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Chargers regroup after good start
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SAN DIEGO – Only one team had more wins than San Diego (4-1) before Chicago and Detroit (4-0) kicked off on Monday Night Football: Green Bay. The defending Super Bowl champions.
The Chargers believe they must play better to continue to win 80 percent of the time, especially with the teams remaining on the schedule (four remaining opponents are a combined 16-2). But three consecutive wins and a one-game AFC West lead with two weeks to prepare for a marquee matchup at the New York Jets isn’t a bad place to be.
“We’re really developing a real good mentality. An identity,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “When we need to make a play, someone’s stepping up.”
As has become the norm across the NFL, San Diego wrapped up each of its four victories with plays late in the fourth quarter.
Against Minnesota, a 19-yard Mike Tolbert touchdown catch capped a comeback with 5:10 left. Antwan Barnes sacked Donovan McNabb on the next possession and the Chargers ran out the clock.
Eric Weddle preserved a 20-17 win against Kansas City with a last-minute interception, and San Diego put away Miami with a clock-salting field goal drive that absorbed nearly half the fourth quarter. On Sunday, Dante Hughes helped ensure Tim Tebow’s end zone pass made its way to the ground.
“It hasn’t been an easy 4-1, and I think that keeps you critical of yourself, because it hasn’t been a smooth few weeks,” Philip Rivers said. “We haven’t played necessarily great, but we’ve played good enough. Certainly we know we can improve and get better and we know we’re going to have to as the year progresses.”
The Chargers weren’t celebratory, but acknowledged winning close games that grate the nerves has given them a measure of confidence. They’ll use the bye to focus on areas that could stand improvement: red zone offense and run defense, according to Turner and the players. But Turner wants the team to embrace winning.
“We have gotten a lot better,” Turner said. “It’s important to me that (the young players) understand the really good things we’re doing.”
Turner cited San Diego’s pass defense (second in the NFL), time of possession (first), running backs (more than 1,000 yards of total offense for Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert) and kicker (Nick Novak’s 11 field goals without a miss are tied for first) as examples.
“It’s encouraging and exciting to have a good start,” Weddle said. “We’re going to get re-focused and get better at the things we haven’t been so hot at the first five games.
“We haven’t hit our peak yet. We haven’t played anywhere near what we’re capable of, that’s the encouraging part, but as players and as a team, we’ve got to take the extra step and continue to grow.” Read