Chargers Extend Thanksgiving Tradition

It's the time of the year that means two things: a feast the Pilgrims would be proud of and the Chargers riding another winning streak.

"We look forward to Thanksgiving," LaDainian Tomlinson said.

The Chiefs are up next on the Chargers' menu. While Kansas City shocked the NFL Sunday by upsetting the Steelers, no one is really surprised the Chargers got hot as the season enters its most critical stages.

After a 2-3 start, the Chargers have won five straight and wrestled away first place from the Denver Broncos. This marks the fourth straight year the Chargers have won at least four straight.

Last year they claimed their final four in stealing the division title away from the Broncos. The previous year, they rattled off six in a row. In 2006, they rode a 10-game winning run into the playoffs.

But this comeback has been dramatic in that it was just over a month ago the Chargers trailed the Broncos by 3 1/2 games.

K Nate Kaeding
Doug Pensinger/Getty
"To be honest we didn't think we'd be in this position we are in, division-wise, at this point," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "I think we had the right approach. We worried about us, we didn't worry about anyone else. We didn't think we would be tied at (Sunday's) game but we were and now we're ahead."

But the Chargers are filled with enough veteran leadership to know that while this rally has been impressive, it guarantees nothing.

"It's not Week 17 of the season so we can't relax," Rivers said. "We have to keep going strong because we can still keep getting better."

A couple of things have changed for the Chargers.

The running game has reappeared after struggling in the early going. After rushing for only 199 yards in their first three games combined, they had a season-high 203 in the win over Denver.

The pass rush has found its legs. In the team's first five games, it had seven sacks. In the past five games, the Chargers have snagged 20 sacks. The Chargers shook up their secondary over that span and also got some ailing players fit.

"I think a big thing is getting familiar with the guys on the field," linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "Earlier in the year, we had a lot of guys hurt. Now our young guys are stepping up and playing like pros."

And the Chargers are playing like they usually do at this time of the year.

"We always believed in ourselves," Rivers said. "We knew what type of team we had, regardless of what type of start we had."

LINEUP WATCH: OL Brandyn Dombrowski likely will be thrust into the starting lineup after RT Jeromey Clary went down with his second ankle injury in consecutive weeks. Clary didn't hurt the same ankle, but this time he left the field on a cart and his availability is doubtful this week. Dombrowski, who spent his rookie year on the Chargers' practice squad, started two games earlier this year at right guard when Louis Vasquez was hurt.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Chiefs are up next and most would think the Chargers will collect an easy win after they thumped them 37-7 in Kansas City last month. But in the Chiefs' last visit to San Diego, the Chargers were fortunate to escape with a 20-19 win.


--DE Luis Castillo (calf) left the game on a cart and his availability is in question this week.

--C Nick Hardwick could attempt to practice this week after suffering a setback two weeks ago in his return from ankle surgery after getting hurt in the opener.

--QB Philip Rivers is on a hot streak, completing 37 of 47 passes in his past two games.

--OLB Shawne Merriman continues to have his practice time compromised with a foot injury. He'll play Sunday.

--ILB Kevin Burnett has turned in two straight good games after missing three with a knee injury. Against the Broncos he had a team-high seven tackles and two sacks.

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