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SAN DIEGO (AP) — If the San Diego Chargers beat winless Jacksonville on Sunday, they’ll be above .500 for the first time this season.
That’s a big deal for a team that looked so dismal in a loss at Oakland before using a methodical, balanced offense to beat Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 19-9 Monday night.
Now the Chargers (3-3) will try to win consecutive games for the first time this season.
“I thought this was a turning point for our season,” said quarterback Philip Rivers, who led a balanced offense that produced several long scoring drives. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to take care of itself, but 2-4 would have been quite a bind to be in. We’ve got to get Jacksonville next week before the bye and find ourselves at 4-3 and see what happens the rest of the way.”
As it is, the Chargers remain three games behind the unbeaten Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
The Chargers weren’t saddled with the turnovers and other mistakes they made at Oakland. But they did have to settle for four field goals from Nick Novak. The game’s only touchdown was a 22-yard pass from Rivers to rookie Keenan Allen, who had another big game.
“It was a great team win,” rookie coach Mike McCoy said Tuesday.
McCoy praised the game plan by offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt that produced 227 yards passing and 147 yards rushing, including 102 yards by Ryan Mathews. The Chargers averaged 4 yards a carry a week after being held to 32 yards rushing on 19 carries for a 1.7-yard average in the loss at Oakland. And they had no turnovers a week after committing five at Oakland, including three interceptions by Rivers.
Of course, it helped that the Colts receivers had several big dropped passes.
But McCoy mentioned that the Chargers shouldn’t have needed to rely so much on Novak. The Chargers had scoring drives of 17, 11 and 15 plays that ended with field goals, and a 12-play drive that resulted in Rivers’ TD pass to Allen.
And there were little mistakes like Mathews running out of bounds with 2 1/2 minutes left and the Chargers leading 16-9.
“I can’t repeat what I said on the sideline yesterday,” McCoy said. “That could have cost us the game, when you look at the big picture of things of running out of bounds and letting them not have to call a timeout. That’s a critical mistake and we can’t have that,” McCoy said. “Those are things that cost you in a close game like this. We were fortunate it worked out all right, but you hate to look back on that situation. The players have got to learn from it. You’ve got to fall down and stay inbounds.”
Now they travel to face a Jaguars team that gave Peyton Manning and the Broncos more of a fight than most people thought they would in losing 35-19 at Denver on Sunday.
McCoy said the Chargers aren’t viewing it as a trap game.
“This is going to be a very good football team we’re playing. Everyone gave someone a lot of flak last week for saying hey, this is a very good football team and his comments were correct, I believe, about what type of team it is,” McCoy said, referring to comments Manning made about the Jaguars, who were 27-point underdogs.
“Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. All it takes is one week to change the tempo of this season for any team in the league. The parity is so good, and we understand what we’re facing this weekend.”
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