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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Chargers focused one game at a time
Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was asked Monday to put in perspective the challenge his team will face over the next four weeks as it begins the final quarter of the season, but he was only capable of speaking six days into the future.
“I don’t even know who we have after Dallas, honestly,” Merriman said. “That’s how week-to-week we’re taking it. It’s really from week to week. One game is not bigger than the next. It’s cliché, but we’ve done a great job of taking it one game at a time and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
During the Chargers’ current seven-game win streak, they’re 9 in turnover margin and have scored at least 30 points five times. Statistically, their numbers are up in just about every category and they’ve received great contributions from a handful of unsung players.
But if there’s one thing the players credit most often for their success, it’s their ability to focus on the game at hand as Merriman mentioned and quarterback Philip Rivers echoed.
“We’re obviously pleased about the last seven weeks and the stretch we’ve been on, but we’re a very grounded, focused group,” Rivers said. “I really like where the focus is and I think that’s been a key to getting this thing turned around.”
That’s why the Chargers weren’t taken aback Sunday when the 1-10 Browns had some early success, and it’s why San Diego was able to fight back and regain control of the game before Cleveland’s late surge.
“We worked hard to make sure they understood what Cleveland was capable of doing,” Turner said. I think they realized it going in. Cleveland did some good things against us.”
The Chargers are aware of where they stand in the postseason picture, but with four games left, they know that can drastically change. That’s why they won’t join in that discussion. They’ll stay focused on the NFC East-leading Cowboys, who they’ll face Sunday in Dallas.
“There’s no denying that the talk is out there. but if we can keep the boring one-game-at-a-time approach that we’ve had, we can keep this streak going,” Rivers said. “As long as we don’t let that talk get in our way, I think we’ll be fine.”
The Chargers reported just two new injuries following their win in Cleveland. Tackle Marcus McNeill suffered a sprained ankle that doesn’t appear serious but could cause him to miss some practice time, and defensive end Alfonso Boone bruised his knee, an injury that Turner said will likely keep him sidelined a bit at least during the week.
Safety Eric Weddle (knee) is likely to miss at least another week, but Turner said he’s optimistic that Merriman (foot) and defensive end Luis Castillo (calf) could return
“I’m hopeful but we have to get through a week and see where they’re at,” Turner said.
Turner termed it a “long shot” for center Nick Hardwick to return after the Pro Bowler suffered a minor setback last week.
Linebacker Shaun Phillips has seven sacks on the season, all seven of which have come during the team’s current winning streak. He also logged his seventh forced fumble of the season on a play that changed the game Sunday in Cleveland.
“I pride myself on trying to be a playmaker,” Phillips said. “I’m just going to continue to go out there and play my heart out for my teammates.”
Phillips said his personal goal is 10 sacks and 10 forced fumbles this season. His career high for sacks in a season is 12.5.
Tackling the job
Jon Runyan made his Chargers debut Sunday when he entered the game for approximately a dozen plays in the third quarter after McNeill injured his ankle. Brandyn Dombrowski moved from the right side to left tackle and Runyan entered on the right side. The Chargers scored on Runyan’s first play, and Turner was pleased with what he saw from the veteran.
“He did fine,” Turner said. “I’m excited that we got Jon and I think he’s going to help us as we go through the next month. He’s a talented guy in terms of he’s got awfully long arms, he’s physically talented and he knows how to use them. His experience is outstanding.”
Turner also praised Dombrowski, who was part of a line that allowed only one sack as a group, but the head coach didn’t say who he expects to be in the starting lineup at Dallas.
Count LaDainian Tomlinson among those highly impressed with Antonio Gates’ 167-yard performance Sunday in Cleveland.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Tomlinson said. “He’s just so dominant that you can’t cover him one-on-one. I’ve been honored to play with him. When we’re old men, we’re probably going to look back and say playing with each other was probably the best time we ever had.”
Gates later echoed how grateful he is for a chance to play with Tomlinson and watch him write history.
“I’ve been blessed to play with a guy the last seven years who has done some spectacular things in his career and he’s just added to that,” Gates said. “He’s going to go down as one of the greatest of all time regardless of milestones just being around him as a person solidifies that good things happen to good people. It was exciting for him to be able to get that milestone.”