When the Los Angeles Chargers were at their lowest point, dropping four-straight games to open the 2017 campaign, Philip Rivers looked at the calendar and had one simple goal.
Get to 3-5.
Mission accomplished, even if the team had its sights set on higher aspirations when they entered Foxborough.
"We've battled our way back," Rivers said. "Honestly, I always believe we're going to win every game, and sitting at 0-4 I said, 'If we can somehow get to 3-5 at the bye, we'll be in the hunt.' And we did that. Should have been 4-4 but we (aren't). There is little room for error, but we have an eight-game season with everything out there still."
Even in a frustrating 21-13 loss at the hands of Tom Brady and the Patriots, Rivers came away encouraged by what the team can accomplish over the second half of the season.
"I think we can be encouraged by this game. I don't think this is the best Patriots team they've had in the last decade – I don't think they would say that this is the best team they've (had) in decade. They're still really good. They've beaten us just about every time I've trotted out there against them. They're sitting there at 6-2 at the top. They're going to be playing in January, so something you can take from it is, again, there are no participation trophies, but we are right there. We came to their place and we're right there as a lot of teams have been this year against them and we just didn't find a way to get it done.
He isn't alone in feeling that way.
"The team is real confident right now," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "And the team knows that we left too much on the field today. They know that. I think they will come back, confident and fresh, and I think we will play well in this third quarter of the season."
The Chargers stressed how there are no moral victories for simply hanging in there with the defending World Champions. Still, it's undeniable that the Bolts were a confident, upbeat group in the locker room despite the loss.
"This game is over," said Tre Boston. "We know what we did and what went wrong. It's little details. We beat ourselves. We had two touchdowns called back. This loss is going to hurt, but when we sit down and look at this game, this will tell us who we really are. We held Tom Brady to one touchdown and four field goals. That does (give you confidence). We know the way we've been playing on top of that. We're starting to see that we are a good team. We have some ground to make up, but we've done a good job getting us back into the hunt. 3-5. Two games back from .500. If we have a third and fourth quarter like we had our second quarter, we'll be a playoff team."
"If we can play the way we have the last few weeks, we have a chance," added Casey Hayward. "We said to ourselves earlier to go win the second quarter of the season. Now we have to go out there and win the third quarter. We've got to go 3-1 or 4-0 in this third quarter, but we believe we can do that. We've got this bye coming up, but then we've got to come back here and play like we have been playing. We've got a chance to fight our way into the playoffs. We played a really good team in the defending Super Bowl champions. We only gave them 19 points on defense, and we had a chance to get it into overtime. It's frustrating, but we're still confident."
The Chargers take on New England for a Week 8 battle at Gillette Stadium