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Chargers

Offensive line injuries taking a hefty toll on Chargers’ run game

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon fumbles the ball.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon fumbles the ball before managing to recover it during the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers lost Sunday because, when they really needed to, they couldn’t gain one yard on the ground.

It certainly didn’t help that before those final two plays at the Tennessee goal line, there were a bunch of rushing yards the Chargers also couldn’t gain.

For the third consecutive week — all since starter Melvin Gordon returned from his contract holdout — the Chargers struggled with their running game.

“We can throw the ball against anybody with our tight ends, our wide receivers, our quarterback,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “We have got to figure out how to run the ball better. We have got to get chemistry with the offensive line and just have to do a better job.”

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In losing their past three games, the Chargers have rushed 51 times for only 106 yards.

Gordon, who missed the first four weeks, has 81 yards on 36 carries, a 2.25-yard average. He still has not gained more than seven yards on any carry.

Against the Titans, the Chargers actually regressed. They finished with 39 yards on 21 attempts. Only two of their 24 first downs came on the ground.

“We need to get the run game going still,” offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “We’re still lacking there. We gotta be better up front. We gotta open things up on those plays so Mel can score easier.”

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Already without left tackle Russell Okung and center Mike Pouncey, the Chargers lost another offensive lineman Sunday when Forrest Lamp went down with an ankle injury.

The Chargers had no update on his status after the game, Lamp leaving the stadium in a walking boot.

Scott Quessenberry replaced Lamp and moved to center. Feeney, who started at center, moved to left guard.

“It’s devastating to lose a guy,” Feeney said. “It’s always tough coming in cold. I thought Scott did a good job trying to control the huddle. He’s a younger guy, so we tried to help him. I think he did a good job coming in.”

Okung has missed the first seven games after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. He was cleared to return to practice last week and could play Sunday against Chicago.

Pouncey is out for the season because a neck injury that required surgery. The Chargers are unsure if he’ll be able to resume his career.

“It’s always the worst feeling when someone goes down,” Feeney said. “But the game goes on. We gotta figure out a solution. We have to find an algorithm to winning. This week, we definitely need to keep studying and keep working.”

Teamer pick

As bad as this defeat was for the Chargers, it featured a lifetime highlight for safety Roderic Teamer.

The undrafted rookie out of Tulane had his first career interception, picking off a Ryan Tannehill pass that had been deflected by edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu.

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“It’s a great feeling,” Teamer said. “It’s an exciting time, something you dream about as a kid. I’m just having a hard time enjoying it right now, as you can imagine.”

Teamer emerged during training camp and the preseason to catch the Chargers’ attention. He moved into the starting lineup after Adrian Phillips suffered a broken arm against Detroit in Week 2. Teamer finished Sunday with six tackles, including one for loss.

Untested players have struggled to be effective in big defensive roles for the Chargers in the wake of injuries to prominent players.

The play that resulted in his interception looked familiar because the Titans had run it early. Cornerback Casey Hayward warned Teamer that Tennessee likely would try the play again.

“When they did the same motion, I kind of anticipated it,” Teamer said. “I feel like if the ball had not been tipped, I still would have picked it, to be honest.”

While several of the Chargers struggled to recall a defeat similar to the one they suffered Sunday, Teamer said he experienced the same sort of loss in college.

During his junior season, Tulane dropped its finale — and a chance to go to a bowl game — when its quarterback was ruled to have not scored a late touchdown at the goal line.

“I feel like he did get in, to this day,” Teamer said. “That was a tough ‘L’ we had to take. This today was worse. It hurts a lot more. It’s tough.”

Faked out

Among the Chargers’ failures against the Titans was a glaring one in the first quarter when they were victimized by a fake punt.

On fourth and eight from the Chargers’ 43-yard line, Tennessee punter Brett Kern took the snap and passed to Kevin Byard, the team’s starting free safety, for an 11-yard gain. The trickery set up a 45-yard field goal by Cody Parkey for the game’s first points.

Etc.

Philip Rivers, who finished 24 of 38 for 329 yards and two touchdowns, moved past Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger into sixth place on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list. … Tight end Hunter Henry on how he anticipates the 2-5 Chargers now responding: “There’s a bunch of fighters in here. I think you saw that at the end today. We aren’t going to give up.”

A look at the significant numbers behind the Chargers’ 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
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