoy (knee) and Jacques Cesaire (ankle) were the most notable inactives Saturday, though Cesaire could’ve played. Vincent Jackson (groin) did not practice all week and caught just two of the seven passes thrown his direction against Detroit.
“I think it’s hard on any player, but Vincent’s history is when he’s been like this and hasn’t been able to practice we haven’t gotten as much out of him,” Turner said. “He made a couple big plays in the game, had a couple plays over the middle, but we really were never able to get him going the way we’d like to.”
In other news, Ryan Mathews needs just 20 rushing yards against Oakland to surpass 1,110, LaDainian Tomlinson’s total in ’08. With 1,546 yards from scrimmage, Mathews already has the best total by a Chargers player since Tomlinson in ’07 (1,949 yards).
Mathews is fifth among NFL running backs for all-purpose yards, trailing Baltimore’s Ray Rice, Houston’s Arian Foster, Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew and Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy.