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Running back Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after scoring a two-yard touchdown in the first half while taking on the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 10, 2011 in San Diego, California.
The San Diego Chargers have spun and denied reality all season, hanging their helmets on what the standings showed in spite of them.
Quit worrying how we've looked: We're 4-1.
See the bottom line: We're 4-2.
Come off it: We're 4-3.
It's OK: We're tied for first place.
After the short-handed Oakland Raiders stepped into Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday night and pounded them to a pulp in front of a national audience, players admitted the truth at last.
Wow: We need a break.
The drowning Chargers are in deep water, and after a 24-17 manhandling and fourth consecutive loss, one weekend is their only retreat before the lights flip back on Monday morning at their Mission Valley complex.
Cornerback Quentin Jammer allowed three catches for a season-high 105 yards and two touchdowns. He'll spend the coming days with his children, he says, including going to their soccer tournament.
“I'm going to get away,” Jammer said. “Get away from football for a minute. After a performance like that, you kind of have to regroup. That's what I'll do … That's as bad as I could have played in 10 years. I put it out there. Now teams think they are going to beat me. It's not going to happen.”
Time heals all wounds, but this team, in its third game in 11 days, looked broken, and an off-night from Jammer is the least of its concerns.
The offensive line, as one player put it, is in "shambles."
Left tackle Marcus McNeill suffered a stinger on the offense's eighth play, and fill-in Brandyn Dombrowski was miserable in relief. The versatile substitute, who started five games at left tackle last season during McNeill's contract dispute, ceded four sacks to outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, one quarterback hit and nine pressures.
The rest of the line, which lost right guard Louis Vasquez to an ankle injury and was already without Pro Bowl left guard Kris Dielman (concussion), struggled. Tyronne Green, who started for Dielman, Scott Mruczkowski, who replaced Vasquez, and Jeromey Clary each allowed a sack.
"You're down 14, and the guys stepped in and fought their asses off," center Nick Hardwick said. "Their work is commended. It was a tough situation to be in. You certainly don't want to be coming off the bench and be throwing 50 times."
Trailing with shaky protection and the Raiders clouding a safety in coverage over wide receiver Vincent Jackson, quarterback Philip Rivers didn't stand much a chance to pull his team from the rubble. He was intercepted late on a jump ball in the end zone to Jackson, who didn't seem to locate the ball.
Afterward, Jackson couldn't be located by media, slipping out of the locker room without fielding questions.
The defense lost its veteran captain, linebacker Takeo Spikes, to a concussion. It also lost the war up front and gave up big plays, a total collapse to a physical Raiders attack that was without its most explosive weapon, running back Darren McFadden.
In relief, all Michael Bush did was rush 30 times for 157 yards and a touchdown with three catches for 85 yards.
At 4-5, the usually slow-starting Chargers drop to third place in the AFC West.
"It's been worse," Rivers said. "I feel like a broken record for saying it, but we're 4-5. It's been worse than this before."
Maybe. But this four-game losing streak is the longest since 2003.
Now, they have a weekend to think about it.