Bolts Getting Hot

Are there any teams hotter than the Chargers? The Chargers (9-5) have won a season-high four straight games and eight of their past 10. Plus, they have their playoff invitation tucked away by winning their third AFC West crown in four seasons.

Some doubted the Chargers' ability to right their ship after starting 1-3. But NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was confident the Chargers would warm up at some point.

"We've been kind of up-and-down and we've gotten hot at the right time," Tomlinson said. "At some point it has to happen. That's just how it is."

One would think, with the Chargers having Pro Bowl players on both sides of the football. But the transition from coach Marty Schottenheimer to Norv Turner took a little longer than first thought.

"It's just coming at a later time," Tomlinson said. "And for us it's great because if we can get hot going into the playoffs, whoa Nellie! Whoa, Nellie!"

Tomlinson's Keith Jackson imitation may need some work, but the Chargers are feeling good about their lot heading into the heart of the season -- the playoffs. And they want to keep playing, and winning, to maintain their No. 3 seed among AFC teams.

"We can't really protect guys -- we clinched a playoff spot, but it's better to be the third seed than the fourth seed," Tomlinson said. "We're in control of our own destiny with that, so we've got to take care of business."

As of now, if the Chargers stay at No. 3 and everything else holds up, they would host the Browns at home the first weekend of the playoffs, then with a win travel to Indianapolis instead of New England.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers played the first half and was efficient, not turning the ball over while completing 14-of-21 passes for 142 yards and a score. More important, his sore knee wasn't aggravated from the work.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson got two quarters of play in and that was enough to rush for 116 yards and two scores -- the third straight week he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark. He did feel a slight tweak of a hamstring, but later said it was no big deal.

--TE Antonio Gates played with a bad back most of the game and had a couple of rare drops. He finished with only one catch for eight yards before he was rested. He should be better this week.

--WR Chris Chambers is getting more comfortable with Philip Rivers and he had a team-high four catches for 69 yards, including a long of 28. Chambers could be a real force in the playoffs.

--WR Vincent Jackson is coming on of late, maybe because defenses have to be concerned with Chris Chambers. He had two catches for 30 yards and is playing with more consistency when the Chargers look his way.

--RG Mike Goff continues to play with a sore ankle and foot but you won't find him on the bench. Goff is among the toughest Chargers.

--LB Kris Dielman could be playing some of his best ball of the season. His knee still isn't right, but it has improved over what it was earlier. Dielman's play is big in that the Chargers are a left-side oriented team.

--WR Craig Davis was supplanted by Darren Sproles on punt returns so he saw his action as a wide out. Davis had two catches for 20 yards.

--RB Darren Sproles proved his sore knee is just fine by having the best game of his career. He rushed for a game-high 122 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He displayed equal parts heart and quickness on some of his runs.

--FB Andrew Pinnock continues to shine in replacing Pro Bowl FB Lorenzo Neal (leg). While Pinnock is being brought along as a potential backup to LaDainian Tomlinson, he is proving the fullback role isn't too big for him.

--DT Jamal Williams was able to get out of the game early and rest his ailing ankle. It's critical Williams is feeling right when the Chargers hit the playoffs. His play upfront is the key to the 3-4 defense.

--CB Antonio Cromartie set the team's single-season record with his 10th interception. Cromartie, who has started only six games, also had a fumble recovery. He is having a Pro Bowl type season in just his second year.

--DE Jacques Cesaire is playing better as he puts some distance between his recent thumb surgery. Cesaire had two tackles but played well.

--OLB Shawne Merriman could possibly go this week after sitting out last week with a sprained knee. However, with the Chargers already clinching the AFC West, they might sit Merriman one more week.

--ILB Matt Wilhelm had another interception, his second in as many weeks and his third on the season. The heady Wilhelm also had five tackles and a quarterback hit.

--DT Brandon McKinney did a decent job filling in for DT Jamal Williams, although the Lions didn't rush much after falling behind by 27 points. McKinney had two tackles.

--ILB Stephen Cooper was steady, adding an interception, five tackles and a pass defensed. In his first year as a starter, Cooper hasn't been a disappointment.

--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) could go this week but the team might wait one more week with the playoff berth secure.

--S Clinton Hart got his career-high fourth pick and was solid all-around. He added four tackles and two passes defensed.

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