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San Diego Chargers - TeamReport

Pro FootballFootballSan Diego ChargersSt. Louis RamsPhilip RiversNFLRyan Mathews

NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT

In the wake of the Chargers' thrilling, 27-24 win over the St. Louis Rams came the realization of what lies ahead: a five-game stretch that would test any team's mettle.

"Yeah," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But we don't have to play them all at once."

Once was enough with the Rams as the Chargers needed a last-minute interception to prevail.

"It came down to the character of the team," coach Mike McCoy said Monday. "The willingness for us to stick together as a team and say someone is one going to make a play."

That someone was safety Marcus Gilchrist, who intercepted Shaun Hill's pass at the goal line with a minute remaining.

The Chargers, winners of two straight, stand as the No. 7 seed and know they have some tough work ahead if they are going to climb the AFC playoff ladder. They face the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.

The dramatic win Sunday could serve as a springboard for a playoff run for the second straight year.

"We'll find out what it means," Rivers said. "It won't mean much if we lose the rest of them. But it was big to put ourselves in position. There are still teams in the pack, but we're kind of inching our way to the top of that pack in the hunt."

The Chargers almost shot themselves in the foot, squandering a 10-point lead with eight minutes to play. Instead they look ahead with a dose of confidence.

"This time of the year, any loss is devastating," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "But we won."

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NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES

--Rookie center Chris Watt showed well in his NFL debut. Watt, who played guard at Notre Dame, was part of pass-protection scheme that kept Philip Rivers in pretty good shape against the active Rams. "They have a real good defensive front," said Watt, who became the fourth Charger to start at center this season. "I think we just did a really good job of staying together throughout the entire game and played as a group." Watt would start again on Sunday in Baltimore if Rich Ohrnberger is still ailing.

--Running back Ryan Mathews had his first 100-yard rushing day of the season and scored on a 32-yard run.

--With all of the dramatic twists and turns Sunday, veteran linebacker Dwight Freeney said contests like that make playing so worthwhile. "These are games you never want to have but you love to have sometimes," Freeney said. "These are the games you are going to remember 5-10 years down the road. We'll sit back and think, 'Remember that game against the Rams?'"

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NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--C Rich Ohrnberger (back, ankle) will be evaluated later this week. He did not play in Week 12.

--RB Ryan Mathews (shoulder) left the game but was able to return in the fourth quarter.

--NT Ryan Carrethers (elbow) remains out.

--S Jahleel Addae (concussion) is practicing, but was declared inactive on Sunday.

REPORT CARD VS. RAMS

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Philip Rivers threw a pick-six that went 99 yards. But he was solid in throwing a touchdown pass and for nearly 300 yards. On the pick, Rivers got no favors from receiver Keenan Allen, as he slipped during the route. The pass protection was a big-time concern against the Rams, but Rivers was sharp in getting the ball out quickly. Rivers was sacked three times but two were due mainly to coverage. On the other, Rivers found a place to land to avoid turning the ball over. Allen showed up late with a touchdown catch; he also fumbled a reception.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Chargers' hope is Ryan Mathews and you can see why. Mathews ran with an attitude and a physical presence in going over 100 yards and producing the longest scoring rush (32 yards) of his career. Mathews gives the Chargers the balance they sorely need, and if he plays like he did Sunday that will be a boost down the stretch. Run-blocking was cleaner as well, especially considering rookie Chris Watt was making his NFL debut at center.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Marcus Gilchrist picked off Shaun Hill's pass at the goal line to ice the win. Gilchrist was also beaten on a TD catch, but he more than made up for it. Brandon Flowers had a pick, too, but he ended up fumbling the ball. Getting heat on the quarterback from the edges remains a huge concern. Hill was sacked once, but for the most part he had time. Corey Liuget did force a fumble, which the Chargers converted into a touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Progress here, although we're not sure why the Rams shied away from Tre Mason and his nearly 4-yard average per carry. But the Chargers kept the Rams to 107 yards and seemed to pick up steam later in the game after the Rams' front had pushed them around earlier. Backups Andrew Gachkar and Kavell Conner continue to play well on running downs. A heady Gachkar scooped up a fumble for a touchdown.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Chargers got fooled on a fake punt after the Rams arrived here with that obviously in their playbook. The Rams' Tavon Austin had a big punt return in the closing minutes. The Chargers blocked a field goal and Nick Novak nailed both his field goal attempts. But a muff by Keenan Allen also was bad.

COACHING: A -- With a depleted offensive line, this was a good matchup for the Chargers. Coach Mike McCoy kept the Rams' pass rush at bay, for the most part, by getting the ball out quickly and leaning on the short and immediate routes instead of the time-consuming drops for downfield plays. McCoy was also better in clock management and the Chargers benefited with a key field goal right before halftime. Coordinator John Pagano continues to try to devise ways to reach the quarterback, but so far those ways have been clogged. In the end, the defense scored a touchdown and created a turnover to win it, which trumps nearly everything.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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