Stover's kickoff out of bounds, Boller's fumble while being sacked and Mike Anderson's fumble on a short kickoff all led to great field position for the Chargers. San Diego started at its 40 or better on all five series in the second quarter (including three straight possessions that began in Ravens territory) and scored every time.

That paved the way to a 22-7 halftime deficit for the Ravens.

Asked about constantly defending a short field, safety Ed Reed said: "It's something we've been talking about and we're tired of talking about it. It's only going to wear us down."

Said linebacker Ray Lewis: "That's the story of this season for us. As a defense, it's my job as a leader to keep our heads up and just keep running out there and play."

Still, it's difficult to play defense with such little margin for error. During the five-game skid, the Ravens have been held to 14 points or fewer four times.

"It's definitely one of the low ones," Ogden said. "Where do we go from here? I don't know. I just know we're not going to give up. It's just tough. It's just been really tough."

The road ahead only gets tougher for the Ravens, who play the New England Patriots (11-0) and Indianapolis Colts (9-2) the next two weeks.

"It's a great challenge," Billick said. "We're presented with a great opportunity to display to the world that we're better than we are."
Rough road ahead:

As if a 4-7 record and five losses in a row aren't bad enough, the Ravens face four first-place teams in the final five games. Excluding the winless Dolphins, the other four teams have a combined record of 34-9.

Date Opponent W-L

Dec. 3 New England 11-0

Dec. 9 Indianapolis 9-2

Dec. 16 @Miami 0-10

Dec. 23 @Seattle 7-4

Dec. 30 Pittsburgh 7-3

Note: Steelers play host to the Dolphins tonight.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com