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Sunday, September 19, 2010
Chargers work OT before crushing Jags

By Bill Williamson

Chargers
Malcolm Floyd, Philip Rivers and the Chargers bounced back big with a Week 2 victory.
SAN DIEGO -- Tuesday is an off day in the NFL.

It wasn’t one in San Diego last week.

The Chargers’ facility was teeming with focused players Tuesday afternoon, hours after the team flew home in the middle of the night after losing in a rain storm in Kansas City on "Monday Night Football."

The San Diego players didn’t lose their day off as a punishment for the loss (that type of stuff is not allowed). No, nearly every player showed up to work Tuesday on their own accord. They independently decided to work on their day off.

“It was a complete focus from Tuesday on, starting pretty much the time we got off the plane,” San Diego safety Eric Weddle said Sunday. “This was a week of complete focus on being the team we know we are.”

The Chargers didn’t seem like a team in need of a day off Sunday as they completely thrashed visiting Jacksonville 38-13 in a game that was blacked out on local television for the first time in six years. San Diego dominated every phase of the game and it looked like the Super Bowl contender it expected to be. Clearly, the extra attention spent during the week paid off.

Hey guys, as a reward, take this Tuesday off. Enjoy the beach. Hang with the family. You earned it.

Several players said after the game that there was no worry about having yet another slow start to the season, even after the 21-14 loss at Kansas City in Week 1. The Chargers had been 5-7 in September under coach Norv Turner heading into the Jacksonville game. Slow starts have been a way of life the past the three seasons.

Yet, this year, San Diego didn’t feel the weight of starting slow.

San Diego knows it played pretty well at Kansas City, especially on defense. The offense stalled during a two-quarter monsoon. Yet, the Chargers still almost found a way to win.

“I hate to make excuses, but we all knew how weather hurt us last week,” San Diego receiver Craig Davis said. "There was no worry that we weren’t a good team or anything. We knew we’d come back and show we’re a strong offense.”

During the week, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said he knew the team would have “a great year.”

Absent of panic or worry, the Chargers demonstrated their power Sunday.

Rivers threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns, erasing talk that the team is paralyzed on offense without holdout receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill. Defensively, San Diego swarmed Jacksonville and created six turnovers.

“The offense and defense both did their jobs today,” Weddle said. “This is team we are.”

The following are key aspects to the game:

Mathews has scare: It got tense at Qualcomm Stadium early in the second quarter when prized rookie tailback Ryan Mathews had to be helped off the field and he was taken to the locker room on a cart with a right ankle injury.

Mathews did run back to the sideline late in the second quarter. He did not play. He probably would have played if the game was in doubt.

He described his injury as a mild sprain but insisted he could have played. He probably will be monitored this week.

“I’m a football player,” the No. 12 overall draft pick in April said. “I want to play football.”

Ryan Mathews
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews left the game with an injury but later returned to the sidelines.
Mathews had 26 yards on five carries and two catches for 29 yards before he was hurt. Mathews was stripped of the ball once. He has now been stripped of the ball and has lost two fumbles in two NFL games. Still, he said he is not concerned about having any fumble issues.

Still, I’m sure his coaches are concerned.

Human bowling ball Mike Tolbert ran for 82 yards on 16 carries as he took over for Mathews as the primary tailback. San Diego, which was ranked No. 31 in rushing offense last season, racked up 151 yards rushing on 30 carries.

“We ran the ball even without Ryan,” Davis said. “We didn’t run the ball well last season, so that was a good sign for us.”

Offense on point: There can’t be much squawking about Jackson and McNeill’s absence this week. Eight San Diego players combined for 22 catches. Rivers received terrific protection and he was sacked only once.

“We have a great group to throw the football to,” Rivers said.

It will be interesting to see if San Diego general manager A.J. Smith feels good enough about his offense after this performance to deal Jackson.

Minnesota is among the teams interested in him. The Vikings lost Sunday to fall to 0-2. Plus, receiver Percy Harvin has a hip injury. Minnesota may be tempted to try to save the season and overpay for Jackson.

Under a settlement reached Thursday, Jackson has to sit out the first four games of the season under suspension -- instead of six -- if he is traded by 4 p.m. Wednesday. If that window closes without a deal, Jackson will only be able to be traded after the Chargers’ sixth game Oct. 17 and before the Oct. 19 trade deadline.

It’s something to watch this week.

Defense swarms: The first half was sloppy as the two teams combined for seven turnovers. Yet, every time San Diego’s offense made a miscue (two of Rivers' passes were intercepted on balls that bounced off of a receiver’s hands) the defense would step up.

San Diego had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Cornerback Antoine Cason, who was chosen to replace the traded Antonio Cromartie, had two interceptions and forced a fumble.

San Diego, which didn’t crumble even though Jacksonville used a no-huddle offense often, had only two sacks but often pressured the quarterback. San Diego has now played eight quarters of solid football.

“It was a total team effort,” linebacker Kevin Burnett said. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

A performance like that calls for a day off.