NFL@L.A.: Donald Butler
December, 5, 2011
By Bill Williamson | ESPNLosAngeles.com
A look at 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 losing 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 weapons. 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.