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Short-handed Chargers run down angles to stop Jets' attack, find way into playoffs

Short-handed Chargers run down angles to stop Jets' attack, find way into playoffs
Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt tries to evade Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram during the second half of their game Saturday. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

It was Thursday, and there are rules about this kind of thing.

Questions about what happened the previous weekend don’t need answers — there’s no time for that, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. His eyes have to point forward, not back.

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“I’ve forgotten about that game,” he said. “My focus is on the New York Jets right now. It’s the New York Jets.”

Lynn wasn’t about to talk about one drive lost in the Chargers’ avalanche of interceptions, fumbles and penalties in a Saturday night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He didn’t want to relive a 12-play, more than seven-minute drive that could signal trouble for the Chargers against the Jets on Sunday.

But since he won’t …

With the Chargers leading 13-10 in the third quarter, the Chiefs marched down the field aided by penalties and missed tackles, and used rookie running back Kareem Hunt to bulldoze through the defense. Hunt rushed six times for 41 yards on the drive before catching a three-yard touchdown pass to put the Chiefs ahead for good.

It was the most successful a team has looked running the ball against the Chargers since much earlier in the season — and like much earlier in the season, linebacker Denzel Perryman wasn’t on the field when it happened.

With Perryman sidelined for at least one game because of a lower hamstring injury, the Chargers will be without their top linebacker, an impact tackler. Add Corey Liuget’s injury and the Jets’ running attack, which has gone for 100 yards or more in five of the last seven games, seemingly has a good target to start its attack.

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The Chargers are hoping improvements in their run defense before Perryman’s return in Week 10 from an ankle injury will re-emerge.

“Fortunately, we’ve been here before,” Lynn said. “We didn’t have Denzel for the first eight weeks of the season, so we’ll go back to our normal rotation with [Korey] Toomer and Hayes [Pullard].”

Over the last four weeks, Toomer has played only two defensive snaps (both Saturday) and Pullard 44. Perryman played 168 snaps.

And being thrust into a more prominent role after his playing time had diminished wasn’t easy, Pullard said.

“There probably was a little bit from not practicing as much. You’re practicing every single play and you’re sitting back and maybe getting 10 snaps,” he said. “You lose that, getting in shape, the lateral quickness and play recognition. You know, it’s getting into a groove.”

The Chargers hope that Pullard, Toomer and the rest of the run defense can get into a groove minus some important pieces. If the Jets can run the ball well, they can win. And a win by the Jets would eliminate the Chargers from playoff contention.

With that in mind, it makes sense to talk about the past — at least a little.

“To go back to last game, the disappointing factor was we just didn’t tackle very well,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “I thought we were making really good progress in our tackling, the open-field tackling, the closed-quarter tackling. But you can’t hide from the fact that it didn’t go our way in that aspect. And we have to recover quickly because this team wants to run the ball.”

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More tackle issues

On offense, the Chargers could be playing without both starting offensive tackles. Joe Barksdale and Russell Okung sat out Thursday’s practice.

“They’re still day to day, and we’ll see when we get to the end of the week,” Lynn said. “We just have to go with those young guys. They’re getting all of the reps this week and we’ve got to get them ready to go.”

Barksdale would be replaced by Michael Schofield, and if Okung can’t play, rookie Sam Tevi would be in line for his first start.

“The more he plays the better he’s going to get. He’s into it,” Lynn said of Tevi. “He knows what he’s doing, but he was hit-and-miss at times. I just think the more he plays the better he’s going to get. He’s athletic. He’s strong. We like him a lot.”

Etc.

Linebacker Jatavis Brown, who could play more in passing situations with Perryman injured, was a full participant Thursday after being limited Wednesday because of an abdomen injury. … Bradley’s son, Carter, signed to play quarterback at Toledo during Wednesday’s early signing day. … Lynn turned 49 on Thursday.

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