Chargers Thankful for Lingering Hope

CB Antonio Cromartie (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The Chargers still have hope, and that is probably the most important thing they take into Sunday's game against the visiting Atlanta Falcons.

When teams reside at 4-7 during Thanksgiving, there's usually little to be thankful for. Consider the Chargers blessed.

At 4-7, they remain within shouting range of the AFC West lead. They are just two games behind a Broncos team that was embarrassed Sunday by the visiting Raiders.

Another plus is the Chargers get one more crack at the Broncos in the regular-season finale at Qualcomm Stadium.

Of course, all this good fortune means squat if the Chargers keep bumbling around and finding new ways to lose every week. San Diego is staggering big-time, loser of four of its past five games.

Still ...

"We're the only 4-7 team this year that still has a chance," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "That's the only positive spin you can put on this whole deal -- we're still two games out with five to go, and we get a chance at the team we're chasing the last game of the year.

"As bad as it's been and as tough as it's been, at least this week we can say we're still in the hunt for everything we've set out to accomplish."


QB Philip Rivers
Jeff Gross/Getty

Do the fading and underachieving Chargers deserve a shot at the postseason?

Absolutely not if you believe good teams overcome adversity and can hold leads late in ballgames.

But that doesn't apply here, with the Chargers having the luck to play in the dreadful AFC West.

The Chargers have lost four games this year in the final 24 seconds. But the clock is ticking if the Broncos can win another game or two.

Being able to say you're still in the hunt is one thing. Playing like a playoff team is another.

"Obviously, you have to win close games, and you have to be able to finish games in the fourth quarter," said coach Norv Turner, whose regular-season mark with the Chargers has slipped to 15-12. "That's what we've got to get done."

That applies to Turner and his coaching staff as well.

"I understand that," Turner said. "That's part of it. Believe me; we're coaching those situations as hard as we can."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers was 24-for-31 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. But again his game was marred by a turnover -- this one a fumble that the Colts eventually converted into seven points. Rivers is having a solid season, but one that would be spectacular if not for his propensity for turning the ball over.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is coming off one of his better games, as he rushed for 84 yards on 21 carries. Tomlinson, who is fit again, also added 30 yards on three catches. He's gained 100 yards only twice in the first 11 outings.

--TE Antonio Gates had only two catches against the Colts, which is odd considering the Chargers' troubles in the red zone. Gates often doesn't seem as big a part of the offense as in previous years.

--WR Vincent Jackson was limited to two catches Sunday, but he gained 57 yards with a long of 39. Jackson is looking for a good stretch run to what is his best season.

--WR Chris Chambers is coming off the best game of his season -- minus scoring. He had six receptions for 61 yards. His season high is 83 yards. Chambers is back after hurting his ankle earlier in the year.

--LT Marcus McNeill reported a hip injury Sunday night, but he is not expected to miss practice.

--FB Jacob Hester, a rookie, will play instead of Mike Tolbert (shoulder) on Sunday. Hester scored his first NFL touchdown on a reception last week.

--DT Jamal Williams was singled out by Norv Turner for having his best game of the season. Williams' knees hurt him the first half of the season, but he is looking more agile and aggressive.

--DT Luis Castillo is likely to return this week after missing a game with a groin injury.

--CB Cletis Gordon has missed the past two games with a knee injury, but he appears set to go this week. Gordon replaced Antonio Cromartie -- briefly -- in the starting lineup three weeks ago.

--DE Jacques Cesaire will continue to see plenty of work in the defensive line rotation. DT Luis Castillo figures to be eased back into the lineup, and Cesaire has been playing well of late.

--ILB Stephen Cooper was also mentioned by coach Norv Turner for his standout play Sunday. But what sticks out his is loose coverage on Dominic Rhodes' 1-yard scoring reception.

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