Source: USA Today
The Chargers are coming off a big win, and they got to enjoy it for, oh, a couple of hours or so.
After drilling Kansas City 31-0 Sunday, the Chargers have to get ready quickly for a Thursday night outing against the 49ers.
The big win will be insignificant unless the Chargers take care of business against San Francisco. That's their lot in life, as they basically need to win out to even get a sniff of the playoffs.
"For me, that (Kansas City) game doesn't mean anything if we don't go win Thursday," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "To me, that's the way each one of these games is going to be once we win them, then it's going to become a moot point if we don't go win the next game."
If nothing else, the Chargers sliced the Chiefs' AFC West lead in half; the Chargers now trail Kansas City by one game with three to play.
"I think we've put ourselves in a position now, one game back, obviously we understand nothing has changed, we've got to go win the rest of them," Rivers said. "That's all we can control."
There's still a cluster of teams fighting not only for division championships but the two AFC wild-card berths. At 7-6, the Chargers could be included in that group as well.
"You never know what can happen, not just for the Chiefs, but you never know what can happen in three weeks," Rivers said. "If we can do our part again, as long as we can look up on the January 2nd and say, 'Hey, we held up our end,' and if it's enough, we'll live for another week. If not, we'll have to grin and bear it."
This week is about surviving a short week and a resurgent 49ers team that was left for dead not long ago. But much like the Chargers, the 49ers will be fighting for their playoff life Thursday.
—When the Chargers play well, as they did in thumping the Chiefs, the obvious question is why they can't do it on a more consistent basis.
"It's hard to say what the real team is because we've had so many injuries and people playing," veteran tight end Randy McMichael said. "It's really hard to say what the San Diego Chargers would be like if we had all our pieces. But it goes to show that when someone goes out, somebody has to step up."
—Mike Tolbert was the team's leading rusher in the win over the Chiefs. Now he wants to make sure the Chargers maintain their winning edge. "We have to let this intensity carry over into Thursday," said Tolbert, who rushed for a touchdown and 66 yards. "It's a quick turnaround, but we have to stay focused and get a win on Thursday night."
—Vincent Jackson had two catches for 29 yards in his most extensive playing time of the year. "It was great, man," he said. "I miss the game. I love the game. It's something I work hard at every day. Sunday's the day we get to go out there and have fun, and I enjoyed it."
—The Chargers' Sunday night game against the Bengals has been switched to an afternoon outing on Dec. 26.
—San Diego's final home game on Thursday could be blacked out for the local TV viewers. If so, that would mean half of the Chargers' eight home games were blacked out.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—TE Antonio Gates (foot) continues to battle the injury, and it's not getting any better.
—RG Louis Vasquez (neck) will attempt to practice this week after missing yet another game.
—ILB Brandon Siler (ribs) aggravated his injury during the game, and he could be questionable this week.
—WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) will not play this week.
—WR Legedu Naanee (hamstring) will attempt to practice later in the week.
REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS
PASSING OFFENSE: A — Philip Rivers wasn't sensational, but he did more than enough to direct the Chargers to another victory. He threw for two touchdowns and kept the Chargers out of harm's way by not doing something stupid. Pass protection was good — he was sacked once, but that was a coverage sack. Vincent Jackson gave big boost in his return. Malcom Floyd had two touchdown catches — both nifty receptions.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A — The three-headed running back of Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles was as productive as it was varied. Tolbert and Mathews both averaged 4.1 yards on their 16 carries. Run-blocking was on the mark — probably the most complete running game of the year, as the Chargers piled up 207 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: A — Nothing bad here, although the secondary wasn't tested by backup Brodie Croyle. The Chiefs seldom went downfield — or anywhere — in passing for 40 yards. Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason each had some nice passes defensed when Croyle did try to throw. Four sacks kept Croyle and the Kansas City offense under wraps.
RUSH DEFENSE: A — One week after getting blasted by the Raiders on the ground, the run defense rallied for its best performance of the year. Holding the Chiefs to 48 rushing yards is impressive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Nate Kaeding not only had a 48-yard field goal, but for only the second time, a kickoff reached the end zone. Cason showed a spark in replacing Sproles on punt returns and had a long of 42 yards. Coverage units were on their game — with one hiccup — after being a disaster in the season opener against the Chiefs.
COACHING: A — Norv Turner was keen to keep the Chiefs off-balance with various players executing a nice blend of pass and run. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera had everyone cheating toward the line of scrimmage, knowing Croyle couldn't beat the Chargers deep. He also wasn't shy about sending blitzes to keep Croyle guessing.