Bye Comes, Bolts Off to Good Start

The Chargers approach their bye week with a start that couldn't have gone much better. They reside atop the AFC West with a 4-1 record, the ghosts of slow starts finally put behind them.

Some teams would like to keep playing after winning four of five. But the Chargers will embrace this week off to take a deep breath and get healthy.

"The bye is coming at a good time," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "I certainly feel like I could use a week - there are a couple of us -- to rest up and give some bumps some time to heal."

Rivers has been nursing sore ribs, and after the Chargers gave up a season-high four sacks in Sunday's win over the Broncos, he's also tender in a few others spots.

There's also Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates' status, and how this down week might help him. Gates hasn't practiced since playing in the Chargers' Sept. 18 loss at New England. Bothered again by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, Gates has basically turned to nothing but rest.

The Chargers hope this extended period of time will allow Gates to contribute in the second half of the season.

But at the least the Chargers will enter the latter, and tougher, stretch of their schedule with an impressive record. This is usually the stretch of the season the Chargers are sweating to get right, after starting slow. That isn't the case, as the Chargers haven't bolted from the gate like this since 2006. And two of their wins are of the AFC West variety, this after winning but three divisional games last year.

The Chargers' first five games have mostly been successful but there are plenty of blemishes spotted as well. Rivers has nine turnovers - seven interceptions - and the defense hasn't produced as many turnovers as expected.

And the Chargers' wins, for the most part, have come against the NFL's second tier in the Vikings, Chiefs, Dolphins and Broncos.

The Chargers will get challenged more when they return to work on Oct. 23. Their next four games include road contests against the Jets, Chiefs, at home against the Packers and the Raiders.

"There are a lot of things we got to get better at," coach Norv Turner said. "But if you have the confidence that when it is in the last minutes that you are going to get the stop, that you're going get the first down or make the kick. That gives you a chance mentally to win any game."


UNDER THE RADAR: The Chargers love Jacob Hester's versatility and he proved again why he is so valuable. Hester, a converted fullback, returned to his running back roots when Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert were temporarily sidelined in the win at Denver. Hester gained 47 yards on 11 carries. He proved to coaches again that he's reliable if needed to carry a portion of the rushing load.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Chargers will be tackling a certain No. 21 in their next game against the Jets and won't that be odd. Former Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson will face his old team for the first time on Oct. 23 since being released after the 2009 season.


--DE Jacques Cesaire is hoping to return to action Oct. 23 against the Jets. Cesaire has missed two games with a knee sprain. Cesaire is a valuable backup in the team's defensive front rotation.

--DE Luis Castillo remains a month or so away from trying to play after breaking his leg.

--RB Mike Tolbert suffered a concussion in Sunday's game and will be monitored as the week progresses.

--RB Ryan Mathews' progress continues to be impressive as he is coming off a career-high 125 rushing yards. Mathews has had at least 132 combined yards in three straight games.

--WR Vincent Jackson has been nursing a sore hamstring and will benefit from the week off.

Should Hester have a bigger role on offense? Discuss inside the message boards.

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