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Loss to Broncos leaves Chargers largely irrelevant

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Loss to Broncos leaves Chargers largely irrelevant

SAN DIEGO (AP) It's been a long time - 2003, to be exact - since the San Diego Chargers have been this irrelevant before Thanksgiving.

Back then, Marty Schottenheimer was their second-year coach, quarterback Drew Brees was benched because he struggled so much and LaDainian Tomlinson was in the third season of a Hall of Fame-caliber career.

The Chargers were awful, heading toward an NFL-worst 4-12 finish and their eighth straight year out of the playoffs.

The current Chargers aren't as bad, but are teetering on the brink of oblivion.

The Bolts (4-6) all but ceded the AFC West title to Peyton Manning and the Broncos by losing 30-23 at Denver on Sunday, leaving them with only a desperate shot at a wild-card spot.

Philip Rivers is under siege behind a shaky line every time he drops back to pass. His turnovers are piling up at an alarming rate. He committed three more at Denver, running his total to 43 in the past 26 games.

This season he's thrown 14 interceptions and lost four fumbles. Last season he was picked off 20 times and lost five fumbles.

Rivers has been sacked 26 times in 10 games, including four times at Denver.

Coach Norv Turner admits he worries about the quarterback's well-being.

``Yeah, I am. I mean, I think for the quarterback position, all you've got to do is look at two weeks ago and there's three or four guys that are laying on the ground with concussions or separate shoulders or whatever,'' Turner said Monday.

``It's a very demanding position. Some of the things we do from a game-plan standpoint, the things we're calling, the way we're doing things, is to try to limit his exposure and still give ourselves a chance to win the game. We're all very competitive. Philip's a very competitive guy. The way we put a game plan together is very competitive.

``We're used to having success offensively, we're used to scoring a lot of points, we're used to moving the ball. That probably doesn't fit with where we're at right now. When we can we take that aggressive nature, and there's sometimes we can't.''

After a 3-1 start, San Diego has lost five of six. On Sunday it hosts AFC North-leading Baltimore, which will be without safety Ed Reed, who was suspended for one game by the NFL on Monday for repeated hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players, and captain Ray Lewis, who remains on the injured reserve-return list with a torn triceps.

Besides their on-field struggles, the Chargers are hurting at the gate. With some 10,000 tickets still unsold 72 hours before the deadline, they appear headed toward their second local TV blackout this season. Their final three home games also are in danger of being blacked out.

It's expected that Turner will be fired at season's end if the Chargers miss the playoffs for a third straight season.

Every loss, which magnifies glaring roster deficiencies, brings more calls for general manager A.J. Smith to go, as well.

Team president Dean Spanos has declined repeated requests for interviews.

In past years, Spanos has waited until season's end to make decisions. He brought both Turner and Smith back in January despite the Chargers missing the playoffs for the second straight season after making the postseason four straight years and five of six.

Turner's contract runs through next season, at approximately $3 million, while Smith has two more years on his, at a total of about $4 million. While Spanos might be inclined to fire Turner, he might not be so quick to eat Smith's contract.

Firing Turner and keeping Smith would mean Spanos would give the GM another chance to hire a coach. Turner was an unpopular choice from the start, perceived as a coach whom Smith could control.

Turner replaced Schottenheimer, who was fired after going 14-2 in 2006 largely because of his icy relationship with the authoritarian Smith. Smith and Schottenheimer reportedly didn't speak to each other for two years.

At some point, Spanos' son, John, is expected to be promoted to oversee the franchise's football operations, although not with the title of general manager. John Spanos currently is director of college scouting.

If Smith is fired, the leading in-house candidate to replace him would be Jimmy Raye, the director of player personnel. Senior executive Randy Mueller, who serves as a national scout, is a former GM of the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints. It's not known if Dean Spanos would tap him for GM.

Smith hasn't returned repeated calls seeking comment on his roster.

The biggest problems are on the offensive line, where Smith hasn't adequately replaced two top players on the left side who were forced out of the game due to injuries, and at wide receiver, where he didn't adequately replace Vincent Jackson after he signed with Tampa Bay for $55 million.

The Chargers released left tackle Marcus McNeill on March 13 after he failed a physical. McNeill, who had a neck injury, didn't get any offers and retired. San Diego felt confident having re-signed Jared Gaither after he played well in the final five games last season.

But Gaither - previously released by both Baltimore and Kansas City - has been injured most of this season. Their third option at left tackle would have been Brandyn Dombrowski, who allowed four sacks in a home loss to the Raiders last season and has missed all of this season with a foot injury. Rookie free agent Mike Harris has started five games at left tackle.

Left guard Kris Dielman retired March 1 due to the effect of a concussion and was replaced by Tyronne Green.

Due to inadequate protection, Rivers has been scrambling most of the season.

``It was a tough day,'' Turner said of the Broncos game. ``He got hit, he got banged around, he got harassed, but I thought he battled through that and obviously made big plays in the second half.''

So how long can Rivers survive?

``It's what's happened to us,'' Turner said. ``It's very difficult. Through a normal game you're going to have some plays that don't come up exactly the way you want it, you're going to have some plays where you have to get rid of the ball quicker than you like, you're going to have some plays where you're under a little bit of pressure. That's the National Football League.''

On Sunday, the Chargers had some injuries on the line.

``That put a lot of pressure on the guys up front. That pressure obviously is transferred over to Phillip,'' Turner said.

Asked how much he misses McNeill and Dielman, Rivers said: ``Those are questions that are really hard to answer because you certainly miss guys that played a lot of great ball here for many years. At the same time, I'm glad we have the guys we have. ... That is all the big what-if game. We have gone out and had the chance to win every game we've played in other than the Atlanta game that got away from us right off the bat. We just haven't played well enough to win. Individually I haven't and collectively we haven't as a team.''

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Ravens lose in OT after offensive struggles haunt team once again

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Ravens lose in OT after offensive struggles haunt team once again

BALTIMORE -- When the Chicago Bears weigh the good and bad facets of their performance against the Baltimore Ravens, it's likely they will come up with this conclusion:

Who cares? We won.

After blowing a 14-point lead, allowing two long kick returns and committing two turnovers, the Bears used a 40-yard field goal by Connor Barth in overtime to secure a 27-24 victory Sunday.

"You got to be able to take whatever situation you get and make something out of it," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "I wanted to get a good W, go home and relax. The coming down to the wire thing is not my favorite style, but . however you get it, you just got to appreciate it."

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Jordan Howard ran for 167 yards, including a 53-yarder that set up the game-winning score for the Bears (2-4), whose two wins this season have come in overtime.

Howard's long run in OT put Chicago at the Baltimore 40. After rookie Mitchell Trubisky completed an 18-yard pass to Kendall Wright, Barth delivered the decisive kick.

"It wasn't always perfect -- it seldom is -- but we're just happy to get out of here with a win," Bears coach John Fox said.

Making his first career start on the road, Trubisky directed a conservative game plan that leaned heavily on the run. The first-round draft pick completed 8 of 16 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

"We took what the defense gave us," the rookie said. "The run game was working, so let's keep pounding the rock."

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Howard had 36 carries and the Bears gained 231 yards on 54 attempts.

"Whatever it takes to win," Fox stressed. "This week, we had to run the ball -- and we did."

Baltimore (3-3) trailed 17-3 in the third quarter and 24-16 late in regulation before capitalizing on special teams play to get back in the game.

Bobby Rainey took a kickoff 96 yards for a score to begin the comeback and Michael Campanaro brought back a punt 77 yards for a touchdown with 1:37 remaining. The 2-point conversion was successful , setting up overtime.

"Those two special teams touchdowns were huge," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens weren't the only ones to capitalize on big plays. Chicago used a halfback pass from Tarik Cohen to Zach Miller for a first-half score, and Adrian Amos returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown for a 24-13 lead with 5:08 left.

Baltimore was in position for the go-ahead score when Amos got his first career interception on a pass that bounced off the chest of receiver Chris Moore, who was covered tightly by Kyle Fuller.

Chicago forced three turnovers and frustrated quarterback Joe Flacco throughout the afternoon. Operating without injured receivers Jeremy Maclin (inactive) and Breshad Perriman (second-quarter concussion), Flacco went 24 for 41 for 180 yards with two interceptions.

Trubisky put Chicago ahead 17-3 in the third quarter with an on-the-run, 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dion Sims, who outfought Tony Jefferson for the ball in the end zone.

That put the Ravens in a precarious position, especially with a struggling offense.

Rainey alleviated the pressure by taking the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. After being tripped by a teammate, Rainey popped to his feet, broke right and went the distance.

Campanaro did his part later, but it wasn't enough.

"Sometimes your special teams kick in and score two touchdowns, which is great," tight end Benjamin Watson said. "But Chicago did a better job of closing than we did."

The Ravens were coming off a 30-17 win in Oakland in which they did not commit a turnover, didn't allow a sack and were penalized only once.

In this one, Baltimore gave the ball away twice, permitted two sacks and was flagged five times -- in the first half.

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Ravens vs. Bears: Date, time, TV channel, how to watch, online stream

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Bears: Date, time, TV channel, how to watch, online stream

The Ravens got a crucial 30-17 road win on Sunday against the Raiders and are looking to keep that momentum going.

Right off the bat, Joe Flacco threw a 52-yard pass to Mike Wallace that ultimately lead the Ravens to taking a 7-0 lead within minutes. That was pretty much the tone for the rest of the game. Flacco threw for 222 yards and completed 19 of 26 passes.

One major blow was star running back Terrance West being carted to the locker room during the first drive with a calf injury. He did not return to the game.

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Overall, the Ravens' offense connected on all fronts. Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Jeremy Maclin all made crucial catches after the Ravens couldn't get anything going in their last two games against the Jaguars and Steelers.

They are facing a struggling Bears team who has turned to rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky after starting quarterback Mike Glennon has had more fumbles and interceptions than he has touchdowns. Trubisky is set to make his first start Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

Their only win has been in Week 3 against the Steelers. They currently rank 26th in the league in passing yards but 11th in rushing yards, something the Ravens defense should have no issue stopping.

Ahead of the Ravens' game against the Bears, here's everything you need to know to watch.

Week 5 Ravens vs. Bears game info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears

What: Week 6 NFL regular season 

When: 1:00 p.m.. ET, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: NFL Game Pass, FOX Sports Go

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -6.5

Over/Under: 39.5

Weather: 84 degrees, partly cloudy

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): 20-0  at Cincinnati Bengals (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): 24-10 vs. Cleveland Browns (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): 44-7 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (in London) (L)

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. (W)

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m.

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m.

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m.

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14 (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15  (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16 (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17 (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m