But the Chargers aren't in position to exhale too deeply. They realize if they want to make the playoffs for the second time since 1995, it's games like the ones against the 49ers which must be handled smartly.
What the Chargers hope prevents them from taking a foe lightly after a big win is coach Marty Schottenheimer's midnight rule. Regardless off the outcome of that week's game, it is retired by midnight Monday night.
"Like golf, they say you got to stay in the moment, deal with now," Schottenheimer said. "If you hit one out of bounds, you put it on the tee and you have to hit it in play somewhere."
So if a particular Chargers' opponent is or isn't up to par, Schottenheimer stresses to his players to place it aside.
"Each of us have a finite ability to focus and some of us focus better than others," he said. "But the reality is don't get involved with dealing with things that you have no further control over because you are wasting your time, you're taking away your focus for the next event, whatever it might be.
"The whole idea is that you recognize the fact you can't do anything about -- it is over. All you can do is look forward because if you find yourself distracted by what has already happened, you become less efficient in what you have to do. So you put it aside and you move on, that is the essence of it."
The players have bought into the idea, although they admit some weeks are more challenging than others.
"That is why this is the toughest sport to deal with, I think, from week to week," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "You don't get but 16 shots and you are either in or out after that. So you gear back up because you don't have many opportunities."
Rivers made the most of his latest chance, directing the Chargers to a come-from-behind victory over the Steelers. Rivers helped erase a 13-7 deficit for a 23-13 victory in his fourth NFL start.
"I didn't play perfect, I made some mistakes," Rivers said. "It was a good win and a good step. I still have a ways to go."
But Rivers is quickly gaining the confidence of his teammates. Not that they had questioned it when the Chargers made the decision to let Drew Brees flee to New Orleans. But there is a difference between talking a good game and playing a few in a similar fashion.
"Philip is getting comfortable," LaDainian Tomlinson said.
Added Antonio Gates: "Since Day 1 we had faith he was going to do it and he did it."
Rivers has done it with a load of expectations. Club officials have stated they expect to go deep into the playoffs, despite a quarterback with just a handful of starts.
And Rivers' play becomes more important as defenses continually dare the Chargers to beat them through the air by loading up against the run.
The surreal moment of the night came not during the game, but after it.
After filing my stories for my newspaper, I went with another reporter to get on the elevator and head down to the locker rooms. A security guard stopped us saying, "We're holding the elevator for Mr. Madden."
I explained in less-than-pleasant terms that we were on deadline and needed to get quotes to call back to our papers, while "Mr. Madden's" work was finished for the evening.
Just then, another security guard came out and said that "Mr. Madden" was running late and they could send the elevator down again.
We got on and went down one floor where the elevator stopped, allowing Dan and Art Rooney and Dean Spanos to get on.
What kind of world do we live in when some TV schlub can hold up an elevator for himself, but the owners of the teams can climb aboard one with us common folk?
The people who voted for Madden for the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be ashamed.
Rivers fits what the Chargers do more than Roethlisberger would have. Then again, the Chargers' coaching staff has done a good job of accentuating the things that Rivers does well. He's very accurate on his short and mid-range passes.