Chargers RB Ryan Mathews missed his second straight day of practice Thursday, putting his availability for Sunday's crucial game against the Broncos in doubt. (US Presswire)

The Chargers' injury list grew by three, including two starters on Thursday. San Diego (4-5) will need to be as healthy as possible when it takes on the Broncos (6-3) on Sunday in a near must-win game.
“I think that this [Broncos] team is the best team that’s played up there in quite some time,” coach Norv Turner said. “They’re one of the most complete teams when you look at them defensively and the way they rank in all categories. Offensively and the way that they’re performing, going out and scoring points, we’re going to have to play our best game by far.”
Three more miss practice: Starting LG Tyronne Green and FS Eric Weddle missed practice due to illness. While both players will likely be able to play on Sunday, multiple players being stricken by an illness is a concern because something could be going around the locker room. TE Dante Rosario (hamstring) was also a new addition to the injury report.
Stiff neck may keep Mathews out: RB Ryan Mathews missed practice for his second straight day due to a stiff neck as a result of a hard hit he received from Buccaneers LB Quincy Black on Sunday. “He hasn’t improved enough to where he can practice,” Turner said. “We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow. If you miss Wednesday and Thursday it becomes more challenging.”
Turner refused to define the injury as a whiplash.
The hard hit led to Black being immobilized and taken to the hospital for evaluation of his neck. Black is expected to make a full recovery, but was placed on the season ending reserved-injured list on Tuesday.
Three of the five 100-plus rushing performances Mathews has had in his career have come in the five games he has faced the Broncos. If Mathews is unable to play, RB Ronnie Brown will likely receive the start. Backup running backs Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley should also see more playing time.
Disappointing MOPs: The Chargers defense has posted mixed results for first year DC John Pagano. The defense is second (82.9 yard average) against the run and a moderate 17th against the pass (234.1 yard average).
The pass rush, however, has not lived up to expectations and has only recorded 14 sacks, tied for 28th with the Eagles and Redskins.
Pagano said the lack of sacks is a disappointment because the opportunities have been there. “We call them ‘MOPs’,” Pagano said. “Basically, missed opportunities. We’ve had pressure on the quarterback and not had the ability to get them down when we’ve had the opportunities to get them down. There are several plays that go through my head each day where we had a chance to get guys down and he scrambled out of there.”
One big MOP came against the Broncos in Week 6 when Peyton Manning narrowly dodged being sacked by ILB Donald Butler and then completed a pass that extended a second-half touchdown drive.
“It was such an athletic move by Peyton, where one guy is coming in, he fell down, he jumped over the other guy,” Pagano said. “We had the opportunity to contain it but that is a missed opportunity to make a sack in a game-changing play. [Peyton] is still very athletic in the way he moves. He works at it. That’s what he does and it shows out there on the field.”
The Chargers had a 24-0 halftime lead in the game, but the play was instrumental in the Broncos completing an historic second-half comeback. Denver won 35-24.
Chargers vs. Broncos pee wee style: Pagano started his press conference by mentioning how proud he is of his son Jagger who plays for the Mira Mesa Chargers. The Chargers will be taking on the Otay Ranch Broncos in the Super “Q” Bowl on Saturday to decide the San Diego Pee Wee football championship. “Coach Randy [Roa] does a great job with those kids,” Pagano said. “Just seeing the success of my son is exciting. To have a Chargers vs. Broncos week for myself and my son is exciting.”
Practice Report: NT Aubrayo Franklin (knee), LT Jared Gaither (groin), LG Tyronne Green (ribs, illness) and Mathews (neck) did not practice. OLB Antwan Barnes (hamstring), SS Atari Bigby (quad), Rosario (hamstring) and Weddle (knee, illness) were limited. CB Chris Carr (knee), OLB Melvin Ingram (knee) and P Mike Scifres fully participated. Barnes was upgraded from did not participate to limited participation from Wednesday to Thursday. Scifres was upgraded from limited to full participation.
What’s next: The Chargers will have a walk-thru practice on Friday morning and then fly to Denver in the afternoon.
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