Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers' 14-7 win over the New York Jets:
1. A Season-Saving Win – It wasn't pretty, but then again, it doesn't matter how you win. In the end, the Chargers kept their postseason hopes alive with a gutsy effort on the road. Coupled with the Rams beating the Titans, it proved to be a season-saving victory as they enter Week 17 with a chance to capture a Wild Card berth. That's pretty remarkable considering the team started 0-4 yet showed impressive resiliency to go 8-3 over the past 11 games. Philip Rivers weighed in about heading into Week 17 with something to still play for:
"That's all we can ask for at this point. Starting 0-4, digging the hole we dug, to have a chance to be alive in Week 17, although there's games you're sick about at this point, you're excited to have a chance. That was a hard-fought team win today. We knew we were going to have a heck of a challenge and we found a way to get it done…I think you have to give credit to the head coach first. I think it trickles down. I'm thankful for all the years I've been here we've had guys at that position that have stuck with the message and kept their poise and stayed consistent through all the tough times. I think that's why through hundreds and hundreds of players over the past 14 years, we've always been that type of team to battle through the tough times. This team is no different. It doesn't count for more wins, and nobody gives you pats on the back for doing it, but the character of your team shows and it's important to the guys in there and those relationships. It's a fun team to be a part of."
2. 1,000 Reasons to Smile – The 1,000-yard benchmark is an important one to running backs. While it may seem like an arbitrary number, there's something to be said for reaching that plateau. After all, only seven running backs in the league this year have crossed that mark heading into Week 17. Melvin Gordon become the latest member for the first time in his career on Sunday. It was even more meaningful after the running back barely missed out last season at 997 yards, after suffering a season-ending injury in the first quarter of Week 14. It was another milestone on a banner year in which Gordon currently ranks second in total touchdowns (12) and seventh in rushing yards (1,012). While the third-year rusher admitted it was an important goal of his to reach 1,000, leave it to Rivers to put the accomplishment into perspective:
"Obviously, last year with his injury and coming up just barely short, he's run hard all year. He ran hard again today. He caught the ball well again, two weeks in a row. The screen was a big catch. Melvin's done a nice job. You never like to speak of them like you're above them, and I certainly don't think that I am, but when you're an older player it's fun to see the young guys really turn into pros and see their progression. Watching Keenan (Allen) do it and now watching Melvin do it, it's fun to see that because we all remember being 22, 23, 24, 25 and going through that. He's continuing to ascend as player."
3. Don't Test Casey – With a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, the Jets made a costly mistake; they attempted to throw at Casey Hayward on fourth down. The league-leader in passes defensed made them pay, using leverage and technique in coverage on Robby Anderson to give the wideout no chance to make the completion. For the cherry on top, Hayward had the game-sealing forced fumble and recovery on the final play of the game to cement the victory. After the game, the two-time Pro Bowler explained what went through his mind on that pivotal fourth quarter play:
"It feels good to get those third and fourth down stops late in the game," Hayward said afterward. "It changes everything. I wasn't surprised they threw it at me. What are they supposed to do? They are supposed to trust their people. I just used good technique. I don't know, maybe they should try the other side next time. I'm a really good player!"
4. Still Room to Improve – As noted earlier, it wasn't the prettiest win by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, there was plenty that disappointed Head Coach Anthony Lynn and the rest of the Bolts. First and foremost was the number of penalties and mental miscues. He also mentioned blunders on special teams as an area that needs to be rectified after the team had shored it up in recent weeks. All in all, here's what Lynn had to say on the topic:
"We knew it was going to be tough coming in here playing this team the way they've been playing on defense, especially. When you go on the road, you can't have the penalties that we had today and you can't give up the rush yards we had today. That's got to get corrected. But at the same time, I make no apologies for winning a tough road game. I thought the guys grinded it out."
5. Vintage Gates – It's not often a future Hall of Famer is called upon to step up, but that is exactly what the Bolts needed out of Antonio Gates. Sure enough, number 85 delivered with a throwback performance in which he caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Gates had taken a backseat to Hunter Henry for much of the season, but with the second-year tight end out for the year, he stepped up like Rivers expected he would:
"I knew he would (play well). I told you in the beginning of the week, it was weird when Hunter (Henry) goes down and you're like, 'Ok, the tight end group's got to pick it up. Oh, it's Antonio Gates. He's a Hall of Famer, all time touchdown leader in the history of tight ends.' You knew he'd be ready to go. He has been all year. Really, he's to be commended for the way he's handled things all year. He's been the guy for 15 seasons and then to really take a backseat to Hunter and play a limited role, but stay ready and be the pro he's been, he should be commended for it. Then, he gets a touchdown and makes some big plays. He was a big part of our success today."
Top Five Total Body Stretches
Doorway Pec Stretch – Used to target tight, forward shoulders. Put your arms at shoulder height with elbows bent with one leg slightly forward and lean in to feel the stretch across your chest.
Modification: If you are unable to raise your arms to shoulder height, lower your arm position.
Hip Flexor Stretch – Used to help open up your hips especially if you sit for long periods. Get into a single-knee kneeling position and make sure your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Tighten your buttock/gluteal muscles as you lean forward to feel a stretch at the front of the thigh and hips in the trailing leg.
Quadruped Thoracic Rotation – Used to target tight mid-back area. Start on all fours. Your arms and thighs should be perpendicular to your body. Keep your spine is in a neutral position, don't overarch or round your back too much. Put one hand behind your head and rotate your torso toward that side.
Modification: You can perform while sitting if performing in the all fours position is too difficult.
Standing Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) and Quadratus Lumborum (QL) Stretch – Used to target low back and IT band tightness. Start with your right side toward the wall, then cross the right leg behind the left leg. Lean into the wall and bend away with your right arm overhead. After stretching the right side, follow same steps for the left.
Spider-Man Stretch – Combination of upper and lower back stretching. Start in a plank or push-up position and then bring your right foot as close to the right hand as you can. Bring that foot back and repeat on opposite side.
Tip: For an additional stretch for your thoracic spine, you can add rotation as demonstrated in third picture.
For each of these exercises, perform two repetitions and hold for 30 seconds each. Take a 10-second break between each rep.
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