SAN DIEGO — There were lots of reasons for all the smiles beaming from the faces of the Chargers following their Wednesday afternoon practice on another beautiful San Diego day.
“We had a great workout today,” said quarterback Philip Rivers, the newly named AFC Offensive Player of the Week as the Bolts got ready for Sunday’s game in Tennessee. “It was a great focus day.”
Much-heralded rookie inside linebacker Manti Te’o was back on the practice field after rehabbing a sprained foot he sustained in the first quarter of the exhibition season. And center Nick Hardwick — one of the most well-liked players in the NFL and the Chargers locker room — made sure he’ll be the butt of jokes for many seasons to come by talking about his latest endorsement — moistened wipes for men.
However, the most important factor in the light atmosphere at the practice facility was their comeback win last Sunday over Philadelphia, and how it might mean a return to consistency — and respect — for a team that hasn’t seen much of either the past three seasons.
After blowing numerous leads over the Eagles and their new coach Chip Kelly, it seemed that Bolts’ new head man Mike McCoy was doing no better than the man he replaced — Norv Turner — in getting his team to play a full sixty minutes. But the negativity disappeared in a flash as Rivers drove the offense down the field to set up Nick Novak’s 47-yard game-winning field with seven seconds left.
“The plane ride home was a lot of fun,” said a Charger executive who preferred to remain anonymous.
Some will question why a celebration was in order for a win in the second game of a season that has a long ways to go. Rivers has an explanation for them.
“Finally pulling out a close game — that’s the thing,” said Rivers, who threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in Philly. “You’ve heard me say so many times in the close games we’ve lost that we’re right there. It’s not like we played four quarters of bad ball in every loss. But this time it was a win in a close game. It was great. It was big.
“I think it gives us confidence going into Tennessee on Sunday. It was a heck of a team effort with everybody at every position doing what needed to be done for us to win that one.”
Rivers also believes that the taste of finally winning a close game after blowing a lead is a huge step for the Chargers to once again be thought of as elite team.
“When you have three years like we’ve had,” he said, “being just about a .500 team, you lose a little bit of respect from other teams around the league. We took a step toward getting some of that back, and we know it’s still going to take a while to earn that back. It was a great win, but we have to keep getting better, and there’s no question that we can.
“We have to move on and realize (the Titans) don’t care about what we did in our game. After losing (to Houston in overtime), Tennessee is going to be tough and bitter and as aggravated as we were following our loss to Houston. So our concentration has to be on the gameplan for this week.
“That being said, it was definitely a big win for us. Very big.”