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Mathews’ production increasing
SAN DIEGO – Ryan Mathews has produced 314 yards of total offense in his last 10 regular-season quarters.
He backed up a strong finish to 2010 with a career-high 73 receiving yards against Minnesota on Sunday, part of a well-rounded performance for last year’s first-round pick.
“I think Ryan had his best game since he’s been here,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “He did a great job in protection. (Minnesota) ran an unusual number of run-stopping stunts that they had some success with, but we had four runs over 10 yards, which I like.
“Obviously Ryan made a big step in the passing game. He had the longest play of the game for us. I was excited about the way he played.”
Mathews rushed just 12 times for 45 yards against the Vikings but now has three consecutive games with a run of at least 20 yards dating back to Aug. 27 at Arizona in the third preseason game.
“(Mathews) has another gear that a lot of us don’t have,” Jacob Hester said. “He hits it a lot. He’s very gifted and that extra gear he has is something else.”
IN THE SHADOWS: The running backs were the focal point of San Diego’s offense Sunday, accounting for more than half the Chargers’ total offense and scoring all three touchdowns.
Antonio Gates strung together a solid eight-catch day for a team-high 74 receiving yards that was back-page material at best in a week chock full of story lines.
But the tight end edged within four catches of Kellen Winslow for fifth-most career receptions at the position in NFL history.
Philip Rivers completed 3-of-5 passes to Gates on third downs. All three catches resulted in first downs. Turner appreciated having Gates as well as receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd on the field for a full game for the first time in the regular season since Week 16 of 2009.
“If we can keep them on the field for four quarters, we have a chance to be a very, very productive offense,” Turner said.
FORWARD PROGRESS: The general feeling around Chargers Park early in the week is that it’s a big advantage to start the season 1-0, but the team needs to take significant steps forward in many areas to continue to win.
Since 1978, an astounding 53 percent of teams that win their opener reach postseason. The NFL is not baseball (162 games) or basketball (82 games). Teams can’t dismiss the results of the opener as “just the start of a long season.” The Chargers have avoided catch-up mode for now.
“You can make unbelievable improvement from Week 1 to Week 2,” Turner said. “We can grow so much defensively.”
CALENDAR TIME: The Charger Girls will unveil their 2011-12 swimsuit calendar 8 p.m. Thursday at Donovan’s Prime Seafood in San Diego.
Charger Girls will be on hand to autograph copies of the calendar and fans of the hottest dance team in the NFL can view life-sized images at the one-hour event. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.