Chargers Veering from the Path

The San Diego Chargers face off against the Oakland Raiders this weekend at the Coliseum. Both teams are reeling from a slow start and are looking to get on track as a loss would put the Raiders in a deep hole, while a win for the Bolts may restore some confidence.<br><br> As the injury report grows in San Diego, another receiver is out due to a suspension and the wheels are coming off...

The Chargers are seeking their first win, after getting blitzed the opening three games by a combine score of 88-37. The Raiders have only the lowly Bengals to thank for their lone win; they're coming off a red-faced, Monday night performance in which they were slapped, 31-10 by the Broncos.

On Tuesday Coach Callahan told reporters, "We've had success with Denver, and they've had success with us, but the team that jumps out to the early lead... it's pivotal, it's really crucial. Because it's the way you start games that has a consequence of how you finish games."

So far the Chargers have claimed a lead for just 63 seconds this year. A three pointer to start a game. After that, the Chargers could not make lay-ups, free throws, but they certainly have committed to being foul.

Early leads for the opposition has stifled the Bolts and it has thrown off whatever gameplan they had. Entering the fourth quarter of all three of their losses this year, the Chargers have trailed by at least 20 points.

Thus the Chargers main weapon, LaDainian Tomlinson has passed the century mark just once this season. Now the Chargers again are without David Boston, he of the one game suspension, at a time when they need him to continue to provide a deep threat presence.

"We've got to worry about Oakland," linebacker Donnie Edwards told reporters Thursday. "That's a mater between the head coach and David." The Chargers would love to emulate what the Broncos did to the Raiders, in streaking to a quick lead. If the Chargers can follow suit, it would be the first time this year they didn't immediately fall behind. But that's difficult when you lean on your running game so much, especially with the uncertainly at wide receiver.

Adding to the gloom, they face a hungry Oakland team looking for its own answers.

The difference between the teams appears to be in its thought process.

"We are not even close to playing our best football at this juncture," said Callahan. "Teams have caught up with us. I freely admit that."

Callahan has vowed changes. Without being specific, he says the Raiders offense will get physical and bloody some lips. Already Callahan has inserted Barret Robbins back in at center. Robbins was a Pro Bowl selection last year and his forte is as a 335-pound bulldozer in the middle of the line.

"I was angry three games ago," Frank Middleton said. "I guess it's going to keep building until I explode or the offense explodes. One of them's got to explode first."

The Raiders are downright angry about losing. They hate it and it shows in their demeanor. Rich Gannon snapped at reporters this week. That energy is lacking in San Diego.

Controversy is in San Diego on what seems to be a daily basis. It is tough to win when other matters are on their minds.

"What happens is it can go either way right now," Donnie Edwards said. "It depends on the leaders of the team, and we have a strong leadership here. We will all stay together and we're going to turn this thing around."

This might be the last chance the Chargers have at turning the season around. Even now the odds seem insurmountable.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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