AFC West: 2011 Week 13 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Chargers 38, Jaguars 14

December, 5, 2011

A look at a night of revival for the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The streak is over. The Chargers slapped around the Jaguars to end a six-game losing streak, the team’s longest in 10 years. San Diego is now 5-7 and tied with Kansas City in the AFC West. Both teams are two games behind Denver and Oakland, both 7-5.

The difference: The Chargers could have easily won all seven of their losses. But they made crucial mistakes late in games to blow it. San Diego coach Norv Turner told ESPN his team hadn’t been a “well-oiled machine.” Monday, the Chargers were the team we’ve been expecting to see all season. This was perhaps San Diego’s best overall game of the season.

Welcome back, Philip: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had his best game of the season. He was the typically aggressive Rivers who excelled with the deep pass. Rivers completed 22 of 28 passes for 294 yards with three touchdown passes. Most importantly, Rivers was not intercepted. Three days before his 30th birthday, Rivers showed he is still an upper-echelon quarterback.

Healthy weapons: It helped that he had healthy receiving options. Malcom Floyd was back after missing a month with a hip injury. Rivers hit Floyd, receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates a combined 14 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Injuries mount: The banged-up Chargers did not leave Florida without adding to their long injury list. Standout center Nick Hardwick and young linebacker Donald Butler both left the game for periods of time.

Is it enough to save jobs? Did the Chargers’ strong effort help coach Norv Turner save his job? No. The only way Turner likely stays is if the Chargers somehow make the playoffs — and their road is still very difficult with just a quarter of the season remaining. General manager A.J. Smith is also reportedly on the hot seat.

Gaither starts: Because of major issues on San Diego’s offensive line, newly claimed left tackle Jared Gaither started. He was waived by Kansas City last week. Rivers was not sacked — a great effort by a makeshift line.

Mathews looks good: San Diego second-year running back Ryan Mathews showed his great ability as he ran for 112 yards on 13 carries. He had a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Defense withstands pressure: The Jaguars took a 14-10 lead in the second quarter with touchdowns on consecutive drives. But San Diego’s defense buckled down and took the Jacksonville offense out of the game.

What’s next: The Chargers will try to keep the momentum going at home against the struggling Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 10, Bears 3

December, 4, 2011
A look at an impressive 10-3 win for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Chicago Bears:

What it means: The Chiefs are now 5-7. They trail Denver and Oakland, both 7-5, by two games in the AFC West race. They lead San Diego, 4-7, by a half game. San Diego plays at Jacksonville on Monday night. The win snapped a four-game Kansas City losing streak. Maybe the Chiefs’ strange season trend will continue. The Chiefs have been a team of streaks all season. They started the season 0-3, then won four straight games and then lost four straight games.

Big play: The lone touchdown of the game was on a crazy 38-yard pass from Tyler Palko to Dexter McCluster at the end of the first half. It was deflected twice.

Palko gets first win: Palko got his first NFL win. He was 0-2 in his first two starts. Palko was 17-of-30 for 157 yards. Most importantly, he did not throw an interception. He was picked off six times in his first two NFL starts.

Short stint for Orton: Quarterback Kyle Orton spelled Palko for one play. He hurt his finger on his first and only pass as a Chief. Kansas City coach Todd Haley had no update on Orton’s injury after the game. With Orton dealing with an injury and Palko coming off a win, I could see Palko getting more time.

Houston, we don’t have a problem: Kansas City rookie Justin Houston was spectacular as he had three sacks. Kansas City had seven sacks on the day.

Good defense: The Kansas City defense has played well recently and it had another big day with three interceptions Sunday. Give defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel credit for putting together a strong group.

What’s next: The Chiefs, who entered Week 13 tied for the toughest remaining schedule in the league, play at the New York Jets on Sunday.

Wrap-up: Broncos 35, Vikings 32

December, 4, 2011

A look at another thrilling Denver Broncos win, this time 35-32 over the Minnesota Vikings:

What it means: Denver is now tied with Oakland for first place in the AFC West at 7-5. Denver has won five straight games and has won six of quarterback Tim Tebow’s seven starts this season. The Broncos are a major factor in the AFC West playoff race after starting the season 1-4.

Tomorrow’s talker: Tebow is getting better as a passer. Denver -- which scored 28 points in the second half -- is still not comfortable enough to make Tebow a pure pocket passer, but he is making major strides. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 202 yards. He made several key completions and his passes continue to get more aesthetically pleasing. After running a record 22 times last week, he ran only four times for 13 yards

Winning close games: It was Denver’s third straight last-minute victory and the fourth since Tebow took over.

Thomas helping: Tebow is building a rapport with fellow 2010 first-round pick Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had four catches for 144 yards and the two nearly connected on a touchdown late in the game before Denver tied the score with a field goal. Eric Decker had been Tebow’s favorite target. He had 25 yards on two catches.

Defense comes through: The Vikings got their yardage, but Denver’s defense came up with three turnovers. An interception by cornerback Andre' Goodman with less than two minutes to go set up the win. This was a hard-fought game by the Denver defense. It was on the field for 37 minutes, 51 seconds and nearly 22 minutes in the first half. But it buckled down when it needed to.

Haggan has big game: Denver veteran linebacker Mario Haggan had a terrific game as he spelled rookie star Von Miller, who was out with ligament damage to his thumb. Haggan had a team-high 12 tackles and an interception return for a score.

McGahee makes big runs: At the age of 30, Denver running back Willis McGahee continued to shine. He had 111 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, on 20 carries. Denver, the leading rushing team in the NFL, had 150 rushing yards on 32 carries.

What’s next: Denver hosts the Jay Cutler-less Chicago Bears next week as the Broncos hope to continue their unlikely march toward the playoffs.