Laying a Late Blueprint

The Chargers ended the NFL's second-longest losing streak emphatically, scoring the final 28 points in a 38-14 win over the Jaguars. It reminded people how good San Diego can be and even rekindled playoff talk. But the reality is the Chargers are competing for a title they held in 2005 and 2009: the team every one else is glad to see miss the postseason.

They waited until Week 13, but the Chargers finally played a complete game.

Philip Rivers played his best game of the season, completing 22-of-28 passes (79 percent) for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He had his full arsenal of weapons and used all of them: Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd all finished with at least four catches and 70 yards. Gates led the team with six receptions while Jackson and Floyd each scored touchdowns, as did rookie Vincent Brown.

Ryan Mathews provided balance by making the most of his 13 carries, rumbling for 112 yards and a score. It was his second straight 100-yard game and his first against a team not from Denver. Mike Tolbert also found the end zone for the seventh time.

Most importantly, the offense went a second straight game without a turnover.

The defense did its part, limiting Jacksonville to 306 total yards, only 109 of which came in the second half. Greg Manusky's unit forced three three-and-outs, including Jacksonville's first two possessions as the Chargers raced ahead to a 10-0 lead.

Eric Weddle recorded his sixth pick, one off the league lead, and Cam Thomas and Tommie Harris both recorded sacks.

Even the special teams fared well, as the Jaguars did not return a kickoff more than 26 yards nor a punt more than 7 yards.

Now that the Chargers established they can play a complete game, they must prove they can string several together.

It starts against Buffalo, a team that inherited the "second-longest losing streak" title from San Diego. A home win against the Bills gets the Chargers within a game of .500 with three to play.

Lightning Quicks

--San Diego's makeshift O-line is not filled entirely with stopgaps. Tyronne Green, who returned from a hand injury to start at left guard, may be the full-time starter next season if Kris Dielman retires due to the effects of his season-ending concussion. Additionally, Colin Baxter, who played half the game in place of Nick Hardwick (neck), could be in the mix in 2012 if Hardwick leaves as an unrestricted free agent.

--Corey Liuget was not in the starting line-up for just the second time, replaced by veteran Jacques Cesaire. The other game Liuget did not start was in Week 9 against the Packers, when the Chargers opened with two defensive linemen and five defensive backs.

--Nick Novak, who missed a game-winning field goal last week against the Broncos, connected on his only try against the Jaguars, boosting his season success rate to 81.5 percent. That's almost 20 percent better than his career average before joining the Chargers (63.3 percent).

--The Chargers have a chance to gain another game on Oakland this week, as the Raiders are playing in Green Bay. Victories by the Chargers and Packers would pull San Diego within a game of the Raiders, which could result in those two teams jockeying for positioning in Week 17. Catching the surging Broncos may prove trickier; Denver hosts the Caleb Hanie-led Bears this week.



Can the Chargers still win the AFC West? Discuss inside the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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