Austin Ekeler (30) runs for a touchdown the last time the Chargers played the Broncos in a November loss. Ekeler’s return should boost the Chargers offense. (Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

After beating the New York Giants on Dec. 12, the Chargers were one win from taking over first place in the AFC West.

Since then, they’ve lost twice, put 25 active-roster players on the COVID-19 reserve list and watched Kansas City clinch its sixth consecutive division title.

“I just feel like the last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said Wednesday. “Eventually, you’re going to go on the top end of that rollercoaster. Hopefully, last week was the down end. Now we can come back up.”

The Chargers lost in overtime to the Chiefs, costing them whatever realistic shot they had of winning the AFC West. Then they fell as nearly two-touchdown favorites to a Houston team depleted by COVID and simply playing out the season.

They enter their final home game Sunday against Denver outside a playoff spot, likely needing back-to-back wins and some help in other games to have a chance of qualifying.

“You have to respond after something tough happens,” coach Brandon Staley said. “On Sunday, that was the tough side of the NFL. As a team, it’s just about our response to that.”

When they lost to the Texans, the Chargers had 14 active-roster players out because of COVID protocols. They’ve activated 13 players off the list and added 11 over the last three days.

On Wednesday, those activated included edge rusher Joey Bosa and center Corey Linsley, both Pro Bowlers. Also activated were wide receiver Jalen Guyton and defensive backs Trey Marshall and Kemon Hall.

The Chargers added starting right tackle Storm Norton and edge rusher/linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. to the list.

This is hardly the only NFL team to deal with significant COVID turmoil this season but, since mid-December, the Chargers are among the league leaders in trying to navigate the…



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