Latest Win Earns Extra Attention

Not that there was any big secret, but word is getting out about the Chargers. Winning eight straight will do that for any team.

The Chargers notched their 16th straight victory in December Sunday in getting past the Cowboys, 20-17.

And when winning against America's Team, many more observers are taking note that the Chargers have traveled many miles in the right direction after a 2-3 start.

But as proud as the Chargers are about flipping their season, they are equally as blase about getting publicity about it.

"I hope not," linebacker Shaun Phillips said about the team again being part of the Super Bowl talk. "I don't want people to become aware. I like flying under the radar and may the best team win."

But the Chargers might not have any choice.

Not only did they prevail against the Cowboys, but the Broncos and Bengals added to the Chargers' glee when both lost.

That puts the Chargers two games ahead of the Broncos in the AFC West with three regular-season games remaining.

And they are one game ahead of the Bengals for the AFC's No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

"It doesn't matter," left guard Kris Dielman said of getting respect among NFL insiders. "We do not have to convince anybody. We know ourselves in the locker room of what we can do and who we are. I don't really care about convincing anybody else."


QB Philip Rivers
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Philip Rivers said this year's team has a different mindset than the previous ones who let the playoff chatter hamper their production.

"We don't focus on whether people think we are good," he said. "We focus on getting it done.

"We have been through a lot these past four years, lots of ups and downs. But it truly is about taking one game at a time."

Next up is a game with the visiting Bengals, one of the NFL's surprises this season. And with a win Sunday, the Chargers will secure a playoff invitation, in the process announcing they are right back where they expected to be.

NOTES, QUOTES

--OLB Shaun Phillips wasn't surprised that the Chargers turned the Cowboys away on a critical goal-line stand. He said that has been one of the Chargers' strengths the past two years.

"It is one of those things we pride ourselves in and look forward to," he said. "We understand teams are going to move the ball on us. It's our job to keep them out."

--There is increasing chatter that the Chargers will soon extend coach Norv Turner's contract which is set to run out after the 2010 season. Turner was given a game ball by QB Philip Rivers after the emotional win in Dallas. Turner was a celebrated offensive coordinator in Dallas, but passed over in favor of Wade Phillips for the head-coaching job. "It's an emotional deal because what is at stake," Turner said of the win.

--The Chargers have had trouble running the ball but they had a time-consuming seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter.

"That was the exclamation point," OL Kris Dielman said. "We stepped up to the and drew a line in the sand and said 'let's go.' And we won."

PLAYER NOTES


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
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--RB LaDainian Tomlinson extended his record for seasons with double-digit touchdown totals when he scored his 10th TD of the year Sunday. He has reached that total in all nine of his NFL season.

--ILB Tim Dobbins has seen his playing time reduced with the emergence of Brandon Siler. But Dobbins was a key part of the team's goal-line stand which kept the Cowboys at bay despite three shots at Charger 1. Dobbins remains a force on short-yardage situations.

--S Eric Weddle (knee) will return to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday. Weddle has missed the past two games.

--DT Alfonso Boone (knee) is still questionable about returning to practice this week. He didn't play Sunday.

--WR Vincent Jackson has been overlooked of late but he responded with another 100-yard receiving game on Sunday. Jackson could be headed to his first Pro Bowl.

REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Not Philip Rivers' best day, as he threw a critical pick and was as accurate as usual. That said, he completed some critical passes at crucial junctures in the game; he threw for 272 yards and a touchdown. The pass protection was stout against an aggressive front seven.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Chargers still can't run the ball and it was proven with a puny 2.4-yard average. But the run-blocking was impressive in a nearly eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter which helped seal the win.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Tony Romo threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns, but the coverage was pretty good from the Chargers. Paul Oliver had a team-high seven tackles at safety and the other secondary members were active too.

Linebacker Brandon Siler had the lone sack. RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Cowboys went for 108 yards and for some reason didn't run more. But the Chargers get a big bump in their grade when stopping the Cowboys on three straight tries for the San Diego 1 -- all on running plays. Siler and Tim Dobbins stood out.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- P Mike Scifres didn't hit the scoreboard, but he had two of his efforts downed inside the 5 when Kassim Osgood hustle down to stop them before they reached the end zone. Mike Kaeding had two field goals; the team ended up winning by three. There was one hiccup on a 41-yard kickoff return; not much in the return game from the Chargers.

COACHING: A -- Coach Norv Turner again proved he can get this team to overlook distractions and focus on the task at hand. With his return to a place he had so much success and the buzz that goes with playing in Cowboys Stadium, the Chargers were able to keep their eye on the prize. Ron Rivera, despite a banged-up, patched-together defensive front, had the players in the right spots when the game was on the line.


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