Bye Week Brings Crucial Breaks

The Chargers crossed off several pressing items from their to-do list over the bye week.

The Chargers had one of the best byes they could imagine:

--Some of their key players were able to rest nagging injuries, which should help the cause moving forward.

--The embattled defense got extended time to get to know its new coordinator, Ron Rivera.

--The AFC West-leading Broncos lost a home game to the Dolphins, which cut their lead over the second-place Chargers to one game.

--Every team in the AFC West lost on the Sunday the Chargers were off.

Not bad. And just maybe an omen for a second-half turnaround for one of the NFL's most disappointing teams?

"We're 3-5, that's the bottom line," quarterback Philip Rivers said.

True, but 3-5 in the terrible AFC West is enough to almost start planning where the division winning banner will be hung. The Chargers are oh-so-fortunate they reside in the division that features so many NFL dregs.

But Rivers is looking at his team rather than the others in the AFC West. He said the Chargers can fix what has gone wrong and then sprint toward the finish.

"It's like a rough draft on paper," said Rivers, who despite his stellar play has seen the Chargers drop three of their last four games. "You get what grade it would be and then you get to make some corrections and hopefully turn in a better final draft. That's where we are -- nobody's happy about where we are, or pleased. But we can certainly still have a chance with the end result."


LB Stephen Cooper
Harry How/Getty

The regular-season's end could very well have the Chargers heading to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. That's not to say the season's first half hasn't left some scars on a roster many felt was among the most talented in the NFL.

"It's disappointing," inside linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "We're bent, but we're not going to break. The second half of the season is a whole new season. We understand that now."

That message came through loud and clear when general manager A.J. Smith admitted his mistake in hiring old buddy Ted Cottrell to run the defense before last season.

Despite the close friendship the two had formed from their days in Buffalo, Smith was all for kicking Cottrell to the curb.

Right now the Chargers are zeroed in on flipping a season with an impressive second-half push -- something they did last year when going 7-1 over the final eight weeks.

"There are a lot of things we need to work on," coach Norv Turner said. "The biggest thing, obviously, is finishing games. Finishing plays and finishing games. Starting with our first two games and all the way through, we've been in position in the fourth quarter and haven't been in the position to finish games off the way we'd like to."

Thanks to being positioned in the dreadful AFC West, the Chargers' playoff hopes -- despite being two games under .500 -- remain very much alive.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Before the season, the Chargers were touted as a slam-dunk playoff participant. And while that still may ring true, the Chargers know it will take more than press clippings to secure an invitation.

"You're not going to make the playoffs because you feel like you should," S Clinton Hart said. "You're going to make the playoffs because you go out and beat people week in and week out and you proved that you belong there."

--CB Quentin Jammer, who is among the few Chargers defenders having a decent year, said if players don't want to get aboard the second half, they should be elsewhere. "There's got to be a sense of urgency," Jammer said. "If you don't have a sense of urgency around here now at 3-5, then obviously you don't love the game and you need to be somewhere else other than in the San Diego Chargers' locker room."

--Of the Chargers' four remaining game against AFC West foes, three of them are at home.

--The Chargers catch a break when facing the Chiefs on Sunday. Kansas City will be minus standout RB Larry Johnson after he was suspended by the NFL.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is the healthiest he has been since spraining his big right toe in the opener.

--TE Antonio Gates has rediscovered his cutting ability and is now able to get separation from defenders after being bothered by a sore toe and hip. Gates is coming off his best game of the season.

--CB Antonio Cromartie is being slowed by a tender hip that has cut into his production and practice time. The hope is the bye week was able to give it the required rest.

--DT Jamal Williams is looking to build on a string of solid games after he was slow out of the game following two offseason knee surgeries. Williams, a Pro Bowler, is the key to the Chargers' run defense in its 3-4 alignment.

--DE Igor Olshansky continues to disappear for long stretches during games -- he had zero tackles in the last outing against the Saints. Look for DL Ryon Bingham to possible get some of his reps, especially with Jamal Williams' health improving.


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