NFL@L.A.: Malcom Floyd

Wrap-up: Lions 38, Chargers 10

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
5:36
PM PT
A few thoughts on a momentous day and evening in Detroit:

What it means: The Detroit Lions clinched their first playoff berth since 1999 in convincing fashion, jumping on the San Diego Chargers for 24 first-half points and finishing strongly as well. The victory caps a three-year overhaul from the franchise's darkest moment, the 0-16 season in 2008, and cements the status of a new set of heroes for Detroit sports fans. For those asking, we don't yet know if the Lions will be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Turning point: The Chargers threatened to make a game of it the third quarter, recovering an onside kick moments after closing the gap to 24-7 midway through the quarter. But on third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, cornerback Chris Houston broke up a pass intended for receiver Malcom Floyd in the end zone. The Chargers were forced to kick a field goal, a clear momentum swing that they never recovered from. Kudos to Houston for his play, which also included an interception and a total of four defensed passes.

StaffordWatch: There's no other way to say it: Matthew Stafford and the entire Lions passing offense were dealing all game long. From the opening play, a 46-yard jump ball that receiver Calvin Johnson caught against double coverage, the Lions had their way with the Chargers' defense. Stafford's final numbers: 29 completions in 36 attempts for 373 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 137.6 passer rating. In his past three games, Stafford has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Obviously, that's how you want a franchise quarterback to respond in the playoff push. In the process, he set a new Lions record for the most passing yards in a season. It now stands at 4,518 yards.

Composure: Circumstances conspired to whip the team into a frenzy, and center Dominic Raiola was among those who let his pregame emotions get the best of him. I saw Raiola's pushing and shoving before the game and wondered if we were in for another penalty-filled, out-of-control performance. But the Lions appear to have put that phase of their season behind them. They were called for only three accepted penalties, losing a total of eight yards, and kept their composure throughout the afternoon. There was a moment when I thought tight end Tony Scheffler was going to go after a Chargers player post-whistle, but he smartly held back. Coach Jim Schwartz's no-tolerance policy has worked.

Rewards: I'm sure many Lions fans were thinking Saturday of friends and loved ones who suffered through years and years of substandard, playoff-less years of football. I couldn't help but marvel at how much bad football that longtime Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski covered in his 30-plus years on the job. Kowalski passed away last August, just before this wild season kicked off. Beat writers don't root for the teams they cover, but take it from experience, covering a playoff team is a lot more interesting than the alternative.

What's next: The Lions will close out the regular season -- and turn their attention TO THE PLAYOFFS -- next Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

Wrap-up: Chargers 38, Jaguars 14

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
9:00
PM PT

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.

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TEAM LEADERS

PASSING
Philip Rivers
ATT COMP YDS TD
271 185 2213 20
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
B. Oliver 85 352 4.1 2
D. Brown 59 126 2.1 0
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Floyd 24 470 19.6 3
K. Allen 43 427 9.9 1