SAN DIEGO — The strain is beginning to show. At midterm, the Chargers are 3-5 and appear to be headed for a third consecutive losing season, a fate Coach Don Coryell cannot afford.
After Monday night's 34-21 drubbing by the Los Angeles Raiders--a loss that was far more one-sided than the score suggests--a bleary-eyed Coryell made a few brief comments, then turned away from reporters. He was only marginally more communicative Tuesday.
"The Raiders beat us in every phase of the game," Coryell said. "They put tremendous pressure on Dan (Fouts). They really took it to us.
"Our defense was in poor field position much of the night (because of poor punting) and the Raiders were really coming off the ball and beating us. We also had our worst game by special teams. They left a lot to be desired."
Coryell said he was surprised by the Chargers' poor showing. Practices last week were energetic, and he believed the players were ready for the Raiders. Rarely, however, has a Coryell team been so thoroughly dominated.
The pressure on Coryell is sure to mount each week now, but there is nothing the coach can do but look ahead. The next opponent is Denver, which at 6-2, shares the AFC West lead with the Raiders.
The Chargers, having lost two in a row and four of their last five, can only improve on their latest showing.
They trailed the Raiders, 24-7, at halftime after gaining only 113 yards in the first two quarters. Because of a series of short punts by Ralf Mojsiejenko, who experienced the poorest game of his rookie season, the Raiders were able to begin four drives in Charger territory in the first half.
The Chargers actually out-gained the Raiders by 10 yards--211 to 201--in the second half, but they were never able to challenge the Raider lead.
If there was anything resembling a plus for the Chargers, it was the running back Gary Anderson, who scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.
Anderson, who had been more than a slight disappointment in his first three games, scored on a 4-yard run and a 52-yard pass.
Anderson's addition, along with the return of Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler from injuries, was supposed to make Air Coryell more fearsome than ever. So far, it hasn't happened.
But the highly-acclaimed USFL refugee isn't discouraged. In a rush to make a contribution, he had been pressing. Part of the problem was alleviated by a coach's suggestion.
"They just told me to slow down a little bit," Anderson said. "The coaches told me to take my time and it would work out. I was running without looking and I wasn't finding the holes.
"Because of all the buildup, I guess people were expecting 100-yard games from me every week. It takes time. I want to prove myself. Monday night helped me. It showed I can do it."
Anderson, who has never played on a losing team at any level of organized football, said he doesn't regard the Chargers as losers, regardless of what the record suggests.
"With a couple of calls here and there, we could be 6-2," he said, sounding like a head coach with an eye toward self-preservation. "I don't see us as a losing team. We just have to eliminate some penalties . . . and wait for some of the other teams to start losing."
Anderson said the toughest part of his introduction to the NFL has been mastering the San Diego passing game, the multiple calls and formations.
He demonstrated his receiving ability against the Raiders with the long scoring pass from Fouts, a play that had been installed two weeks ago. Anderson was just waiting for the chance to go deep.
"It helps to take a little pressure off," Anderson said. "I think I'm getting stronger, mind-wise. As a team, it seems like we're just one tipped ball away. But we fought to the end against the Raiders, and I think we're going to start winning."
Charger Notes Linebacker Mike Guendling, activated for Monday night's game, played on special teams and likely will not play with the defensive unit this year, according to Coryell. Guendling, who suffered a severe leg injury in training camp in July 1984, simply isn't ready to contribute as a linebacker, Coryell said. Only in the event of injuries to linebackers ahead of him would Guendling be pressed into service . . . Starting linebacker Woody Lowe received a pain-killer to help a sore rib cage muscle, but it was ineffective, and Lowe was replaced by Carlos Bradley . . . Tight end Kellen Winslow had a big ice pack on his right hand Tuesday, but said he had only a bruised finger. He is expected to be ready for Sunday's game against Denver . . . Defensive end Keith Ferguson missed the first game of his five-year NFL career. He was unable to play against the Raiders because of a knee injury. He had started the preceding 47 games.