Under pressure

Sunday's game will hinge on protection. The San Diego Chargers are ailing defensively but they sacked Oakland nine times in week one and the Raiders are down a few offensive linemen.


The Chargers will be at less than full strength defensively again Sunday against the Raiders when they try to run their winning streak to five.

Linebacker Shawne Merriman will miss one more game to complete his four-game suspension for steroids use.

Defensive end Luis Castillo is still hobbling on a sprained ankle and will miss his third consecutive game.

Linebacker Shaun Phillips aggravated a calf injury Sunday that had previously forced him to miss two games. Phillips likely will play against Oakland, but at some point a speed rusher like him likely would be compromised.

The team lost linebacker Steve Foley to a shooting before the season.

But so far, the Chargers have stiff-armed the setbacks as LaDainian Tomlinson does would-be tacklers.

Marques Harris, a reserve linebacker, has picked up two sacks in his limited time.

"In this business, not just this team, but every other team goes through the same things, where it's injuries or off-the-field things," Harris said. "Whatever they may be, guys are going to get called upon. I think we've done a good job -- a great job. Even though we've had a lot of guys out, we've been able to keep moving forward and get those wins."

The Chargers are aiming for their seventh consecutive win over the Raiders -- something that San Diego has never done despite two annual games against the Raiders since 1960.


Something interesting happened to the Raiders' pass blocking after quarterback Aaron Brooks was able to escape a brutal pass rush in his return against the Chiefs.

It got better.

There were numerous times early when the Chiefs were on the verge of racking up sacks, only to watch Brooks get away via reverse pivot, breaking tackles or simply having the presence and speed to escape.

Instead of sacks, the Chiefs got air. And eventually, the rush became manageable for an Oakland offensive line that was missing left tackle Robert Gallery (dislocated elbow) and left guard Barry Sims (abdominal strain).

"It slows down the rush somewhat," coach Art Shell said of Brooks' mobility. "It makes those guys a little bit leery about how they're going to approach their rush pattern. When they know a guy is sitting in the pocket, they know he's going to be there when they make their move. Brooks has the ability to feel the rush and anticipate when a guy gets close enough to spin out of it and get out in the flat, which helps the offensive linemen."

Walter, who came on in Week 2 after Brooks was hurt, absorbed 40 sacks and got a 41st when he was chased out of bounds against Kansas City in a brief appearance while Brooks recovered from cramps on the final drive.

Brooks was not sacked in 22 pass attempts, and he scrambled five times for 34 yards.

Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess, one of the NFL's top pass rushers, watched the life come out of the Kansas City charge.

"They slowed down. I think they got tired more than anything," Burgess said. "You're rushing, then you've got to take the quarterback down, and you're still not getting him? That takes a lot of energy out of you."

Guard Corey Hulsey said it boosted the spirits of the linemen to see Brooks make potential negatives into positives, and that it affected their performance in a positive way.

"It seemed like early on they were getting a good rush, then Aaron got away from it, and it picked you up to know they weren't going to get the sacks," Hulsey said. "Then the protection improved. (Chiefs rush end) Jared Allen didn't go nuts. He got a couple of good rushes early, then sort of disappeared."

Getting San Diego to disappear Sunday figures to be a difficult proposition. The Chargers have 36 sacks -- 16 more than the Chiefs -- and dumped Brooks (seven times) and Walter (twice) nine times in Week 1.

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