SAN DIEGO-It sure wasn’t pretty to watch. But the San Diego Chargers don’t really care about pretty these days. They care about getting wins. And that’s all that matters at this point in the season. That’s more than what the winless Oakland Raiders can say. The Chargers scored the only touchdown of the game early in the first quarter of the Sunday afternoon game played at Qualcomm Stadium and wound up with an offensive-lacking 13-6 victory.
How ugly was it? Well, combined the two teams punted the ball a total of 18 times, with both Oakland and Sand Diego booting the ball on fourth down nine times apiece. To say it was not a particularly good day for either offense would be an understatement.
The win, no matter how it looked, kept the Chargers (6-4) one game off the pace of AFC West leaders Denver Broncos (7-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (7-3). It doesn’t get any easier for the Chargers down the stretch. They play the St. Louis Rams next before playing at Baltimore (Ravens), taking in home games against the New England Patriots and the Broncos, before ending the season on the road against San Francisco (49ers) and the Chiefs.
To get some wins against those six teams will require the Chargers offense to step up their game. Getting blanked in Miami and putting up just 13 points against the 0-10 Raiders won’t get it done down the stretch. The good news for the Chargers is that they may re-discovered their rushing attack and played swarm-the-ball defense. Running back Ryan Mathews keyed the team’s 120-yard rushing effort against the Raiders with 16 carries for 70 yards.
Quarterback Philip Rivers was efficient, going for a buck 93 on 22-of-34 passing attempts during the game. But much of the kudos has to be in play for what the Chargers did on defense. The Chargers held quarterback David Carr in check by limiting the rookie to just 172 yards in passing yards. The Raiders could only muster 55 yards in the run game and was locked to producing only nine first downs in the game.
The Chargers’ win may not have been easy on the eyes, but it was good for the team’s soul, considering San Diego’s players had a chance to regroup and heal from their bye week after being whipped by the Miami Dolphins. The key beneficiaries of the bye week seem to be the Chargers’ defensive unit. Stalwart defensive end Dwight Freeney said the bye week did a lot of good for the team, especially in the get well department.
“It’s everything,” Freeney said. “We were so banged up as a team…Think about it: at the center position, running back position, the outside linebacker position. Across the board, we had not a lot of depth. We got all of those guys, for the most part, back. When you have depth, as I have been saying, in this game it’s everything. It’s everything. It may not show on the stat sheet. But going out there for five or six plays, to be able to give guys a little rest, is everything.”
Linebacker Manti Te’o was one of those guys returning to the field for the Chargers. The defense benefited from Te’o’s presence on the field. Te’o said the win was a total team effort.
“We went up against a really good team,” Te’o said afterwards. “Our guys kept responding. Defensively, we made plays. Offensively, we made plays. And then you have (punter Mike) Scifres over there….one of the best in the game at punting… all around good job. It’s definitely good for us to get a win. Winning is hard in the NFL. We understand all that …It’s good to finally get a win.”