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Chargers create takeaways, protect football

Posted Dec 19, 2011

San Diego’s defense has intercepted six passes and Philip Rivers hasn’t thrown a pick in the last three games.

SAN DIEGO – A number of factors have contributed to the Chargers’ turnaround.

The return of Malcom Floyd and Shaun Phillips. Improved play and relative continuity along the offensive line. Ryan Mathews maturing as an NFL player.

Pressed to broil San Diego’s three-game win streak down to the Cliff’s Notes version, though, and you may get this: the Chargers’ turnover margin is plus-five. The defense has six interceptions in the last three games and the Bolts committed just one turnover (a fumble). For reference, San Diego was minus-10 after Week 12, a mark reflected in their 4-7 record at the time.

“If you don’t turn the ball over and you create turnovers, then you’re going to be ahead of the game,” Head Coach Norv Turner said.

Mathews fumbled for the fifth time this season, matching last year’s total, but got within 10 yards of his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. The Chargers retained possession as Jared Gaither recovered. Mathews lacks just 28 yards to become the fifth running back in Chargers history with 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

Philip Rivers, too, has responded with one of the best three-game stretches of his career. He threw seven touchdowns without an interception against Jacksonville, Buffalo and Baltimore, and his decision-making of late has been a vital component of San Diego’s success.

“He’s been very decisive,” Turner said of Rivers. “The ball’s coming out extremely quick and he’s not taking chances. If it’s not pretty clean, he’s getting the ball checked down.”

The offensive line and defensive front also have played significantly better. Rivers has been sacked just twice in the last three games after getting dropped 28 times through Week 12. The defense hasn’t rolled up more than seven sacks, their total Sunday against Baltimore, in any two-game stretch.

“When you play at a high level on the offensive line and defensive line, I think it helps you play well in all areas,” Turner said.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Chargers will practice Tuesday, normally a player’s day off, because San Diego (7-7) plays at Detroit (9-5) on Saturday.

It will be the fourth time the Chargers face a short week in less than two months.

Jacques Cesaire (ankle) wasn’t far from being ready to play Sunday against the Ravens and may be a late call again this week, Turner said. Travis LaBoy (knee) may not be available this week, but Turner said the team otherwise came out of the Baltimore game without injury concerns.

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