Source: USA Today
The Chargers are headed to Denver, and that's not unusual.
Going there this time of the year at 3-1 — now that is.
The Chargers have bolted from the gate for the first time in Norv Turner's five seasons as a head coach. This notoriously slow-starting team has won all but a road game and sits atop the AFC West.
"It's huge," safety Eric Weddle said of the opening month. "We knew coming in that we needed to change that, we needed to start fast."
The Chargers have done so with a game that is hardly pristine. They have stumbled on offense behind a shaky Philip Rivers, have been up-and-down on the other side with so many new defensive starters and the special teams play remains a work in progress.
All that said, the Chargers are 3-1 and that says it all.
"The one thing we have found is an understanding of what's important," Rivers said. "We've been through the stats and the hype. Last year, we were No. 1 in offense and defense and we're 9-7 and sitting at home watching the playoffs.
"Our focus is on finding a way to win a game. Period. The only outcome you can control is the game you're playing in. The stats matter a lot less than the 'W.' I think we all believe in that philosophy, which creates team unity. We're going to stick by that and keep plugging along."
That the Chargers' three wins have come against teams with a 1-11 mark is holding back from embracing those victories. In some ways, they are encouraged that despite not playing their best, they have lost but one game.
"We're not going to rest on our laurels and not buying into the hype," Weddle said. "There is room for a lot of improvement and now we got to go get No. 4. We got a tough schedule coming up and we need to keep getting better."
The Chargers don't have a home game for a month. They start this challenging stretch at Denver, have a bye, and then hit the road against the Jets and the Chiefs.
But it is the Broncos that have the Chargers' attention, and little else.
"We got to put these wins behind us as quick as possible and put the focus on that game," left tackle Marcus McNeill said. "Denver is another quality game that we have to win. Denver has a new coaching staff and there will be wrinkles we haven't seen before. We're not looking down the line at anybody else, Now Denver is the key matchup because we have to have these divisional games."
LINEUP WATCH: With Bob Sanders out for the season, two safeties will pick up the slack in Steve Gregory and Paul Oliver. Gregory will get the bulk of snaps with Oliver seeing some action on passing plays. Gregory, a six-year pro, started six games last year. Oliver, who played 16 games last season with eight starts for the Chargers, was signed by New Orleans as a free agent, but then released from injured reserve, and brought back to the Chargers when Sanders went down.
BY THE NUMBERS: Zero is the big number with the Chargers not having a single home game over the next four weeks. They return home on Nov. 6 against the Packers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—TE Antonio Gates has missed the past two games and there's no clear indication what his availability will be this week. Gates is bothered by a chronic foot injury.
—WR Vincent Jackson aggravated his abdominal injury and didn't finish Sunday's game.
—CB Quentin Jammer (hamstring) should play this week after skipping Sunday's game. Jammer was injured in the second half of the Sept. 25 game and hasn't played since.
—DE Jacques Cesaire (knee) is out Sunday and the team is hopeful he can return after the bye week for the game against the Jets on Oct. 23.
—DE Luis Castillo (leg) remains out and won't be available until November at the earliest.
—TE Randy McMichael will continue to see increased work with Gates' status uncertain. Even if Gates can play, his snaps will be compromised, which means more field time for McMichael.