AFC West: 2013 Week 7 SDG at JAC

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- He's been close to finishing with a sack since being added to the active roster from the practice squad three weeks ago.

However, things finally came together for San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Thomas Keiser against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He sacked Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne twice, part of a six-sack performance by the Chargers' defense.

Keiser also had two quarterback hurries and a pass deflection in San Diego's 24-6 win over winless Jacksonville.

With outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and inside linebacker Donald Butler out, Keiser was one of a handful of young defensive players who stepped up in the duo's absence, including edge rusher Larry English (five tackles and a sack), linebacker Andrew Gachkar (five tackles), safety Jahleel Addae (four tackles and a sack) and safety Marcus Gilchrist (four tackles, two pass deflections and an interception).

“I play with a chip on my shoulder, regardless of what is said as far as whether we're missing playmakers or not,” Keiser said. “When it comes down to it, I entered this league as an undrafted free agent. Nobody expected me to do anything. And every day I go out there, I have to live with those consequences.

“It's harder coming in that way. It's harder earning opportunities to play. And once I get on the field, I take that very seriously because it's something that was hard to earn. So I go out there and try to make plays.”

At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, Keiser has prototypical size for an edge rusher. He had 2.5 sacks in a preseason game this season against Arizona, so San Diego coach Mike McCoy chose to go with Keiser rather than sign a pass rusher when Dwight Freeney was placed on the injured reserve with a season-ending quadriceps tear.

San Diego veteran safety Eric Weddle said Keiser's impressive play is just another example of young players finding their way defensively for the Chargers.

“We can't feel sorry for ourselves,” Weddle said. “We always like to have our best players in there. But it's the NFL. Guys are never going to be completely healthy and it's just huge for those guys -- Thomas Keiser with two sacks, Manti (Te'o) making a few big plays, (Andrew) Gachkar getting in there and getting a week better. Larry (English) had a sack. Jahleel (Addae) had a sack coming in on the dime package.

“We had a lot of young guys stepping up, growing beyond their years because they have to. We can't wait around for them. So it's exciting, and it's definitely enjoyable to see as an older guy.”

Ryan Mathews lets play do talking

October, 20, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ryan Mathews broke tackles and ran hard, eclipsing 100 rushing yards for a second straight game.

But San Diego’s workhorse running back saved his best moves for after the game, quickly putting on a grey suit and packing his belongings as he tried to beat the rush of reporters.

Mathews enjoys talking about himself about as much as a dental phobic looks forward to a root canal, but he put up with a couple questions before exiting the locker room.

So what does rushing for 100 yards again mean to you?

[+] EnlargeSan Diego's Ryan Mathews
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsRich Ohrnberger helps lift up Ryan Mathews following a touchdown.
“I don’t really think about it like that,” Mathews said following the Chargers' 24-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. “As long as we got the win, that’s all that really matters -- being able to go into the bye week with a 'W' and a winning record feels good.”

OK, so how do you feel about the effective way your team is running the ball right now?

“The big guys up front are doing an amazing good job of opening up holes and pushing guys back,” Mathews said. “It’s pretty easy to run through holes that you can drive cars through.”

One of the guys responsible for opening up the big running lanes is offensive line utility man Rich Ohrnberger, who lifted Mathews off the ground after he bounced into the end zone for a 3-yard rushing touchdown in the second half.

“It’s important to do your job, regardless of the situation,” Ohrnberger said. “And for him (Mathews) to go out there, like all of the other guys in the backfield, and Phil (Rivers) passing his benchmark like he did -- just the guys behind us are so talented, they make our jobs that much easier.”

Through five games, Mathews had rushed for 234 yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. In the last two games, Mathews has rushed for 212 yards, averaging a robust 4.9 yards a carry.

“It feels great to block for a running back who wants to be great -- who wants to be in the Hall of Fame one day,” San Diego offensive lineman D.J. Fluker said. “We want to give Ryan as much room as possible to be the best running back he can.”

The next assignment for Mathews will be to do a better job closing out things at the end of games. The Chargers went three-and-out three straight times in the fourth quarter, failing to convert first downs in order to grind out clock and salt away the game.

“He’s got a lot of confidence in what we’re doing, and the way the offensive line is blocking up front,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. “There were a couple plays I said to Joe (offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris), one in particular toward the end with three or four drives left -- unfortunately we went three-and-out on it -- but I said to him, ‘That’s the way you run the football.’

“That’s the way you’ve got to be able to do it, pounding guys and double-team blocks, and the running back putting his foot in the ground and going north and south. And a lot of good finishes, and you saw a bunch of defenders on the ground. So we’ve just got to continue to be physical up front.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed in the locker room after the San Diego Chargers' 24-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A reflective Rivers: Philip Rivers talked about becoming the second player in franchise history to eclipse the 30,000-yard passing mark with his effort against Jacksonville. Rivers has 30,023 yards, joining Dan Fouts, who finished his 15-year career as the Chargers all-time passing leader with 43,040 yards. “It’s kind of a ‘wow’ to myself when it hits you,” said Rivers, who received the game ball from coach Mike McCoy in the locker room. “It’s humbling when you hear that. And the first thing that comes to my mind is how many guys are involved in that happening. You don’t throw 30,000 yards to yourself. There’s a lot of guys that have been on the receptions end of it. No. 85 [Antonio Gates] has been on the other end of a lot of them. And then there’s a lot of guys up front that have protected for you to get the ball off.” One of those offensive linemen is longtime center Nick Hardwick. “It’s just a pleasure to work with such a great guy, a great teammate and true friend,” Hardwick said. “He’s the most competitive person I’ve ever been around. It’s a real honor.” Rivers also confirmed that his wife, Tiffany, did not give birth to the couple’s seventh child while he was in Jacksonville.

Still work to do: While players look forward to having some time off during the bye week, players understand there’s more work to do. Defensively, the Chargers have not given up a touchdown in 11 quarters, and did not allow a touchdown in back-to-back games for the first time since the first two weeks of the 2002 season. But, as safety Eric Weddle said, it’s better for players to learn from their mistakes by winning instead of losing. “The games and plays that you learn from help build your identity and who you are,” Weddle said. “So for us to play like we’ve played the last two and a half games is big -- and not reading the press and feeling like we’re all that -- but just staying closed-minded, staying the course and staying focused. It’s really a testament to these guys, the older players getting the young players right and the coaches coaching us up. Look at the guys that we had out there, and we’re playing lights out. It’s exciting, but we have to keep going upwards. We can’t take a step back.”

Last time Fluker played left tackle? Try high school: You can’t blame rookie offensive lineman D.J. Fluker for feeling a little uncomfortable moving over to left tackle in the opening quarter after King Dunlap left the game with his second concussion of the season. Fluker was drafted as San Diego’s long-term answer at right tackle, and had not played left tackle since his high school days in Foley, Ala. “I was a little nervous,” Fluker said. “So I had to kind of calm down, and the coaches just told me to be patient and it will come. And eventually that happened. I got beat a couple times, but I haven’t been over there for so long. Other than that, I think I did OK.” For the most part, San Diego’s offensive line kept Rivers clean, holding Jacksonville to just one sack.

Rapid Reaction: San Diego Chargers

October, 20, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 24-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

What it means: The Chargers won consecutive games for the first time this season and go into the bye week above the .500 mark for the first time in 2013 (4-3 overall).

Rivers makes history: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers completed his first 14 passes, which is a franchise record. He also became the 38th quarterback in NFL history to eclipse 30,000 career passing yards. Rivers finished 22-for-26 for 285 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal.

O-line shuffle: With only seven offensive linemen active for the game, the Chargers finished the contest with six healthy enough to play. Starting left tackle King Dunlap suffered his second concussion of the season in the opening quarter, and his replacement, Mike Remmers, went down four plays later with an ankle injury. Remmers could have, but did not go back into the game. Rookie D.J. Fluker moved from left tackle to right tackle. Jeromey Clary moved from right guard to right tackle. And Rich Ohrnberger came off the bench to play right guard.

How about that defense? San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano's unit proved last week’s effort against Indianapolis was not a fluke, limiting the Jaguars to six points and 353 total yards. The Chargers sacked Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne six times, including two by Thomas Keiser, who was playing in place of starting outside linebacker Jarret Johnson.

Mathews reaches century mark: For a second straight game, running back Ryan Mathews topped 100 yards rushing. Mathews finished with 110 rushing yards on 21 carries, including a 3-yard run for a score. The touchdown was Mathews’ first scoring run of the season and first since Week 5 of last year.

What’s next: The Chargers will take the week off before traveling to take on Washington at 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 3.