Ryan Mathews misses practice with an ankle injury

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Chargers running back Ryan Mathews only had two carries in the second half of last Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, which seemed off even though he lost eight yards on those plays.

The Chargers were leading the game into the fourth quarter, so there was plenty of impetus to run the ball and take some time off the clock, but Mathews wasn’t feeling healthy enough for that to happen. Mathews hurt his right ankle when he was tripped up on a play late in the first half and sat out Wednesday’s practice with the injury.

If the Chargers have to go without him against the Broncos, it will be a familiar feeling. Mathews missed the first meeting this year with a knee injury and he was knocked out of last year’s playoff loss to Denver with another ankle injury that kept the San Diego offense from putting its best foot forward.

“There’s no doubt we’re better when [Mathews is] out there,” quarterback Philip Rivers said, via U-T San Diego. “At the same time, we have confidence in Donald [Brown], Branden [Oliver] and Ronnie [Brown] when they’re in there as well. But when he’s rolling and we’re balanced, that’s when we’re at our best.”

Injuries have been a consistent thorn in Mathews’s side over the course of his career with the Chargers. If this one keeps him out against Denver, it will hurt San Diego’s chances of making it back to the playoffs and could have the same impact on his chances of remaining in San Diego after his contract expires at season’s end.