Los Angeles Chargers suddenly relevant and confident

By Jay Paris, The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 24, 2017 at 7:17 PM
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COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Friday arrived and it delivered a thankful Anthony Lynn. The Los Angeles Chargers head coach was picking over the tasty leftovers of Thursday's 28-6 thumping of the Dallas Cowboys.

Only those under his command were more thankful than him.

"We gave the players the weekend off," Lynn said. "Today they can be with their family and enjoy a late Thanksgiving dinner. We'll bring them back on Monday and get the normal routine rolling."

For the streaking Chargers, they are fine with keeping their recent play on track. After stumbling from the gate at 0-4, they have won five of their past seven.

They put an impressive bookend on their recent demolition of the Buffalo Bills with a carving of the Cowboys.

"We knew we had to play two games in 11 days and the guys focused in and the coaches did a helluva job getting them ready to play," Lynn said.

Play they did as quarterback Philip Rivers had one of the most impressive games of his stellar career, the defense caused havoc once again, and despite having their punter handle placekicks, the Chargers left Dallas with a big, fat W.

"This can give us a boost of confidence although this group has always been confident," Lynn said. "But this certainly can't hurt in finishing up this third quarter (of the season) and going into its fourth quarter."

The rest of the season sets up nicely for the Chargers, starting with the winless Cleveland Browns visiting the StubHub Center next Sunday. Los Angeles is within two losses of the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs and smack dab in the middle of AFC wild-card conversation.

"It was an all-around team win and one that we needed to stay in the mix," said Rivers, who threw for three touchdowns and 424 yards. "We've still got a ways to go.''

But if nothing else, they are headed in the right direction. That's a blessing that Lynn was being thankful for on Friday.

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Head coach Anthony Lynn said wide receiver Mike Williams didn't sustain damage to his ACL when exiting Thursday's game with a knee injury. Lynn, though, was unclear if he suffered any other ligament damage. Williams, their top pick, had missed the first five games with a back injury before making strides in recent weeks.

"Until the doctors are done with him and do a thorough evaluation, then I will know how to get him through the week," Lynn said. "But the ACL has been ruled out and that is very, very good news for me."

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Right tackle Joe Barksdale not only started, but made it through the entire game on Thursday. Barksdale had missed four starts with a turf toe injury. His play on the perimeter, along with left tackle Russell Okung, helped prevent the Cowboys from recording a sack.

REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS

--PASSING OFFENSE: A -- The Chargers didn't punt against the Cowboys and gained more than 500 yards for the first time since Oct. 18, 2015. Much of that was because of the phenomenal game turned in by Philip Rivers. He missed on just six of his 33 passes as he dominated the Cowboys' pass defense. Kudos to the front line that kept him from harm's way -- zero sacks. That allowed Rivers to toy with the defense as he clicked with Keenan Allen for 172 yards and a score on 11 catches. Tight end Hunter Henry is back and so is the mojo in the Chargers' offense.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Chargers can throw it, but they sure couldn't run it on Thursday. Luckily, they got off the run and it was more of what Rivers could do than Melvin Gordon and Co. Run-blocking suffered and the Chargers managed but 81 yards. It took Gordon 21 carries to get 65 yards. There's still work to be done here.

--PASS DEFENSE: A -- Two more picks and one of them being returned for a touchdown gives this unit high marks. Desmond King brought one back for a score and Casey Hayward continues to find the ball as he had his third interception in two games. The pass rush never did let Dak Prescott get comfortable and he looked every bit like a second-year quarterback. DEs Joey Bosa made his presence known, as did Melvin Ingram. Unlikely tackles Corey Liuget and Tenny Palepoi had sacks.

--RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Run-stuffers continue to have more success as it seems everyone is getting more comfortable in coordinator Gus Bradley's scheme. The Cowboys, behind their vaunted offensive line but minus Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, could run for but 79 yards. The front four for the Chargers, in particular, made gaining yards difficult on the ground.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Chargers missed a field goal and an extra-point as back issues derailed kicker Nick Novak. Punter Drew Kaser took over on kicks and kickoffs and the results were better than what Novak would provide. Travis Benjamin continues to make head-scratching decisions as a punt returner. The Chargers were fortunate to win on a day in which their kicker was hurt so early in a game.

--COACHING: A -- The Chargers couldn't run the ball so head coach Anthony Lynn quit trying, which was smart. Instead, he put the ball in the hands of Philip Rivers and that was a wise decision. Lynn deserves credit for stepping around the land mines this game had with no running attack and questions all over his special-teams units. But he let Rivers do his thing and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's schemes did the rest.

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