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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Game Preview: Chargers vs. Browns

Source: CBS Sports

The San Diego Chargers continue to roll over opponents. A Cleveland Browns team that owns one of the NFL's worst defenses could have a difficult time slowing them down.

The AFC West-leading Chargers look to win their 15th straight December game Sunday when they face the injury-plagued Browns, who will try to avoid their 10th consecutive home loss.

San Diego (8-3) won its sixth in a row last week, 43-14 over Kansas City to regain a one-game lead over Denver in the division.

The Chargers, who posted their highest point total since a 48-29 victory over the New York Jets last Sept. 22, scored four of their five touchdowns off turnovers.

Quentin Jammer picked off a pass and forced a fumble, Brandon Siler and Larry English recovered fumbles, and safety Paul Oliver grabbed a fumble out of the air from Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell and ran it in from 40 yards.

"We put the offense in good field position and really helped them out every way we could. It was a close game for the first half, but then the turnovers took over and we capitalized on all of them," Oliver said.

Oliver's play came 20 seconds after Philip Rivers found Antonio Gates for a 15-yard touchdown following Siler's fumble recovery.

Rivers, who threw for 317 yards and two TDs - both to Gates - completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 12 TDs and three interceptions as the Chargers won their last six games by an average of 17.5 points.

He will try to lead San Diego its first seven-game winning streak since it went 10-0 to finish the 2006 regular season.

Since a 23-7 loss to Denver on Dec. 31, 2005, San Diego has gone 14-0 in December.

Although his team will face a Browns defense that is giving up more than 393.0 yards and 25.0 points per game, coach Norv Turner doesn't want the Chargers to look past Sunday with contests against Dallas, Cincinnati and Tennessee coming up.

"We go to Cleveland, it's going to be a challenge for us," Turner said. "You look at our schedule over the next five games, we play good football teams that are doing the same thing we're doing, trying to make the playoffs."

With six straight losses, Cleveland (1-10) has no postseason hopes. The Browns, tied for the league's worst record, lost 16-7 at Cincinnati on Sunday and will now be trying avoid a 10th consecutive home defeat.

Brady Quinn went 15 of 34 for 100 yards as the Browns scored seven points or fewer for the seventh time this season. Cleveland's defense wasn't any better, surrendering 306 yards - 210 on the ground.

Things only got worse with the loss of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, one of the team's best run stoppers. Rogers was carted off in the final minutes with an undisclosed leg injury last week and went on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season.

Ahtyba Rubin, a sixth-round draft pick in 2008, is expected to take his place.

"It's a great opportunity," Rubin said. "It's unfortunate it happened to a great person like Big Baby and I just look forward to getting out there on Sundays and proving myself. It's big shoes to fill."

Rogers' absence could benefit Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who looks to move up another two spots on the all-time rushing list.

Tomlinson ran for 39 yards Sunday, moving past Marcus Allen and Edgerrin James for 10th place with 12,257. He needs 23 yards to pass Marshall Faulk for ninth and 56 to overtake Jim Brown for eighth.

Cleveland is ranked 29th in rush defense, allowing 159.9 yards per game.

The Browns suffered several other key injuries. Leading rusher Jamal Lewis is out with an unspecified head injury that could jeopardize his career.

Coach Eric Mangini will also have to find a replacement for starting safety Brodney Pool, who suffered his fourth career concussion Sunday. Pool has not been placed on injured reserve, but his season and career could be over.

Chargers safety Eric Weddle may be sidelined for two weeks or more with a sprained knee, while linebacker Shawne Merriman is questionable after leaving Sunday's game in the second quarter with a foot injury.

San Diego has won three straight over the Browns since a 20-16 loss in Cleveland on Oct. 7, 2001.