Chargers Peaking As Playoffs Near

The Chargers are ready for some Californication. Southern California's lone NFL team isn't leaving the Golden State to wrap up the regular season.

The Chargers are coming off a thrilling overtime win at Tennessee, 23-17. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson won the game on a 16-yard scoring run, capping a rally in which the Chargers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

The Chargers entertain the Lions on Sunday and then face the Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium before heading for Oakland, where they look for a season sweep of the Raiders.

"I think it's huge," quarterback Philip Rivers said of staying in-state. "We've had some tough road trips and been on a tough stretch (three of the past four on road). Then to be at home for two, then just go right up the road to Oakland is big."

The Chargers have lost only once at home, after going 8-0 there last year. That stumble this year came while blowing a second-half lead to Kansas City.

"To play two games at home -- we feel not too many teams have a chance to beat us there -- that's a big advantage for us," linebacker Matt Wilhelm said. "We felt we gave one away earlier in the season. To play in front of our fans is going to be big."

The Chargers are getting hot at the right time, winning seven of their past nine and three straight for the second time this year.

In 2006, the Chargers compiled the NFL's top mark at 14-2, but were inconsistent toward the end. They entered the postseason not carrying much momentum, according to some of the players.

"Last year we hit our stride at midseason," Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick said. "The last three or four games, we were winning, but we were just kind of floundering around out there. We were getting it done, we were winning, but it was (shaky) all over the place."

The Chargers weren't playing their best when the stakes were the highest. As the No. 1 seed, they fell to the Patriots in their first playoff game.

New coach Norv Turner has long been preaching that the Chargers had to build as they became more familiar with each other. He urged them not to lose their confidence despite an early-season which saw them lose three of their first four. Turner said the key was playing well late.

"Some teams are cooling down; we are getting hot and we are excited about this thing," Hardwick said. "Norv talked about it at the beginning of the year and we didn't all believe it at first.

"But this is a little crescendo we are on, hopefully leading up to the last game of the season and getting ready to rock in the playoffs.

"I think that is our mindset in where we are just geared in and ready to play some good football. And I think that is the direction we are headed."

Added Wilhelm: "Maybe we've been getting better, better and better and we can peak right when we need to."


--QB Philip Rivers played with a knee brace after hurting his knee against the Titans. He will be evaluated this week.

--TE Antonio Gates hurt his hip, but returned to play.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games.

--OLB Shawne Merriman (knee) didn't return to action after being hurt and will be looked at this week.

--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) will continue to increase his practice time. He aims to skip Sunday's game and return Dec. 24.

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