Bolts Back in the Driver's Seat

The Chargers never expected to head into the bye week at 3-3. More importantly, they never expected to happy with a .500 record. Thus is life for Norv Turner's Chargers, who won their second-straight divisional game to reclaim their status as the team to beat in a watered-down AFC West.

Few imagined the Chargers being 3-3 heading into their bye week. But being at .500 never felt so good.

After starting 1-3, the Chargers have won two straight after claiming their eighth consecutive win against the Raiders on Sunday.

"We obviously had dug ourselves a hole," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "It's important to us to get back to 3-3 at the bye. We're getting better."

The Chargers evened their books by blasting the Raiders' run defense. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for a season-high 198 yards and tied a career-high with four rushing touchdowns.

Tomlinson's big day slowed the rush to judgment on the Chargers. After entering the season as favorites to make a Super Bowl run, the team struggled under Turner, who replaced Marty Schottenheimer.

"I did not think we'd be 3-3 at the bye," Turner said. "I didn't think that in August. I didn't think that a month ago. Where we are right now isn't the issue. It's where we're going, and if we keep working to get better, individually and collectively, all the things we'll try to do in a lot of areas as a new group, then we'll be where we want to be when it's over."

Tomlinson said the team has responded well when erasing a three-game losing streak in Denver on Oct. 7.

"What we talked about was finishing strong even though we started slow," Tomlinson said. "We made reference to track guys, especially Carl Lewis, and how he always had a slow start but at the end of the race, you always knew Carl was going to come running. This team started out slow. We didn't get out of the blocks fast. Now we can't slip up and we have to go catch some people."

But getting above .500 could prove difficult if Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick is out a significant amount of time. He suffered a sprained foot in the first quarter and it appears the injury isn't minor.

"That's a big issue," Turner said of the role Hardwick plays in the team's run-oriented offense. "He's an underrated player; I don't know if people understand how good he is. I mean, he's a Pro Bowler, but I've been around some real good centers and he's as good as I've been around."

The Chargers turn to backup Cory Withrow, an eight-year pro, to handle Hardwick's responsibilities. Withrow fared well in playing nearly the entire game against the Raiders.

"He did a great job," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "That shows the value of having a veteran backup. He's really football savvy and every snap was perfect."

The Charges have been far from pristine in the season's first half. But despite a staggered start, they are in the thick of the AFC West race.

"We all knew we had to be 3-3 at the bye," Rivers said. "We accomplished that task."

Up next, after a week of rest, is a home game with the Texans.

"To win is a big deal for us going into the bye," linebacker Matt Wilhelm said.


--WR Craig Davis aggravated a sprained ankle which has caused him problems.

--WR Eric Parker (toe) could return after the bye week.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson, with four rushing touchdowns against the Raiders, is tied for fourth on the NFL's all-time list with Jim Brown at 106.

--RG Mike Goff hurt his thumb, but it isn't expected to keep him out of any games.

--OLBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips both had multiple sacks in a game for the second time in their careers. Merriman, who led the NFL with 17 sacks last year, had 2.5. Phillips collected two. Both players are tied for team-high honors with 5.5 sacks.

Lightning Quicks: Although Roman Oben didn't make his presence felt on the field on Sunday, he is still a force in the community. Learn more about his latest recognition in this article from XK San Diego.

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