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Players, coaches remained unified

Posted Dec 6, 2011

The Chargers contend they would not have weathered a six-game losing streak, a long flight delay and a trip across the country to earn their biggest margin of victory all season without steadfast resolve from the team’s leadership.

SAN DIEGO – Mike Tolbert sprinted to the edge of the sparse, pro-Chargers crowd that remained at EverBank Field late Monday night, going out of his way to high-five a fan in a No. 35 jersey before retreating to the post-game locker room. He then turned toward the tunnel, stretching to slap hands with each fan lining the rail overlooking the field.

Fist bumps and high fives accompanied San Diego from the Florida back to California as the team enjoyed a 38-14 win over Jacksonville, its first since Oct. 9. The losses seemed to make the feel of victory more savory. Many players and coaches expressed pride in the way the Bolts have competed in the wake of several close losses and a parade of injuries.

Quarterback Philip Rivers fell just short of 300 passing yards but threw three touchdowns against the Jaguars. Rivers loves the mettle of this team and credits Head Coach Norv Turner.

“There’s no quit in that locker room. Never will be,” Rivers said. “Teams that have quit don’t fly all the way across the country and play a Monday night game and do what we did.

“Norv’s a heck of a guy. A heck of a coach. Everybody in the locker room loves playing for him. When we’ve been 4-8, when we’ve won 11 in a row, I don’t think he’s gotten the credit he deserves. He’s never flinched and it feeds down to us. The team takes on that personality.”

Turner, who won his 108th career NFL game Monday and moved past Ray “Buddy” Parker for 34th-most victories in league history, credited an offensive renaissance sparked by the return of Louis Vasquez, Tyronne Green and Malcom Floyd for the turnaround.

Turner elected to start Green at left guard and insert Jared Gaither, five days into his tenure with the Chargers, at left tackle. The gamble paid off.

“It was nice getting those guys back. I think it helped solidify our pocket,” Turner said. “We were much firmer inside (and) Gaither picked up what we’re doing real fast. He did a really nice job in pass protection. He had a couple big blocks on the perimeter runs.”

Colin Baxter fell under heat early in the season with the New York Jets, starting in place of injured Pro Bowler Nick Mangold. The Chargers reclaimed their training camp prospect and watched him play 31 snaps in place of Nick Hardwick on Monday.

“It’s pretty impressive what (Baxter) did,” Turner said.

The 38 points scored by San Diego’s offense tie a season high and are the most in a Chargers’ win since a 41-10 win against Arizona in Week 4 of last season.

“They’ve hung in there and fought and when you win I think it gives you a little bit of confidence back,” Turner said. “It says, ‘Hey, we can go out and operate on offense the way we have in the past,’ so obviously it gives you hope that you can go win next week.”

Turner cited eight plays of at least 20 yards against the Jaguars as a major reason for the win. San Diego is tied with Dallas and Green Bay with 31 completions of at least 25 yards this season.

The Chargers had a 100-yard receiver and rusher without allowing a sack for the first time since Oct. 7, 2007, a 41-3 win against Denver.

“I think our coaching staff did a great job of keeping these guys’ attention and getting them ready to play,” Turner said. “When you’re struggling, guys can get distracted. We made a big deal to them about the chance to go play on Monday Night Football. It is a big deal to me. It’s been around a long, long, long time.  It’s a big part of the NFL. And they responded.”

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