SAN DIEGO (AP) — There are any number of reasons why the San Diego Chargers need a victory at home Sunday against Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.
It’s the final game before Election Day, when the Chargers will ask the public for a $1.15 billion subsidy in the form of an increase in the hotel occupancy tax to help pay for a new $1.8 billion stadium and convention center annex downtown to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium.
They don’t want to play poorly on Alumni Weekend in front of such greats as Dan Fouts, Lance Alworth, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner and LaDainian Tomlinson.
And if they hope to get into the AFC West race, they can’t risk falling any further behind.
“I imagine it will be a special day on Sunday,” Philip Rivers said. “We’ve just got to make sure we do our part and go in and find a way to win.”
It’s doubtful that a victory will sway many voters Tuesday. Most observers think Measure C will fail to gain the two-thirds super majority needed to pass.
“Obviously we all care about it at different levels, I’m sure, in that locker room,” Rivers said. “It’s very meaningful for us to be here, and how bad I want us to be here. When you’re sitting at 3-5 and some of the tough losses we’ve had and really, where we are in the season, I don’t know that we can want to win a game any badder than we do right now. For obvious reasons you can throw that in there, sure, but I don’t l think it’s something that’s really on the top of our minds in the locker room.”
The Titans (4-4) have won three of four and are playing on the road for the first time in four games. They’re coming in with extra rest after beating Jacksonville 36-22 at home on Oct. 27.
“We did some good things in the first half of the season,” linebacker Derrick Morgan said. “We’ve just got to keep building off of that. … We have to keep stacking wins. It’s a critical time in our season. We’re right where we want to be. We’ve just got to keep it going.”
Here are some things to look for when the Titans try to avoid a seventh straight loss in San Diego dating to 1993, when they were still the Houston Oilers:
WHISENHUNT EFFECT: The Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt a year ago after a 1-6 start to his second season. Mike Mularkey replaced him for the final nine games and had the interim tag removed in January. Whisenhunt has returned to the Chargers as their offensive coordinator. The Titans are aware of how Whisenhunt likes to attack a defense, but Tennessee comes into this game as one of only two NFL teams ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense. Mularkey said he doesn’t think there’s an advantage.
“Our personnel has changed dramatically,” Mularkey said. “A lot has changed since he’s left. The guys that are here, he’s got a good feel for them.”
RUNNING BACKS: The Titans feature the NFL’s third-ranked rushing offense, led by DeMarco Murray, who leads the AFC and is second in the NFL with 756 yards rushing. He’ll be going against a Chargers defense woefully thin on inside linebackers. The Chargers’ offense will counter with Melvin Gordon, who has run for 572 yards and eight TDs, plus two TD catches. Chargers coach Mike McCoy and Whisenhunt were heavily second-guessed after the Chargers didn’t once try a running play after advancing to the Denver 2-yard line late in last Sunday’s 27-19 loss. Rivers threw four straight incompletions.
BIG TEN REMATCH: Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (Ohio State) and Titans right tackle Jack Conklin (Michigan State) know each other from the Big Ten, and the rookies will now face off in the NFL for the first time. With the way the Chargers move Bosa around, the rookie also likely will go against left tackle Taylor Lewan, who played at Michigan.
“He’s a good player,” Conklin said of Bosa. “Looks like he picked right up where he was in college and is playing hard in the NFL.”
The Titans have allowed only 12 sacks this season with Conklin, the eighth pick overall, helping anchor the right side of the line despite losing right guard Chance Warmack to a hand injury and then left guard Quinton Spain with an injured right knee. Bosa has four sacks in four games.
MARIOTA’S MONTH: Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is coming off perhaps the best month of his young career. He posted a 120.7 passer rating during the last four games, which is second in the NFL over that span only to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (133.9). Over the past four games, Mariota is 77 of 112 for 949 yards with 10 TDs and only one interception.
BIG SHOTS IN TOWN: More than 20 members of the Chargers Hall of Fame will be honored at halftime. The Chargers will wear their powder blue throwbacks.