Chargers Turnover A New Leaf

How have the Chargers turned around their season? They flipped their turnover ratio. The Chargers head to Minnesota a different team than the one that started the season 1-3.

"The last three weeks we've taken care of the ball," LaDainian Tomlinson said.

And the result has been three consecutive wins and a share of the AFC West lead.

"Our turnover differential is a plus-10," he said of the recent three-game run. "If you go back to the Patriots game, we turned the ball over and got behind. Against Kansas City, we turned the ball over and they came back to beat us. The common theme is turnovers."

The Chargers hope to continue that trend Sunday against a Vikings team that is struggling. Minnesota sits at 2-5, and the Vikings are having trouble with their passing game and pass defense.

They can run the ball, with Adrian Peterson -- and not Tomlinson -- pacing the league in rushing. But that plays into the Chargers' hands, as among their team strengths is their rugged run defense.

And it's that defense that deserves its share of headlines in this flipping of the Chargers' season. In each of the three wins, turnovers played a big role.

In the win over Houston on Sunday, the Chargers turned three Texans miscues into 21 points.

In the win over Oakland, San Diego turned an interception into seven points.

In the win over Denver, it was a touchdown off a fumbled kickoff that help a big start. Later the Chargers turned a recovered fumble and an interception into 10 points.

"Our defense has been outstanding, and they're creating turnovers," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But that's a team deal, turnover margin. We didn't turn the ball over, and they got it a whole bunch."

Overall the Chargers are tied for third in the NFL with 19 takeaways, and they are plus-eight when considering their seven interceptions and four fumbles.

The team is 3-0 this season -- the last three games -- when it wins the turnover battle.

In the Chargers' three losses, they are a minus-four in the turnover department.

Tomlinson said if the Chargers can keep handling the ball with care -- and get their share of takeaways -- they can compete with anyone.

"When we play Indianapolis (Nov. 11) or we play New England again, and we don't turn the ball over and it's an equal game (in turnovers), then I like our chances," he said.

So while looking at reasons why the Chargers have climbed off the mat, don't overlook the turnover ratio.

And the Chargers figure to grab a few more with the Vikings facing uncertainly at quarterback and problems in the passing game.

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Chargers lead series, 5-4. The Chargers prevailed the last time these teams played, winning 42-28 in San Diego. But the Chargers haven't won in Minnesota since 1993; they lost there in 1999.


--It didn't take long for WR Chris Chambers to make an impact. He had a TD catch in his first game as a Charger on Sunday and was presented a game ball. But it didn't stay with Chambers long. "I had my mom come out here and support me," he said. "And it feels really good to be able to give her the game ball."

--The Chargers' special teams continue to shine as the season progresses. "Field position is such a big part of this game," coach Norv Turner said. "Our special teams have been outstanding for the most part all year."

--Athletic CB Antonio Cromartie is being patient regarding his chances on offense or as a returner. "If I get an opportunity, that would be great," he said. "But right now I'm concentrating on defense."

--Turner isn't taking the Vikings lightly, despite their dismal record. He notes three of their five losses have been by seven points or fewer. "They're a very talented football team," Turner said.

--Even though 24 players and nearly 50 members of the organization were forced from their homes in the recent wildfires, not one person lost a house.

--The Chargers have had their way of late against NFC teams, and they hope that continues on Sunday against the Vikings. The Chargers have won six of their last seven against NFC teams and 10 of their last 14.

--The Chargers had gone 57 consecutive pass plays without a sack before QB Philip Rivers was bought down last Sunday.

--CB Drayton Florence was fined $15,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Texans QB Matt Schaub.

--Chargers defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell held the same position with the Vikings from 2004-05.

--Vikings running back coach Eric Bieniemy was the Chargers' second-round pick in 1991 and played four years with the Bolts.

--LB Ben Leber of the Vikings played for the Chargers from 2002-05.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Opponents' rushing touchdowns in the Chargers' recent three-game winning streak.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "In my mind it all starts offensively. If you don't turn the ball over, the worst thing you can be is zero." -- Coach Norv Turner of his team going three games without a turnover, which has fueled the team's three-game winning streak.


OLB Marques Harris and CB Antonio Cromartie could see more playing time because the starters at those positions are ailing. OLB Shaun Phillips is nursing a groin injury; his legs are what make him so good. CB Quentin Jammer has a tweaked hamstring, and it's not known if he will go, and if he does, how long he might last. Harris and Cromartie figure to see increased playing time, even if Phillips and Jammer start the game.


--QB Philip Rivers will make his first start in a dome this Sunday. Rivers is 5-1 against NFC teams in his career.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson heads into November with this surprising note -- he has yet to rush for a road touchdown. That could change on Sunday. He does have one receiving TD on the road, at Green Bay. Tomlinson is tied with Jim Brown for fourth place all-time with 106 rushing touchdowns.

--P Mike Scifres has landed nine consecutive punts inside the opponents' 20-yard-line. He was named the AFC special teams player of the week. He had a career-high 50.2-yard net and a season-best 63-yarder in five attempts.

--DE Luis Castillo has a half-sack, which came on Sunday. His sack from the Oakland game was switched to a running play, so he doesn't get credit.

--TE Antonio Gates has 4,017 career receiving yards. He's the third-fastest tight end to the 4,000-yard mark in NFL history, taking 68 games.

--WR Vincent Jackson needs to rebound after not having a single catch on Sunday. To be fair, the Chargers attempted just 11 passes.

--RG Mike Goff continues to practice wearing protection for his left thumb, which underwent ligament surgery during the bye week.

GAME PLAN: Vikings RB Adrian Peterson figures to get his yards, although the Chargers run defense is back to its stout standards -- the run-stuffing crew gets a boost with Jamal Williams' return. But the Chargers want to limit Peterson to set up third-and-longs to get after the Vikings quarterback, either Tarvaris Jackson or Brooks Bollinger. The Chargers pass rush has shown a pulse of late, and it could be in for a big game if it can get after either of the quarterbacks.


Interior of the Chargers defensive line, with Pro Bowl DT Jamal Williams, vs. the Vikings running game, led by the NFL's leading rusher, Adrian Peterson -- Williams is a stud, but he will be playing in his first game since getting both knees cleaned out during the bye week. Williams needs to play well to keep the blockers off the linebackers as they try to create room for Peterson. The Vikings offer their Pro Bowler in the middle, C Matt Birk. If the Vikings can win the matchup in the middle, they could have a chance to stay with the Chargers.

Chargers passing game, with WRs Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers, vs. Vikings pass defense -- How do you make the game's best tight end better? Put a reliable receiver out in the formation with him. Gates had two touchdown catches in the first Chargers game that included Chambers. The Vikings have to figure out how to stop these two -- while keeping an eye on Tomlinson. The Vikings pass defense stinks, and the Bolts will do everything they can exploit it.

Chargers interior offense line, with backup C Cory Withrow, vs. Vikings defensive line, which has Pro Bowlers Pat Williams and Kevin Williams -- Withrow did well last week in subbing for Nick Hardwick. He needs to be on his game again Sunday -- and get some help from OGs Mike Goff and Kris Dielman, to open running lanes against the talented Williams tandem (they are not related). While scuffling elsewhere, the Vikes defense is solid against the run, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry and only two rushing TDs. The Williams combo is a big reason for that.

INJURY IMPACT: C Nick Hardwick (foot) is out one to two more games. Cory Withrow will replace him...DT Jamal Williams (knees) practiced and appears to be a go for Sunday...WR Craig Davis (ankle) didn't work Wednesday. He could be down Sunday, as he's yet to prove he can play with pain...DT Ryon Bingham (shoulder) didn't work Wednesday. He could be a key player Sunday if DT Jamal Williams has trouble with his mending knees. Brandon McKinney would take his snaps if Bingham can't go...ILB Matt Wilhelm (ankle) didn't work Wednesday, but at least it's not the calf that bothered him earlier. Carlos Polk and Tim Dobbins would pick up the reps if Wilhelm is down -- but he should go...CB Quentin Jammer (hamstring) didn't work Wednesday. He will try later in the week. Antonio Cromartie would get more playing time if Jammer is idle...OLB Shaun Phillips (groin) didn't work Wednesday. Phillips is all about speed, so this could be a tough one to overcome by Sunday. He might be a game-time decision.

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