Are The Chargers Peaking At The Right Time?

Although it was only the Jaguars that the Chargers trounced 38-14 on Monday Night Football, the feeling of winning had to be nice for a change. Before Monday’s win it had been since October 9th that the Bolts were on the right side of the scoreboard when the final whistle was blown. Needless to say, it has been quite a trying near two month stretch for both the fan base and the players.

Following the game, plenty of guys in the locker room reflected on not tasting victory for nearly two months as according to, Philip Rivers said: "It's been a rough six weeks. I haven't put a complete game together, but I don't care about the numbers. I just want to win." Antonio Gates weighed in as well saying: "That's the type of chemistry coming into this season we knew we had. We stayed on course despite what we've been through these last six weeks. That we were able to get a win tonight speaks volumes for this team."

What these insights say more than anything is that the Bolts were well aware of just how long it had been since they last won and were determined to put that behind them. There was an intense level of focus from seemingly every position after the Jags scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-14 late in the first half. It was as if that score flipped a mental switch for all of the Bolts and gave them the necessary motivation to go out and dominate the game from there on out.

Where the team really saw some marked improvement was from the mixture of play-calling (yes, Norv Turner gets some of the credit). There was a brilliant mixture of run and pass early to set up and effective play action passing game that would put the Jacksonville defense on their heels and never let up.

Getting Malcom Floyd back into the mix certainly boosted the confidence of the entire offense as his added dimension makes everyone on the field better with the threat of the deep ball. Vincent Jackson was able to find plenty of room to work in the Jags’ secondary when not subject to double teams on each and every play while Antonio Gates provided the critical third down outlet receiver for Rivers time after time.

There were great signs from the depleted offensive line as well with the Bolts’ running game looking strong from start to finish as both Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert ran hard for all sixty minutes. Skeptics may say the improvement was seen in large part due to a downgrade in level of competition against the Jags’ front seven, but it is still the NFL.

With Louis Vasquez added back into the mix Monday night, the Bolts were back to three opening day starters out of their five, but center Nick Hardwick injured his neck early in the game and left for a period of time. He later returned to action and it will be crucial for the team to maintain their consistent anchor inside if they want any semblance of continuity up front.

For the bad news along the offensive line, fans already know that both left tackle Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman (concussion) are on season-ending Injured Reserve. Now reports have surfaced from a number of different outlets that both of them are considering retirement. McNeill has struggled with neck and back issues his entire career and Dielman’s incident was frightening enough to encompass a full career as his undiagnosed concussion against the New York Jets in week 6 led to a seizure on the flight home following the contest. Although this would be devastating news for the franchise and their long-term success along the offensive front, some things are bigger than football and the well-being of these two individuals is certainly one of them.

As for the remaining on-field business, at least the Chargers were given some assistance this weekend from the Miami Dolphins in their dominating win over the Raiders. Unfortunately the Broncos won their fifth straight game under Tim Tebow and are now in a tie with Oakland for the division lead. It is clearly imperative that the Bolts keep winning if they want to remain a part of the AFC West discussion and fortunately the Raiders will have to face the undefeated Packers in week 14 which could provide some more needed help. The Broncos meanwhile will be up against the currently reeling Chicago Bears who are without their starting quarterback Jay Cutler and will now be without potential league MVP candidate in running back Matt Forte for at least the next two weeks.

All the Bolts can do is focus on their own business and that will continue next weekend back home against the falling Buffalo Bills. Even with the Bills’ recent struggles, they have plenty of weapons and a formidable defense which could pose a real challenge on a short week this coming Sunday.

Now it’s your turn to be heard. How much do you think the near two month stretch without a win was on the minds of the Chargers’ players in Monday night’s game? Do you give Norv Turner any credit for the team’s offensive success or was it more a product of the struggling Jaguars? Was the offensive line improved week-over-week in your opinion or do you think it was just because of facing an inferior opponent? Do you believe that we may never see Marcus McNeill or Kris Dielman on a football field again? How do you see this next weekend of games playing out and can the Bolts do the improbable of making another late charge to the postseason? Please weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments section below!

December 7, 2011

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