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Chargers hope defense continues momentum after win

October 9, 2018
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Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram, left, celebrates his interception with teammate cornerback Casey Hayward during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Chargers had struggled with their pass rush and keeping opponents out of the end zone in their first four games.

But Los Angeles is hoping that Sunday’s 26-10 victory over Oakland signals a change for the rest of the season.

The Chargers sacked the Raiders’ Derek Carr three times and allowed only one touchdown. They had allowed the fifth-most points in the league and were ranked in the bottom half of the league in sacks and quarterback pressures after the first quarter of the season.

“A game like that should give them a lot of confidence. Our defense is getting better,” coach Anthony Lynn said Monday.

The Chargers (3-2) have not been at full strength defensively all season, but they are starting to get some valuable players back. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget returned from his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancers, which helped free up the number of times that Melvin Ingram was double-teamed.

Ingram, who struggled during the first three games, has played better in the past two. Ingram tied for the team lead in tackles with seven along with a sack and his first regular-season interception.

Philip Rivers and the offense converted both Raiders’ turnovers into touchdowns.

“If we can create turnovers and get our offense the ball, we got one of the most high-powered offenses in this league, so we are trying to get them the ball every time we can,” Ingram said.

Another reason for the Chargers’ success against the Raiders was that they were stingy on third down. They came into the Oakland game allowing the fourth-highest conversion rate on third down (46.8 percent), but the Raiders converted just one of six during the first half and four of 11 for the game.

One area where the Chargers have done well the first five weeks is stopping the run. Oakland’s Marshawn Lynch came into the game fourth in the league in rushing, but was held to 31 yards on nine carries.

Los Angeles has allowed only 100-yard rusher all season (the Rams’ Todd Gurley) despite also facing Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt, Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy and San Francisco’s Matt Breida. Six running backs went over the century mark against the Chargers last season, including Hunt twice.

They will face a big challenge this week against Cleveland (2-2-1), which is No. 2 in the league in rushing offense with Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and mobile quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Lynn said that defensive end Joey Bosa, who has missed all five games because of a foot injury, could practice this week in a limited capacity. Even if Bosa isn’t back until after the Oct. 28 bye week, Lynn is seeing his unit make more progress in making plays without Bosa.

“We’re starting to get more comfortable with the different schemes we are doing,” Lynn said. “We are doing some different things with coverages and also bringing different people on blitzes.”

NOTES: Lynn said that Caleb Sturgis will be the kicker against the Browns despite missing his fourth extra point on Sunday. Sturgis is likely to remain the kicker for at least two more games, but needs to gain consistency if he is going to keep his job. ... Right tackle Joe Barksdale could return to practice this week but will be limited. Barksdale has missed the past four games after suffering a knee injury in the Sept. 9 opener against Kansas City.

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