Less than a month ago, the San Diego Chargers were 1-3, but taking better care of the football has meant a big difference to the recent success of the Vikings' next opponent.
How have the Chargers turned around their season? They flipped their turnover ratio. The Chargers head to Minnesota a different team than the one that started the season 1-3.
"The last three weeks we've taken care of the ball," LaDainian Tomlinson
And the result has been three consecutive wins and a share of the AFC West lead.
"Our turnover differential is a plus-10," he said of the recent three-game run. "If you go back to the Patriots game, we turned the ball over and got behind. Against Kansas City, we turned the ball over and they came back to beat us. The common theme is turnovers."
The Chargers hope to continue that trend Sunday against a Vikings team that is struggling. Minnesota sits at 2-5, and the Vikings are having trouble with their passing game and pass defense.
They can run the ball, with Adrian Peterson
— and not Tomlinson — pacing the league in rushing. But that plays into the Chargers' hands, as among their team strengths is their rugged run defense.
And it's that defense that deserves its share of headlines in this flipping of the Chargers' season. In each of the three wins, turnovers played a big role.
In the win over Houston on Sunday, the Chargers turned three Texans miscues into 21 points.
In the win over Oakland, San Diego turned an interception into seven points.
In the win over Denver, it was a touchdown off a fumbled kickoff that help a big start. Later the Chargers turned a recovered fumble and an interception into 10 points.
"Our defense has been outstanding, and they're creating turnovers," quarterback Philip Rivers
said. "But that's a team deal, turnover margin. We didn't turn the ball over, and they got it a whole bunch."
Overall the Chargers are tied for third in the NFL with 19 takeaways, and they are plus-eight when considering their seven interceptions and four fumbles.
The team is 3-0 this season — the last three games — when it wins the turnover battle.
In the Chargers' three losses, they are a minus-four in the turnover department.
Tomlinson said if the Chargers can keep handling the ball with care — and get their share of takeaways — they can compete with anyone.
"When we play Indianapolis (Nov. 11) or we play New England again, and we don't turn the ball over and it's an equal game (in turnovers), then I like our chances," he said.
So while looking at reasons why the Chargers have climbed off the mat, don't overlook the turnover ratio.
And the Chargers figure to grab a few more with the Vikings facing uncertainly at quarterback and problems in the passing game.
It didn't take long for WR Chris Chambers to make an impact. He had a TD catch in his first game as a Charger on Sunday and was presented a game ball. But it didn't stay with Chambers long. "I had my mom come out here and support me," he said. "And it feels really good to be able to give her the game ball."
The Chargers' special teams continue to shine as the season progresses. "Field position is such a big part of this game," coach Norv Turner said. "Our special teams have been outstanding for the most part all year."
Athletic CB Antonio Cromartie is being patient regarding his chances on offense or as a returner. "If I get an opportunity, that would be great," he said. "But right now I'm concentrating on defense."
Turner isn't taking the Vikings lightly, despite their dismal record. He notes three of their five losses have been by seven points or fewer. "They're a very talented football team," Turner said.
Even though 24 players and nearly 50 members of the organization were forced from their homes in the recent wildfires, not one person lost a house.
The Chargers have had their way of late against NFC teams, and they hope that continues on Sunday against the Vikings. The Chargers have won six of their last seven against NFC teams and 10 of their last 14.
The Chargers had gone 57 consecutive pass plays without a sack before QB Philip Rivers was bought down last Sunday.
CB Drayton Florence is expected to be fined for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Texans QB Matt Schaub.
Chargers defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell held the same position with the Vikings from 2004-05.
Vikings running back coach Eric Bieniemy was the Chargers' second-round pick in 1991 and played four years with the Bolts.
LB Ben Leber of the Vikings played for the Chargers from 2002-05.
OLB Marques Harris and CB Antonio Cromartie could see more playing time with the starters at those positions ailing. OLB Shaun Phillips is nursing a groin injury; his legs are what make him so good. CB Quentin Jammer has a tweaked hamstring, and it's not known if he will go, and if he does, how long he might last. Harris and Cromartie figure to see increased playing time, even if Phillips and Jammer start the game.
QB Philip Rivers will make his first start in a dome this Sunday. Rivers is 5-1 against NFC teams in his career.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson heads into November with this surprising note — he has yet to rush for a road touchdown. That could change on Sunday. He does have one receiving TD on the road, at Green Bay. Tomlinson is tied with Jim Brown for fourth place all-time with 106 rushing touchdowns.
P Mike Scifres has landed nine consecutive punts inside the opponents' 20-yard-line. He was named the AFC special teams player of the week. He had a career-high 50.2-yard net and a season-best 63-yarder in five attempts.
DE Luis Castillo has a half-sack, which came on Sunday. His sack from the Oakland game was switched to a running play, so he doesn't get credit.
TE Antonio Gates has 4,017 career receiving yards. He's the third-fastest tight end to the 4,000-yard mark in NFL history, taking 68 games.
WR Vincent Jackson needs to rebound after not having a single catch on Sunday. To be fair, the Chargers attempted just 11 passes.
RG Mike Goff continues to practice wearing protection for his left thumb, which underwent ligament surgery during the bye week.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 — Opponents' rushing touchdowns in the Chargers' recent three-game winning streak.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In my mind it all starts offensively. If you don't turn the ball over, the worst thing you can be is zero." — Coach Norv Turner of his team going three games without a turnover, which has fueled the team's three-game winning streak.