Chargers set for 2nd-half push
Don't look now, but the NFL's masters of the late-season comeback are doing what they do best — again.
Despite a modest, two-game winning streak, the San Diego Chargers are still stuck below .500, at 4-5. But they are only one game off the lead in the AFC West, the only third-place team in the conference to sport a losing record and yet be so close to the top division perch. And this is their time of year.
The climate in San Diego, regarded by many as the best in the U.S. and maybe much of the world, doesn't change much. But when the calendar flips to November and the weather gets blustery in other league precincts, the Chargers awaken. And when December rolls around, they become virtually unbeatable.
They are like the vampires of the NFL and, unless someone's toting a wooden stake or has a silver bullet in his revolver, the Chargers aren't dead yet. Winter might be the time for hibernation, but for the Chargers, it's a wake-up call.
Which, their myriad problems aside — put special teams at the top of the list — does not much surprise San Diego players who have been a part of such revivals. This is a team, after all, with Lazarus as its patron saint. Frank Sinatra didn't have as many comebacks as the Chargers have produced.
"We just keep playing and don't panic," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who leads the league in most major passing categories and could win his first MVP award.
Cornerback Quentin Jammer told The San Diego Union-Tribune: "I felt like something like this was going to happen."
Why not? It does just about every year.
Ever hit a squirrel in the middle of the road, think to yourself, “Well, that's too bad, but there's nothing I can do now,” then glance in the rearview mirror and note to your amazement that the wounded critter is up and somehow scurrying into the woods? Well, that's the Chargers, roadkill one minute, but back and pestering the next. True believers in reincarnation would do well to embrace the franchise.
Maybe one of the NFL's best-kept secrets is that the Chargers have won four straight division titles.
"But we know it," Rivers said, "and the people in the game know just how dangerous we can be."
In the previous four seasons, San Diego has gone 31-5 after Nov. 1. The Chargers are 19-0 after Dec. 1 in that stretch and haven't lost a regular-season game in December since New Year's Eve 2005.
The postseason? OK, that's a story for another day, because it will take a least one more column to delineate San Diego's playoff collapses. But when it comes to rallying the troops, the Chargers seem to have Reveille down pat in the latter two months of the regular season.
Looking ahead at the schedule, there seems to be no reason why the Chargers — they have survived lately with the likes of Seyi Ajirotutu catching passes from Rivers but are about to get a lot healthier in the next few weeks — can't repeat history.
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Four of San Diego’s final seven games are against division teams. And that includes two with Denver, which, notwithstanding last Sunday's explosion against the Kansas City Chiefs, is a bad team. The Chargers face Kansas City and Oakland at home. The three road games remaining are against clubs with an aggregate 11-16 record. Indianapolis is the lone team of that road bunch with a winning mark, and San Diego has won the past two games there, plus the injury-wracked Colts aren't as good now as they've been in those most recent matchups.
One prominent Chargers player cautioned this columnist this week to “put away the shovel.” He might be right.