Source: USA Today
The best part of the Chargers playing on Thursday night? They're in good shape with two extra days of rest before their next mission, and that winning feeling sticks around longer.
That was how the Chargers were looking at things a day after they thumped the 49ers, 34-7, to keep their playoff dreams alive.
Coach Norv Turner is well-versed in playing on Thursdays, dating to his days the Cowboys were a staple on turkey day.
"The advantage came the next week when playing with extra days rest and more time to prepare," Turner said.
The Chargers get to put up their feet and watch other battle with their Week 15 win already tucked away.
In particular, the Chargers will be pulling for the Rams to upset the Chiefs, the team San Diego trail by one game in the AFC West.
"A lot of guys have nicks and are banged-up with little things they are playing with," Turner said. "Hopefully the extra days rest will help that."
One couldn't help but notice Vincent Jackson in Thursday's triumph. Playing in his third game since holding out and being suspended, Jackson responded with three touchdowns and going past the 100-yard mark on five catches.
"He's fast, he's tall, he's strong and he's fast," teammate Brandon Siler said. "He's a freak."
And he'll likely be a free agent next year, robbing the Chargers of one of the NFL's best downfield threats. But Jackson, who isn't a favorite of general manager A.J. Smith's because of off-field issues, said he would love to return.
"I never wanted to be anywhere else," said Jackson. "I'm happy to be back now and everything in the past is the past.
"We're moving forward. I'm excited about the future and the opportunities; I have no closed doors. I'm excited about the things that are going to happen with the team."
It's a team which is picking up steam, winners of six of their past seven games. But a 2-5 start still has the Chargers outside of the playoff picture, with road games remaining at Cincinnati and Denver.
"We have a sense of urgency," safety Steve Gregory said. "We're trying to battle our way back."
— TE Antonio Gates missed another game with his foot injury and there has been some chatter of him shutting it down until a possible playoff game. But coach Norv Turner said if Gates can go in the next game he will.
"I'm hoping for Gates in Cincinnati; I know it's hard for him," Turner said. "I think he is getting better. I don't know if he will be ready for Cincy, but if he is, we need him. He's got extra time and we will see where he is Monday and Tuesday and then have a plan for the week."
— WR Vincent Jackson continues to impress, and that includes the guy on the other end of his three touchdown receptions.
"He's always been a big-play receiver, but man," QB Philip Rivers said of Jackson, who went for a 56-yard score on the Chargers' fourth play. "Even in the last two weeks, I have to say he's the best I've seen him after the catch. He seems super comfortable — not that he wasn't in the past. But he's catching the ball and going to score."
— DE Luis Castillo was set to crunch Anthony Dixon on the Charger 1-yard-line when someone stole his fourth-down glory - Brandon Siler shot through to make the tackle and change the game.
"I read it," Castillo said. "I had him. And Brandon jumps my highlight film. I thought I'd just jump on the pile."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
— WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) appears to be out for at least one more game.
— LT Marcus McNeill (knee) was spelled by Brandyn Dombrowski late in Thursday's win. McNeill has been battling a tweaked knee.
— WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring) could play against the Bengals after sitting out Thursday's game.
— WR Kelley Washington continues to make most of his chances. Washington had two catches for 49 yards.
— K Nate Kaeding is back at the No. 1 spot in field-goal accuracy at 86.6 percent after his two field goals on Thursday. As Chargers fans know too well, that accuracy mark is only for the regular season.
— OLB Larry English (foot) has a chance to return for the next game.
REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS
PASSING OFFENSE: B+ — Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 273 yards, which puts him over 4,000 for three consecutive years. Rivers didn't turn the ball over; the pass protection had a few leaks, but not many. Vincent Jackson changed the complexion of the game with his ability to get deep.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A - Whenever the Chargers get past 100 yards on the ground, this grade is in order. Ryan Mathews (56 yards on 17 carries) continues to show flashes of what could be a very solid career. Mike Tolbert, who scored his 11th touchdown, added another 46 yards. Run-blocking was better and continues to be.
PASS DEFENSE: A - Solid play here from the corners, Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer; both continue to play at a high level. Steve Gregory ices the win with an interception and Eric Weddle had five tackles. The key is was six Chargers getting sacks - tough to pass protect when not sure where the rush is coming from.
RUSH DEFENSE: A - Antonio Garay continues to clog the middle with increased consistency, which is keeping the blockers off the linebackers. With the 49ers not showing an inclination to pass, the safeties were playing tight and it was proven by the tackle numbers turned in by Weddle and Dante Hughes (six) and Gregory (five).
SPECIAL TEAMS: C - Two punts nearly got blocked; a return went for a touchdown only to be brought back by a Niners penalty. Cason is looking nifty as a punt-returner, but coach Norv Turner said Darren Sproles remains the No. 1 guy there. Nate Kaeding was true on two attempts.
COACHING: A - Norv Turner had fun throwing a healthy Jackson into the mix as he was able to stretch the Niners' defense with the threat of Jackson taking off downfield. Once that was established, Turner didn't shy from pounding the football against a loosened-up defense. Ron Rivera might be coaching himself into a head-coaching position. He came half a quarter away from orchestrating consecutive shutouts for the first time in franchise history. Rivera's unit is playing active and with a purpose - very few missed tackles anymore.