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Chargers, Rivers dig up winning attitude

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The Sports Xchange

By Jay Paris, The Sports Xchange

SAN DIEGO — No blisters were spotted on the San Diego Chargers’ hands on Monday digging out from a giant crevice on Sunday.

The Chargers roared back from a 21-3 deficit by scoring 30 straight points and holding on for 33-28 win over the Detroit Lions in the season opener.

It was amazing. It was special. And it was something that can maybe carry weight throughout the season.

“It counts one of 16 but I think it can build some. … you know how we talk about the personality of the team, what the makeup is going to be?” quarterback Philip Rivers asked. “And I think it is still building because of the new guys.

“But wins like this tend to ascend to it in a hurry. Just that camaraderie. You come closer together when you have to fight and win a game like this. You get out here and it becomes real and you know the final score is going to count.”

Count Rivers as the biggest reason for this wild rally. Rivers threw for 404 yards and two touchdowns. For good measure he tied Dan Fouts career mark at 254, the franchise standard.

This win was unbelievable considering the deficit and the off-the-field distractions. This was what could be the first game of the last season and there was an uneasy feeling when the Chargers fell so far behind.

Then again, No. 17 wouldn’t allow it.

“We are going to fight to the end of the game,” Rivers said. “That is kind of the mantra when we dug the hole: Just keep fighting.

“No one thought about panicking and we were able to get it done. It was a great team win. A trait of our team over the last decade has always been that we are going to fight.”

The Chargers know there is plenty to be cleaned up. They know the injury bug has already hit with the loss of right guard D.J. Fluker. They know the run blocking must find another gear.

But the Chargers will get to that to-do list with a 1-0 record. And it was just as important in how they won as the win itself.

“Any time that you have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, you have a chance,” head coach Mike McCoy said.

The Chargers think they have an opportunity to do something special this year. If so, they might look back on their opening-day effort that helped get them there.

REPORT CARD VS. LIONS

PASSING OFFENSE: A — It’s difficult to get the top grade when flinging two interceptions, but Philip Rivers proved it can be done. While stumbling early, he was sensational in the second half as the Chargers stormed back from a 21-3 deficit. Rivers threw for more than 400 yards for the seventh time of his career and he added two touchdowns for a 102.8 rating. Keenan Allen was stellar with a franchise record-tying performance with 15 catches. Stevie Johnson, with a touchdown, showed his strong camp showing was no fluke. Pass protection was pretty good, in that Rivers was sacked but twice and it was clear he was throwing on nearly every play after halftime.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — Rookie Melvin Gordon got loose a few times to show the kind of potential he has. But the run blocking was spotty at times which made the sledding pretty tough for Gordon and crew. Gordon finished with team highs in carries (14) and yards (51). He also had a critical fumble. Danny Woodhead got some tough yards and it was his touchdown carry that put the Chargers ahead; he had two touchdowns. Blocking needs to improve.

PASS DEFENSE: A — Any time Calvin Johnson is held to two catches for 39 yards, that deserves a big-time grade. He was double-covered most of the game but the key is the other receivers didn’t make the Chargers pay for it all that much. The pass rush forced a fumble when Melvin Ingram blew up Matthew Stafford and he threw a wobbly pass picked off by rookie Kyle Emanuel. That was but one of the two picks the Chargers forced Stafford into.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — Keep a team under 70 rushing yards and that’s a good day. Not sure why the Lions didn’t stick to handing the ball more to Ameer Abdullah more with a 21-3 lead — but that’s on them. Inside linebackers were decent; same goes for the defensive front. Abdullah did have a long of 24, in averaging 7.1 yards on seven carries. We’re not sure why he didn’t see the ball more.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Josh Lambo proved he can reach the end zone on kickoffs. But he missed an extra point. On the coverage units, players were chasing returners more than tackling them. Giving up 35 yards per return on kickoffs and 17 on punt returns is an issue that will cost the Chargers soon if not addressed.

COACHING: A – Philip Rivers gets the love for orchestrating the comeback but give head coach Mike McCoy and his coordinators props as well. McCoy instilled something in this bunch that didn’t allow it to wilt in the heat and the reality of a 21-3 deficit. Both sides settled down and played with more poise in the second half and the players weren’t the only reason for that.


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