Can SD improve on third down?

The chips are down for San Diego, and despite the Chargers cashing in two wins, their showing on third downs is unsettling.

The Chargers won in Kansas City on Sunday despite an unsightly conversion rate of 29 percent, converting just 4-of-14 attempts.

"Those are the things we have to recognize even though we're winning and say, 'this can come back to haunt us down the road,'" quarterback Philip Rivers said.

The Chargers hit the road again Sunday when taking their two-game winning streak and two-game lead in the AFC West to Tennessee. There awaits a hungry Titans team which, like the Chargers, is 7-5.

But unlike the Chargers, the Titans are fighting for a wild-card spot and figure to give the Chargers their best effort.

The Chargers had looked like they had turned the corner on their third-down woes when cashing in on 7-of-15 chances in the win two weeks back against the Ravens. But the third-down difficulties emerged again Sunday, and keen football people know it's tough winning if that isn't corrected.

"It does concern me," coach Norv Turner said. "We've got to improve in that area, and it's a combination of things that will help us do that. We want to be better in driving the football."

Overall the Chargers are at 38 percent on third downs, converting 57-of-150 chances, which is 20th in the league.


--QB Philip Rivers wasn't asked to carry too big of a load Sunday, but he managed the game quite well. He completed 10-of-21 passes for 157 yards and a score. He did have another turnover, throwing his 13th interception of the season after having only nine all of last year.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson was back to his superstar ways as he rushed for 177 yards -- second-highest total of the season -- and scored twice in the second-half to ice the win. Tomlinson was the benefactor of some stellar run-blocking.

--TE Antonio Gates, we think, made the team bus to the game. Hard to believe he had just one catch for minus-1 yard on a day when windy conditions would seemingly be ideal for Gates. Instead, Gates' presence was enough to open up chances for other offensive players.

--WR Chris Chambers had two catches for 50 yards, including a 37-yarder. By getting him involved -- even slightly -- on the outside opened up the running room for Tomlinson.

--WR Vincent Jackson had one of his biggest catches of the year on a 38-yard touchdown when Rivers hit him perfectly in stride as Jackson split the defenders. It was Jackson's lone catch of the day but it was huge.

--C Nick Hardwick played maybe his best game of the season in his second game back after missing four starts with a foot injury. Hardwick, a Pro Bowler, is keen on getting the blocking calls out and that is especially important when playing at Arrowhead Stadium.

--TE Brandon Manumaleuna had a rare offensive day which included two catches for 48 yards, including one for 40. While Manumaleuna is usually asked just to block, the Chiefs didn't pay attention to him and he responded with a couple of key catches.

--RT Jeromey Clary started in place of Shane Olivea and played well enough to earn another start. Clary, an undrafted free agent, was asked to start as the team grew frustrated with Olivea's inconsistent play.

--DT Jamal Williams did his job in the middle, collecting three tackles and funneling plays toward the linebackers.

--CB Antonio Cromartie had two more interceptions to grab the NFL lead with eight on the season. Cromartie has settled into the starting role and should be there for years to come for the Chargers.

--DE Jacques Cesaire continues to play well as the Chargers await the return of Luis Castillo (ankle) in a couple of weeks. Cesaire knocked down two passes, had seven tackles and half a sack. Cesaire underwent thumb surgery on Monday, but is expected to play Sunday.

--OLB Shawne Merriman was a beast, collecting three sacks to give him 9.5 on the season. He also recovered a fumble as the Chiefs had no answer for keeping him out of their backfield.

--ILB Matt Wilhelm showed up with six tackles and steady play in the middle. He is seldom out of position.

--ILB Stephen Cooper had one of his better days in first year as a starter with a game-high 10 tackles and a sack.

--DE Ryon Bingham contributed, spelling Cesaire in the rotation at defensive end. Bingham had a sack, a quarterback hit and two tackles.

--CB Drayton Florence has assumed the nickel role without grumbling after getting bumped from the starting lineup by Antonio Cromartie. Florence had an interception and two tackles.

--K Nate Kaeding had a rare miss on a 45-yard field goal. But he did hit from 25 yards on a windy day which challenged the kicking game.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories