The Chargers are back. Well, maybe.
Whatever, they disposed of a three-game losing streak in getting past the Chiefs, 31-13, on Thursday night.
After a month of ugly games and the pressure building on management to make a move, the Chargers made one on the field.
That they got past the one-win Chiefs isn’t big news. Unless you are the Chargers.
“I thought our guys did a great job coming back from Cleveland on a short week - zeroing in on what we had to do in terms of preparation for this game,” head coach Norv Turner said. “I thought it was going to be the type of game it was - a challenge in your division.”
The Chargers were facing many challenges, some on the field some off it. But they got back on their game with Philip Rivers, save an interception, taking much better care of the ball with an aim that was nearly dead-on.
He only missed on two of his 20 passes, and that is no misprint.
“Obviously Philip had an outstanding game,” Turner said. “I think we made progress.”
Whether the Chargers make a run for the playoffs remains to be seen. But they get a couple extra days to prepare for their next game, a road trip to Tampa Bay.
“We have a very mature group of guys,” Turner said. “You get where you make it harder than it is from a mental standpoint because you’re trying to do too much.”
The Chargers did more than enough to win Thursday. We’ll learn soon enough if that says more about the Chargers, or the Chiefs.
— Running back Ryan Mathews had another strong game, rushing for 65 yards and adding five more through the air. But he was happier about the team shedding its three-game losing streak than anything he did individually.
“It felt good to win,” Mathews said. “We all know how hard it is to win in this league and we all enjoy it.”
— Inside linebacker Demorrio Williams returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown, which helped seal the win and erase a little of the sting on the last time he did it. In an earlier loss to the Saints, Williams had a pick-six called back because of a penalty.
“No, I wasn’t even thinking about that,” Williams said. “At the time we were trying to seal the game. If there would have been a flag, there would have been a flag.”
— Linebacker Jarret Johnson had a big forced fumble from quarterback Matt Cassel which was recovered for a touchdown. But his main focus was on stopping the run, not worrying about the pass.
“We knew they were going to give the ball to Jamaal Charles,” he said. “Our main thing was playing good on first and second down. We did that. Other than one drive, I thought we played extremely well against the run.”
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
— CB Shareece Wright got back on the field Thursday, after missing all but the opener with a sprained ankle. Wright saw some work in passing packages.
— DT Antonio Garay was active for the first time this season against the Chiefs. Garay has been supplanted by Aubrayo Franklin.
— RB Chris Brinkley was inserted into the kickoff-returner’s role after Richard Goodman was put on IR.
— OLB Larry English, a former first-round pick, was a healthy inactive on Thursday. English has just a half-sack this season.
— FS Eric Weddle added punt-return duties to his defensive role with Eddie Royal being out. Weddle fumbled one of his returns, but the Chiefs were unable to covert the turnover.
— WR Eddie Royal (hamstring) missed his second straight game. The team is hopeful he can use the extended time before the next game to heal.
— WR Robert Meachem (hamstring) was hurt in Tuesday’s practice and with the short week, there wasn’t enough time for him to rebound. He could go in the next game.
— CB Chris Carr (quad) wasn’t able to go on Thursday. He should be back for the next game.
— OLB Antwan Barnes (hamstring) was hurt in Thursday’s game and didn’t return.
— DE Vaughn Martin (elbow) is expected to be OK.
— SS Atari Bigby (hip) isn’t thought to be seriously hurt.
— LB Demorrio Williams (abdominal) will be fine.
— WR Danario Alexander (shoulder) will be monitored; he’s day-to-day.
REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS
PASSING OFFENCE: A- — Philip Rivers only missed on two of his 20 passes and one of those was a throw-away. He had two touchdowns and 220 yards as his pass protection was better and he seemed more comfortable in the pocket. Seyi Ajirotutu had a diving 28-yard catch which sparked the passing attack early.
RUSHING OFFENCE: B — Ryan Mathews averaged 5.2 yards in 13 carries, with a long of 31. He didn’t fumble, and that always must be mentioned as well. Only 11 other carries went to the other three backs, Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Le’Ron McClain. Run blocking supplied some decent holes for Mathews.
PASS DEFENCE: B — Matt Cassel never got into a rhythm; some of that was just his play. But the pass rush was decent, even if there was but one sack. The Chiefs had but 181 passing yards and they also got an interception for a touchdown off Cassel. Jarret Johnson forced a fumble from Cassel and Shaun Phillips recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
RUSH DEFENCE: B — The Chiefs scare any run defense and they were able to gash the Chargers for some big runs. But not many, and that was the key. Jamaal Charles averaged but 3.3 yards on his 12 carries and Peyton Hillis had but 14 yards on seven carries. ILB Donald Butler had a team-high nine tackles and many of them came with from his sturdy run defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Nick Novak was true on his only field-goal attempt; Mike Scifres’ two punts were both downed inside the 20. Not much from the return game, which was featuring backups; Eric Weddle fumbled a punt away which caused an anxious moment or two. The coverage units were excellent, save on 29-yard kick return.
COACHING: A — Much was swirling around Norv Turner leading up to the game and little of it was good. But he kept the focus on the Chiefs and his players bought into it. He was aided by a quarterback who found his aim and a defence which bottled up the run and let the Chiefs do enough damage on their own. Turner deserves credit for keeping his players zeroed in on their jobs, and not his.