NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
Got pulse? The Chargers do.
One week left in the season and one more week to keep the dream alive.
And if you can't believe in things this time of the year, that's your problem.
That's the Chargers' mindset as the trail the Ravens and Dolphins by one game for the AFC's final wild-card berth.
On Sunday, they needed to win their third straight game and they did, disposing of the Oakland Raiders.
They also needed the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins to stumble, and they did.
So here comes the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and if things fall right again with a repeat scenario, the Chargers are sliding into the playoffs.
"This is what it's all about," rookie head coach Mike McCoy said. "This is what we're in business for. You just have to play it and see what happens."
What happened Sunday was the Chargers' overcoming three first-half turnovers to slap the Raiders with their fifth consecutive loss. The Raiders weren't very good; the Chargers were a tad better.
But they don't deliver style points in the NFL. What they do keep track of how many games remain and how many games you are out of the playoffs. On that ledger, the Chargers still have a shot.
"The Chargers are still beating (teams)," safety Eric Weddle said. "And I know no one wants to really play us right now."
True. The Chargers are surging but they still will likely finish one game shy of breaking their three-year rut of not making the playoffs.
Of course if the Chargers hadn't lost to the two-win Texans, the three-win Redskins and the four-win Raiders, they wouldn't be in this predicament.
"That's our own fault though," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We should've clenched it, but those are all what-ifs. We didn't. We can't go back. Like I said, we can get to 4-2 in the division and win the last four division games to get to 4-2. That's all we can control."
As well as keeping the faith.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
San Diego Chargers, 8-7, remain in the hunt.
Next week: Hosts Kansas City, 4:25 p.m. ET.
Because of the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Miami Dolphins, the Chargers are still alive. Beating the Oakland Raiders Sunday was also a must.
To clinch the final AFC playoff spot, San Diego needs to beat the Chiefs next week in addition to a win by the Cincinnati Bengals and a loss by the Dolphins.
-- Wide receiver Keenan Allen is having a rookie season which will get him some consideration for the NFL's offensive rookie player of the year award. He had a touchdown reception but also muffed a punt and dropped a pass at a critical juncture in the game. "You can say it was my best worst game," Allen said. "The touchdown kind of evened it all out, but I definitely have some corrections to make on my end."
-- Just a peak, right? The Chargers couldn't help but see what the teams they were chasing, Baltimore and Miami, were doing on Sunday. "You can't help but glance up there when they're showing the scores every couple of games," inside linebacker Donald Butler said. "Last week we didn't get any help. But this week we did and we're still alive. That's all we're looking forward to."
-- Free safety said it was easy finding the difference in Sunday's win. It was when the Chargers didn't allow a touchdown after turning the ball over deep in their own territory before the half. "Really, the series of the game was holding them to a field goal right before half," Weddle said. "It gave us some momentum. We made it interesting for a while, but the better team won."
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
-- RB Ryan Mathews scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the year, one off his career high.
-- WR Keenan Allen has five touchdown receptions in his last three games. Allen also had a career-high 28-yard punt return.
-- DB Marcus Gilchrist continues to do well as the nickel back, sliding down from his safety spot. The Chargers have juggled the secondary because of injuries.
-- RB Ryan Mathews (foot) left the locker room wearing a walking boot but said the injury wasn't serious. He should go on Sunday.
-- TE John Phillips (knee) exited from Sunday's and appeared to be suffer a serious injury. It's unlikely he plays on Sunday.
REPORT CARD VS. RAIDERS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Not Philip Rivers finest day, but he played well enough to win and that is always the standard. He threw for a touchdown but also got picked and had a hand in a bad snap which resulted in a fumble. But he was steady in the second half. The pass protection showed but one sack and his receivers were decent, with five players getting at least three catches. Tight end Antonio Gates was effective early; Keenan Allen adds another touchdown reception.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Ryan Mathews was one shy of yet another 100-yard game as he looks like a different runner than the one seen the majority of his career. He gets some credit for being a hard-nosed runner but don't overlook the run-blocking as the offensive line has gotten healthier and better. Danny Woodhead added 52 yards and the Chargers rushed for 148 yards against a pretty solid run defense.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Might have been higher and could have been worse if the Raiders didn't drop two passes in the end zone and couldn't handle others when getting behind the secondary. But there was an interception by Eric Weddle and a sack/stripe from Melvin Ingram. Four players had passes defensed which helped the cause. That, and Matt McGloin having a rough afternoon -- which was due in part to the Chargers pressure and coverages.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Raiders were ready to unleash a two-headed monster in Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings. But neither could get much traction against the Chargers' front seven. The Raiders rushed for but 59 yards. Inside linebacker Donald Butler and Manti Te'o combined for eight tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Keenan Allen muffed a punt which the Raiders turned into three points. He did have a nice return on a punt as the Chargers continue to search for a spark from their return game. Nick Novak was true on all four field-goal attempts. Coverage units were fine.
COACHING: A -- The Chargers didn't play very well in the first half, but they got it right for the second half. The coaches made the adjustments, but more importantly, didn't panic against an over-matched team. The running game was good and coach Mike McCoy didn't get away from it. The defense was befuddling the Raiders passing game with various blitz packages. The Chargers didn't get wobbly after a shaky start and that speaks to the coaching.