Chargers Zone In as the Postseason Plays Out

They're tanned, rested and ready to go. The Chargers have been kicking back this week -- to a degree -- as they await their AFC divisional playoff game opponent to come calling Jan. 17.

The bye didn't come with a complete escape clause as the Chargers will work three days this week before getting the weekend off.

But what set the Chargers off on a winning streak that led to their fourth straight AFC West title? Quarterback Philip Rivers said the team didn't panic at 2-3 and 3 1/2 games behind the Denver Broncos.

"I remember standing right here and saying we got to keep playing one game at a time," Rivers said. "That there is 11 games left -- there's a whole college season left and we won the rest of them."

Rivers knows it's a cliche, but sometimes those old word crutches describe best how a sick team got well enough to earn the AFC's No. 2 seed.

"That one game at a time worked well for us and it will take just that now," Rivers said.

"When you get into the postseason and there will be only eight teams left after this week, it's very easy to fall into getting caught up in who is left and what are the scenarios.

"I think the key for us to why it's fine to enjoy (the bye), we need to keep the focus we have had all year -- even more so now of not getting caught up in it so we can go out and play our best."

The Chargers became one of the NFL's best teams not because of one play or one game or one person. Coach Norv Turner said it was big plays spread over numerous games that got the Chargers to where they are today.

"I've gone back through a lot of our games because I know whoever we play is going to be doing that," Turner said. "The one thing is it's not one game, it's in a lot of games when the most critical situation came we made the stop or we made the play or we got off a great punt or covered the kick -- that is what you have to do."

Do that, according to Turner, and that allows you to have an opportunity later to steal a victory.

"You make a lot of plays up to that point so you have a chance to win then," he said. "You have to make plays in those situations to win and that is what our guys have done in all three phases. That's the key.

"The old adage is there are four or five plays that are going to decide the game. You just don't know which ones they are."

Kind of like the Chargers preparing for a rival while not knowing who it is. The Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets or New England Patriots will arrive next week, trying to stiff-arm the Chargers' chances of winning their first Super Bowl title.

The Chargers are rested. Come next week, everyone will find out if they are ready.

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Malcom Floyd is coming off the best game of his career, which capped the best season of his career. He had career highs in receptions (45) and receiving yards (776). The one blemish to his breakthrough season was making it into the end zone just once.

"I think there's something between the end zone and me," said Floyd, who had 140 receiving yards Sunday. "I just can't find it, even today. It's the strangest thing.

"We ended up getting a win, so I'm happy."

--K Nate Kaeding, who connected on all three of his field-goal attempts last week, was named the AFC special teams player of the week.

--While the Chargers have plenty of stars, it's been the consistent production of role players stepping up which has fueled this run to the playoffs.

"It's been the most complete team effort for a season that we have had since I've been here," QB Philip Rivers said. "To win those last 11 straight and to have so many guys contribute makes it an even more special regular season."

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson revealed the nicknames of fullbacks/running backs Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert: "Salt and Pepper."

--He can afford it, but Tomlinson's wallet was a little lighter after the Fiesta Bowl. Tomlinson bet his college team, TCU, against WR Legedu Naanee's Boise State, which won 17-10.

"I'm over it," said Tomlinson, who flew to Arizona to attend the game. "It was a good game. Boise did what they do -- they got us in a critical time of the game with the fake punt and we weren't prepared for it and that gave them the momentum to go ahead."

Naanee didn't have Tomlinson wear a Boise State jersey.

"Nah, nothing like that," Tomlinson said. "Legedu just wanted the money."

--LT Marcus McNeill is having another solid season and there is no one having more fun. The next time someone sees McNeill uptight will be the first time.

"He's the biggest kid ever trapped in a grown man's body," rookie RG Louis Vasquez said.

--LB James Holt was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury sustained in the Chargers' regular-season finale against the Washington Redskins. The team signed veteran LB Dontarrious Thomas to replace Holt. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound Thomas is a six-year pro who spent the 2009 season with the United Football League's California Redwoods.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1963 -- The last year the Chargers won a league title, when beating the Boston Patriots for the AFL crown.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a heck of a run that we had through 16 games." -- QB Philip Rivers on the Chargers' regular season, but now the Chargers will be 0-0 for their first playoff game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The decision has been to leave Brandyn Dombrowski at starting right tackle, although there is a 13-year veteran with playoff experience right behind him.

Jon Runyan continues to run with the second team as Dombrowski continues to shine in filling in for injured starter Jeromey Clary.

That doesn't mean Runyan won't be used at some point in the postseason. Runyan was able to play most of the game Sunday when the Chargers emptied their bench.

But Turner is reluctant to upset a line with another new face with the team on a roll.

INJURY IMPACT:

--WR Vincent Jackson (Achilles) didn't practice Wednesday and is in a boot. The team is hopeful he can return to practice next week.

--OLB Shawne Merriman (foot) didn't work and might stay off his foot for the entire week. He is expected to practice next week.

--WR Legedu Naanee (foot) didn't work and there's a chance he might not return to practice until mid-week next week.

--DT Antonio Garay (hamstring) didn't practice but the club doesn't think it is serious.

--FS Eric Weddle (knee) returned to practice. The team will monitor how his knee responds to the work on Thursday.

--RB Jacob Hester (neck) was able to return to practice.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories