Chargers bolt to top of AFC West
By Christopher Smith, Chargers.com
Posted Oct 2, 2011
SAN DIEGO – The Chargers added another third-quarter burst on the shoulders of a halftime lead Sunday.
An early 55-yard Vincent Jackson touchdown and four Nick Novak field goals helped lift San Diego (3-1) to a 26-16 win against Miami (0-4) at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers seized a one-game lead in the AFC West with the victory.
“This is a week-to-week business and we got (win) number three,” said Head Coach Norv Turner of his best start in five seasons with San Diego. “The only thing on my mind is how we get the next one.”
Jackson fell to the ground after corralling Philip Rivers’ pass with his fingertips but was so open he had time to stand up and run into the end zone. The Chargers’ first offensive play of more than 40 yards this season neutralized the only Dolphins lead in the first quarter.
“‘I asked him, ‘How in the world did you make that catch?’” Rivers said. “It wasn’t an awful throw, but it could’ve been a lot easier on him. I was trying to give it some air and it leaked to the right on me. It was an unbelievable catch.”
San Diego built a two-score lead early in the second half when Mike Tolbert went airborne and plunged the ball across the plane of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. Miami never took possession within single digits on the scoreboard the rest of the second half as Novak and Dan Carpenter traded field goals.
Jackson authored the game’s most memorable play, but it might take more than 10 fingers and 10 toes to count the number of Chargers players with impact plays. The word “team” buzzed throughout the locker room after the game from Turner and the players.
Novak drilled all four of his field goal attempts, tying a career high. He hit from 27, 48, 23 and 38 yards to couple with a strong day for the Chargers’ kick coverage units.
Marcus Gilchrist made an interception on his first possession as a starting NFL cornerback; Donald Butler and Shaun Phillips pressured Chad Henne on the throw. Eric Weddle made a pick for the second consecutive week. Larry English made two sacks.
Vincent Brown (20-yard catch on third-and-15) and Ryan Mathews (converted a screen pass into a 42-yard gain) helped construct the drive that led to Tolbert’s touchdown. Rivers completed 21 of 31 passes for 307 yards and one touchdown in his best statistical game this season. Rivers also didn’t throw an interception after tossing two in each of the Chargers’ first three games.
“I believe we had a lot of young players step up and help this team win,” Turner said. “They have good ability (and) bring hustle, energy and excitement.”
The Chargers improved to 9-1 the last two seasons when leading at halftime. San Diego is 3-0 at home for the first time since 2006. The Bolts also grabbed control of the division as the Raiders (2-2) lost their second game to an AFC East team.
“(That) means a lot. I want it to be (that way) when it’s all said and done in December,” Takeo Spikes said.
“Everything we’re going through right now is a learning curve. We’ve had some dogfight games early, especially here at home. We’re learning how to win close games. We find a way to win. Now our next step is going on the road and winning.”
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