On the wishlist the San Diego Chargers have for Christmas is also a request to play the Kansas City Chiefs more than twice a season. Showing up against the most pathetic team in the NFL doesn’t make you great, but it ensures two division wins in a season when wins are hard to come by for Philip Rivers and always-on-the-hot-seat Norv Turner.
From the opening drive, you felt this was going the Chargers way. Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates, somehow left in single coverage near the endzone, and the streak of six consecutive quarters without a touchdown was over. Later on their losing streak was over as well, with no collapse like in the games against the Saints and the Broncos taking place.
First and foremost, it was a smart, patient game from Philip Rivers. He completed 18 of his 20 passes for two touchdowns and an interception. For him, knowing that the two people taking most of the heat for the underachievemtn in San Diego are his head coach and general manager, it was important winning for them.
We didn’t talk about it specifically, but we want to win for him every week. You play for a lot of things, but we play for our coach. I think that has been evident over the years when we have struggled. It was good to play well but more importantly, it was good to win a game. We needed a win in the worst way. Game like this, wins like this can jump start us.
There was no talk about playing hard, but playing well. Maybe that’s the difference between the Chiefs and other teams. Romeo Crennel and his quarterback keep talking about fighting and playing hard, which should be a given any time someone steps on a football field. Playing well? The Chargers forced the Chiefs to four turnovers, making it 29 on the season. Two of them, one an interception by Demorrio Williams and another a fumble recovery by Shaun Phillips capped a three touchdown fourth quarter.
Matt Cassel was hard to reach behind that offensive line of his, but the Chargers stopped the running game and there wasn’t much need for anything else. Jamaal Charles ran for only 39 yards on 12 carries. Cassel wasn’t going to win this game with his arm.
The Chargers needed a good game from Rivers, a confident performance, as much as they needed that win. A quarterback that is one of the best in the NFL on a good day hasn’t had much of them over the last couple of years, struggling this season over the course of the losing streak. He finished with a 10 of 10 in three WR sets, and his completion ratio of 90% with 20 attempts is tied for the fifth highest in NFL history (minimum 20 passing attempts) along with Steve Young in 1991.
Not every week is going to be the Chiefs. In fact, they’ve already completed their series against the division rivals, winning both games in double digit margins. The question is how will they fair when they can’t get turnovers that easily, and Rivers isn’t facing such a weak and impotent defense.
Thursday night was a big step in bringing back the confidence in their passing game and the ability of Ryan Matthews to carry the ball. Problem is confidence isn’t the only thing that wins games, and Norv Turner, who has done a pretty lousy job at sustaining momentum and quality over the last couple of years, has 8 weeks to show he knows how to work with this kind talent and save his job for another year.