Optimism Abounds at Chargers Park

Monday came, and yet again the Chargers' dream is alive. In fact, not since this wacky season started has optimism seen such light as it did Monday at Chargers Park.

A three-game winning streak during the Broncos' free-fall has the Chargers back in the AFC West race.

For real.

The 7-8 Chargers need only a win Sunday night at home against the 8-7 Broncos to climb all the way off the mat and into the playoffs.

When the fading Chargers were trailing the Broncos by three games with three remaining, few gave them a shot.

But a thumping of Oakland, a heart-stopping, one-point win at Kansas City and then Sunday's 41-24 breakout at Tampa Bay has put a spark in the Bolts.

"After everything that's happened this season, we've got an opportunity to win this division," tight end Antonio Gates said. "We've taken care of business the last three weeks, and it all comes down to next week against Denver."

Coach Norv Turner
Winslow Townson/AP

Coach Norv Turner has seen his stock rise with the team's success. The drumbeat to chase him from town is difficult to hear.

"The season's 16 weeks long, and you commit yourself to playing hard during that entire span," Turner said.

"We've had some unusual and amazing things happen throughout the season. We went through a stretch playing four of five games on the road, three of them on the East Coast or beyond."

That's what made Sunday's conquest so significant. It kept them in the hunt and zapped their road curse of playing someone outside their division.

All those close losses, all that chatter after they dropped five of six games, all that yapping about letting a special season slip away is in the past. The Chargers are one home win shy from entertaining the Colts the first week of the AFC playoffs.

"Our players have been through a lot," Turner said, and he could have speaking about himself as well. "But I give them credit for hanging in there and giving ourselves a chance."


--K Nate Kaeding set a team mark with a 57-yard field goal, thanks to a little wind and a lot of body English. "In college, I hit a couple of 55s," said Kaeding, a former Iowa standout. "But this is the longest one I've ever kicked in any sort of a game." It's estimated the kick traveled a good 60 yards.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson reached 1,000 yards for the eighth consecutive season; only two others have started their career in a similar fashion. "I was getting a little worried that I wouldn't reach it," said Tomlinson, who finished with 90 yards in the win over Tampa Bay. "It has been tough to say the least, but I am happy that we got it done." Tomlinson has rushed for 100 yards in a game only twice this year.

--TE Antonio Gates has 51 touchdown receptions in his career after 92 games, following his two on Sunday. Gates reached 50 faster than any other tight end in league history. The previous mark was held by Jerry Smith, 100 games. "Considering all the guys that have paved the way for me and the tight ends that you hear about today, it is definitely an honor," Gates said.


--DT Jamal Williams (foot) could be limited more so than usual in practice this week.

--WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) could miss a second game Sunday.

--WR Legedu Naanee filled in for Malcom Floyd and looked comfortable with the increased playing time. He had two catches for 29 yards.

--RB Darren Sproles was in during critical stretches of the game. His 32-yard scoring reception gave the Chargers a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

--ILB Stephen Cooper continues to find the ball, recording his fourth interception in three games. Cooper is also the team's leading tackler.

--LB Brandon Siler (foot) was injured before Sunday's game and didn't play much.

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