Posts Tagged ‘Mike McCoy’

Melvin Gordon wasn’t very impressive as a rookie so naturally a lot of people wondered whether he was on his way to being a bust.

Pretty sure that topic has been squashed by the performance of the San Diego Chargers running back this season.

Gordon has already passed last season’s total for rushing yards (646) and ranks third in the NFL with 768 yards entering Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Even more eye-opening is that he leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 (nine rushing, two receiving).

Do you remember all those touchdowns Gordon scored last season? Can you recall even one?

You certainly can’t because Gordon didn’t score a single one. It was like Donald Trump built a wall and nobody with the last name of Gordon was able to gain access to the end zone.

And he kept fumbling the ball to make matters worse.

But coach Mike McCoy has gone from being a doubter to a full-fledged supporter of Gordon, who announced his budding star status with 196 rushing yards against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

That output ranks ninth in Chargers’ history. The great LaDainian Tomlinson holds the single-game record of 243.

Speaking of 200-yard rushing performances, Miami has an emerging star as well in Jay Ajayi, also in his second season. Ajayi has a college-like 529 rushing yards over the past three games, including becoming just the fourth player in the NFL history to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back games.

Sure made an easy preview angle for me, I can say that. Here is the stellar Dolphins-Chargers preview (and let’s say that I had no idea my work was running in the New York Times. Wow.) —


 Feels weird to type this but the Los Angeles Clippers have been the most impressive team in the NBA over the first two-plus weeks of the season.

The Clippers (7-1) were hard-pressed to win seven games in two-plus months during most of their San Diego tenure.

But coach Doc Rivers has them playing superb defense and that is translating to victories heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers are allowing just 88.3 points per game and everybody is buying in. Chris Paul is healthy and playing solid defense. Blake Griffin is healthy and enjoying playing defense. And DeAndre Jordan, of course, is playing superb defense.

Way too early to predict whether or not the Clippers are finally going to hurdle their playoff hiccups but know this: They routed the San Antonio Spurs by 24 points in San Antonio last Saturday. You might recall the Spurs went 40-1 at home this season.

The Clippers try to avenge their lone loss of the season when they visit Oklahoma City. Here is the stellar Clippers-Thunder preview —


Michigan has a promising quarterback in sophomore Wilton Speight and it is time to share an interesting story that I have heard a few times this season.

In the spring of 2015, shortly after Jim Harbaugh took over as coach, HBO was filming a special and Harbaugh brutally ripped one of the quarterbacks.

Oh, they blocked out the kid’s face and number but that didn’t help too much in this case. You see, Speight is 6-foot-6.

Michigan only had one tall quarterback like that.

The worst line from Harbaugh was this: “If you want to look at me with that look, go (expletive) somewhere else.”

Speight thought really hard about doing that all summer long. He eventually decided against transferring.

Now fast forward to 2016 and Speight is playing tremendous football for a 9-0 squad ranked third in the nation.

Sometimes the best move a kid can make is to, well, not make a move. He stayed put and it worked out well.

You can find more detail in the stellar Michigan-Iowa preview —


Somehow it is already college basketball season and the campaign commences on Friday night.

One of the numerous tip-offs involves No. 13 Gonzaga, a program that lost stars Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis from a 28-8 team.

But no worries, the transfer wagon paid Spokane, Wash., a visit and dropped off three pretty good players. So instead of a transition season in which the Bulldogs would roll through their weak conference but stumble against more powerful foes, Gonzaga is in terrific shape.

Former Washington standout Nigel Williams-Goss is the new point guard, former California 3-pointer bomber Jordan Mathews will be the new shooting guard and former Missouri power forward Johnathan Williams will be a fierce inside threat.

I remember being surprised Williams-Goss was leaving Washington. He was one of the top players in Pac-12 as a sophomore. Point guards on overmatched opponents such as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland are probably already worried about guarding him.

Then the Zags have 7-foot-2 center Przemek Karnowski back. His career was supposed to be over last season but a back injury that required surgery limited him to just five games and he received a medical redshirt season.

Those four players combine with sophomore guard Josh Perkins to give Gonzaga a pretty solid lineup. The Zags won’t be taking a step back this season. Mark Few will once again have a good team.

Here is the stellar Utah Valley-Gonzaga preview —


The links tradition is on a roll now … unlike the San Diego Chargers.

Three fourth-quarter collapses have saddled the Chargers with a 1-3 record and coach Mike McCoy is two losses away from being fired.

McCoy won’t be dismissed if the Chargers lose to the Oakland Raiders this Sunday unless he punches Dean Spanos after the game.

But when the Chargers get smacked around by the Denver Broncos four days later on Thursday Night Football, you can expect McCoy to be informed the following morning that his services are no longer needed.

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt would certainly be named interim coach and the extra 72 hours would come in handy to help the staff in preparations for the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 24.

Sure hope there aren’t some Chargers’ fans bemoaning that the team isn’t 4-0. Good teams don’t blow three games in the final five minutes in three of the first four weeks.

The Chargers aren’t a good team so the meltdowns aren’t a total surprise — and gosh, how excited was Drew Brees to get to rally the New Orleans Saints from 13 points down for a 35-34 victory over the franchise that discarded him?

The Raiders are 3-1 and quarterback Derek Carr is on the verge of stardom.

OK, on to the link, the stellar preview of the Chargers-Raiders game is here —


“Mike lives in Boise, might want to handle” came the directive as if it rates as a special occasion to write about two Mountain West programs.

But audiblizing into the plan is an easy thing when you have a great boss. Plus, I knew there was an easy angle to this Boise State at New Mexico preview.

New Mexico was 30.5-point underdogs last season and beat Boise State on the famed blue turf in Boise. Let that sink in, 30.5-point underdogs. A team that heavily favored really has to suffer an extreme drop in its quality of play and its entire coaching staff has to be totally outworked and outsmarted by the opposing staff.

And that is what happened as New Mexico posted a 31-24 victory. Then the Lobos rubbed it in by posing for team pictures on the field with a New Mexico state flag.

Seriously, the Lobos pack a New Mexico state flag when they go on the road?

That is really kind of weird, isn’t it?

So don’t believe Boise State coach Bryan Harsin when he acts like his team isn’t out for revenge. What coaches say for public consumption is seldom the same as they say behind closed doors.

Here is the stellar preview —


Jim Harbaugh sure comes off as a prima donna and/or an egomaniac these days, doesn’t he?

The funny thing is he was outstanding to deal with when he was an NFL player.

I dealt with him when he was on the San Diego Chargers and he was terrific to deal with at all times. One time, the team was doing offseason public caravans and he asked the staffers to bring him by my newspaper. Harbaugh was quite a hit with the circulation ladies, let’s just say that.

The bigger barometer on how good he was to deal with is this: The Chargers cut him (yep, Ryan Leaf era) and he fielded my call on his home phone in Coronado. Spent 15-plus minutes filling up my notebook.

Most NFL players go into hiding in such a situation.

I also can’t help but laugh about the time Harbaugh told me he was interested in the San Diego State football coaching job, a story that I broke. But you see, the Aztecs weren’t all that interested in him.

A couple members of the athletic department were still upset that Harbaugh had publicly intimated his University of San Diego team could beat San Diego State.

One of the assistant athletic directors even chided me for my article and insisted they wouldn’t hire him.

But San Diego State did interview Harbaugh as part of a poorly executed coaching search. The same assistant AD gave me a hard time after I broke the story that Dennis Erickson was interested, giving me the same “we’re not hiring him” lecture.

Oh yeah, the school did interview Erickson too.

Think of this — current Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was one of the two finalists. So a downtrodden San Diego State program could have hired either Fisher or Harbaugh and they still messed things up.

The Aztecs hired Chuck Long, who lasted three seasons and twice suffered home losses to lower-level Cal Poly.

A big miss for San Diego State. Of course, we also know what would have happened. Harbaugh would have won 18 games over his first two seasons and landed a better job.

That’s what guys who know how to win do.

And here’s the stellar Michigan-Rutgers preview —


Here’s a little baseball for you to round out his edition of the links.

The Chicago Cubs had the best record in the majors this season but we all know their history — 108 years since they last won a World Series.

The San Francisco Giants have a different type of formula — they have won the World Series (2010, 2012, 2014) in every even-numbered season this decade.

Should be an interesting series and the Cubs already caught their biggest break. The Giants had to play in the National League wild-card contest and ace Madison Bumgarner was needed to pitch a four-hit shutout.

The means he will only pitch once in the series against the Cubs. Chicago went up against Bumgarner twice this season and lost both times.

All the pressure is on the Cubs and players like probable NL MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo need to play much, much better than they did in the 2015 postseason.

Anyway, here is the stellar Game 1 preview —

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday.

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday. Photo credit – Secret airport source.


So for one last time the “San Diego Chargers” will take the field.

Probably never to be referred to in that way again on a football field.

Sunday’s road game against the Denver Broncos will likely mark a sad end for a franchise that was adored by San Diegans for most of the past five-plus decades. And the only reason why enthusiasm dimmed this season was due to the club’s actions.

The stage was set when owner Dean Spanos made it clear he wanted to move the team. Proposals by the city of San Diego were scoffed at by Spanos and team spin doctor Mark Fabiani.

Instead of looking at a way to make things happen, Spanos and Fabiani repeatedly pointed out why the city’s proposals for a new stadium wouldn’t work.

Regardless, the City of San Diego submitted its proposal to build a $1.1 billion stadium for the team to the NFL on Wednesday. It’s a last-ditch effort by the city to keep the team but Spanos isn’t listening.

He is ready to apply for relocation as soon as Monday and is hoping to gain approval to move the team on either Jan. 12 or 13 when the league’s owners meet in Houston.

All along, Spanos has been working his fellow owners behind the scenes in hopes of approval to move the franchise.

Spanos envisions playing at a stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. The greed of an NFL owner knows no limits and once the St. Louis Rams began looking at moving to Los Angeles, Spanos couldn’t help himself.

His greedy hands kept picturing the possibility of adding billions of dollars to his family’s net worth.

And now he is just a couple of weeks away from having his wish granted.

Once approval occurs, a team that began playing in San Diego in 1961 will flat-out vanish.

Too bad Spanos couldn’t just vanish and leave the team alone.

Good on-field play certainly disappeared this season as poor Philip Rivers has tried to carry a team with little talent. The squad carries a 4-11 record into the season finale as coach Mike McCoy continues to make poor decisions and display that he should be an offensive coordinator and not an NFL head coach.

The Chargers aren’t part of the playoff field for the fifth time in six seasons and this year’s record is the franchise’s worst since 2004.

Of course, winning has never been a Spanos specialty. The Chargers have made the playoffs only nine times in 32 seasons under the family’s ownership.

They were the owners for the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance when San Diego was smashed by the San Francisco 49ers following the 1994 season.

But coach Bobby Ross and general manager Bobby Beathard couldn’t get along and Spanos showed Ross the door after the 1996 season.

And they certainly were in position to reach the Super Bowl in the middle of last decade but again the lack of top-flight leadership by Spanos curtailed the possibility.

San Diego recorded a franchise-best 14-2 mark in 2006 but was ousted in the opening round of the playoffs by the New England Patriots. Once again, the coach and general manager didn’t know how to communicate and Spanos kept hard-nosed GM A.J. Smith and sent coach Marty Schottenheimer packing.

Spanos termed the situation as “dysfunctional” and apparently wasn’t smart enough to figure out his lack of a spine over the previous two seasons was a major factor. What leader would allow two of the most crucial people in the organization to go that long without talking?

Making the whole situation sadder is that the Chargers then hired Norv Turner as coach. Handing a team built to win a championship to a mediocre coach and leader assured the Chargers would miss their championship window – and they did.

Spanos will arrive in Los Angeles with a lousy football team and that isn’t going to help matters.

Know this: USC is the preferred football team in Los Angeles and there is no chance of the Chargers ever surpassing the Trojans when it comes to popularity.

Spanos also has to fire McCoy. You can’t arrive in Los Angeles with that kind of guy as your coach. He also needs a different public relations staff as having a staff in which the top two guys are lifetime wimposauras is going to be a detriment to doing PR properly in the multi-dimensional Los Angeles market.

Taking the history to Los Angeles will be awkward. You just can’t have Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts or LaDainian Tomlinson show up to wave to the crowd of a city that never watched them play.

Not to mention honoring the “Air Coryell” era or Junior Seau’s tremendous tenure or the franchise’s 1963 AFL title. Kellen Winslow’s performance in the epic playoff game in Miami on Jan. 2, 1982 certainly will never feel like a “Los Angeles” thing.

Added up, it’s just an all-around uncomfortable feel. A greedy owner didn’t get his way in San Diego so he is going to pick up his football team and move it 100-plus miles up the road.

The team will be missed for sure. The ownership won’t be.

And with his two overmatched sons lined up to run the team, the long-standing tradition of Spanos-led teams losing will surely continue.

Good luck, Los Angeles. And brace yourself for decades of buffoonery.

Ever think where the San Diego Chargers might be if they didn’t have Philip Rivers on their team?

Um, no, smartass, saying “in Los Angeles” isn’t the proper answer.

They also wouldn’t have been in the game against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers if not for Rivers having a superb contest.

The Chargers suffered a painful 27-20 loss to the Packers on Sunday in what was an absolutely stellar effort by the veteran quarterback.

Rivers had the most prolific game by a quarterback in Chargers history – the type of performance that would even make Hall of Famer Don Fouts blush.

Rivers set clubs records for completions (43), attempts (65) and passing yardage (503). He broke his own club record for passing yardage – 455 against the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 – while becoming only the 17th player in NFL history to top 500 yards in a single game.

Receiver Keenan Allen caught 14 passes – one short of the franchise record he shares with Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow – before leaving with a hip injury.

But all that production didn’t equate to a victory. The Chargers only scored 20 points despite accumulating 32 first downs, possessing the ball for 38 minutes and running 89 plays to Green Bay’s 49.

The Chargers had a chance to force overtime but a third-and-goal run by Woodhead was halted for a 1-yard loss and Rivers’ fourth-down throw into the right flat never reached Woodhead as the pass was broken up by Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall.

Just like that, Rivers’ big game wasn’t enough.

Here’s the number why the Chargers head home disappointed – 20.

All that production and San Diego only scored 20 points.

Rough way to drop to 2-4 and pretty much know that you are out of the AFC West race with the Denver Broncos being undefeated.

The Packers remained unbeaten with the victory and recorded their 13th straight home win. Oh yeah, they are also 10-1 lifetime against the Chargers.

So the history wasn’t good as San Diego’s lone win against the Packers came on Oct. 7, 1984 and you may know it is also one of the most-ignored victories in franchise history.

That’s because the Padres beat the Chicago Cubs to reach the World Series for the first time that same afternoon. Winslow set his franchise record during that contest but the only receptions most San Diegans saw were on the Monday Night Football halftime highlights the following night.

So considering the history, it wasn’t looking too good for the Chargers when they spotted Green Bay a 17-3 lead.

Aaron Rodgers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to James Starks in the first quarter and Starks later added a 65-yard touchdown run. Starks appeared stuffed in the middle of line before reversing to the right and taking advantage of the fact the Chargers backside defenders over pursued and meandered down the field for the score.

But the Chargers regrouped and scored a significant touchdown right before halftime. Allen caught a pass near the goal line with 12 seconds left – a review confirmed he was a foot short – and San Diego nearly let time run out before using one of its two timeouts.

Nearly a pretty major gaffe by coach Mike McCoy, who has made a habit of curious decisions during his head-coaching stint. There was no reason to be scrambling to the line and trying to get set to snap the ball at the last second. He had TWO timeouts.

If the play gets reviewed, the result can only be improved for the Chargers. The replay officials may have ruled Allen got in as opposed to being a foot short. So no need to hurry and get a play off.

Then weirder, McCoy ran in the field-goal kicking team while the play was under review. It is OK if you used your Nancy Kerrigan “WHYYYYYYY?” voice because that was even sillier than the timeout fiasco.

Finally, San Diego got the offense back on the field and cashed in as Rivers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dontrelle Inman. Trailing 17-10 at halftime in Lambeau Field provided hope and that was infinitely much better than trailing 17-3 or 17-6.

Helping matters more is that the Chargers continued to play strong at the outset of the third quarter and tied the contest on Rivers’ 19-yard scoring pass to Ladarius Green.

But Rodgers finally got Green Bay moving again after going more than 20 minutes without a first down. Once the Packers went ahead 24-17 on Rodgers’ 8-yard pass to James Jones with 46 seconds left in the third quarter, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if things fell apart.

It didn’t happen as the Chargers moved back within four points on Jeff Lambo’s 32-yard field goal and were able to make the Packers settle for a 28-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2:37 remaining.

But the final drive didn’t produce the tying points. Rivers drove the Chargers down the field but the offense stalled after reaching the 3-yard line. Two Woodhead runs and two incomplete passes later, San Diego walked off the field with its third road loss of the season.

Just don’t put any blame on Philip Rivers.

Sure, he only guided his club to 20 points but what more could he do?

He did it all on Sunday and it still wasn’t enough for a victory.

The San Diego Chargers have developed a reputation for letting fourth-quarter leads get away.

The problem that occurred way too often last season reared its ugly head in the season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals as an 11-point lead gave way to an 18-17 defeat.

So we know what the prevalent thought was when the Chargers took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks.

You figured the reigning Super Bowl champions would put forth a frantic comeback, putting San Diego in position to have to fight off a heavy assault.

But guess what – the Chargers just continued on with their game-long domination and posted an impressive 30-21 victory over the Seahawks – see stellar recap here:

There was a lot to like about this San Diego victory. Quarterback Philip Rivers was sharp and efficient and the team didn’t commit a single turnover. Tight end Antonio Gates turned back the clock with three touchdown receptions while having his way with the Seattle secondary.

The Chargers possessed the ball for 42 minutes, 15 seconds – almost as if they were pushing around a high school team and not the top NFL squad from 2013. San Diego ran off 75 plays and Seattle was on the field for a measly 40.

Apparently getting worked over by the Chargers is a bit annoying and hard to handle. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman refused to speak to reporters afterward.

Anytime you can shut up Sherman, you know you are having a good day.

And then second-year receiver Keenan Allen rubbed it by telling reporters that Sherman “isn’t really a shut-down corner.”

Beating the Seahawks and then popping off. What has gotten into these Chargers?

Either way, it only counts as one win in the standings and now coach Mike McCoy needs to get his team ready to deliver another strong performance.

The Chargers visit Buffalo next Sunday and then return home to face Jacksonville and the New York Jets. Record a win in Buffalo and San Diego will have a strong chance of opening up 4-1.

That’s quite different than what most people thought after the season-opening loss. But one impressive win over the defending champions has changed how the club is viewed.

And in a very good way.

There are a lot of highly disappointed people in San Diego today so I would like to ask all of them this:

If someone told you after that dreadful preseason that the Chargers would actually win a playoff game in Mike McCoy’s first season as coach, wouldn’t you have jumped for joy and been ecstatic?

It wouldn’t have seemed possible to rebound to a playoff-level team that quickly. It usually takes a franchise a few seasons to recover after Norv Turner puts his lack of toughness stamp on a roster.

Yeah, it is understandable that fans are unhappy after the Chargers lost 24-17 to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Especially since the offense didn’t score over the first three quarters before suddenly racking up 17 points in the final quarter.

It does make you wonder what offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was thinking about over the first three quarters. Hopefully it didn’t go down this way:

First quarter – Whisenhunt thinking about his interview with the Detroit Lions and picturing Matthew Stafford throwing interceptions and that’s why he refuses to call pass plays.

Second quarter – Whisenhunt thinking about his interview with the Tennessee Titans and wondering how come Vanderbilt had better skill players than the Titans and suddenly becomes too scared to call any plays that might stretch the field.

Third quarter – Whisenhunt thinking about his interview with the Cleveland Browns and realizing that lowly franchise fired their most recent coach after one season and his brain shuts off until the fourth quarter starts.

Yeah, it’s never a good time to have the guy running your offense interview for head-coaching jobs on THREE consecutive days when the biggest game of the season is looming. Try doing that at your current job when the biggest project of the year is being worked on and see how well that goes.

So no matter what spin control you hear from anyone, that is a distraction. It is definitely fair to ask why Whisenhunt didn’t adjust the ball-control game plan sooner, particularly since the running back needed to make it work against Denver again – Ryan Mathews – departed with an ankle injury.

The slowness to adjust is magnified by the fact the Chargers didn’t get that one final chance. The defense allowed the Broncos to convert three third downs on the final drive – the worst being a third-and-17 with three minutes left – and Peyton Manning got to put off his trip to “Omaha” and will instead play against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in next Sunday’s AFC title game.

The Chargers now begin their offseason and what needs to be remembered is this:

The team won four straight December games to reach the playoffs when it could’ve folded. McCoy changed the culture from the sagging Norvocaine-infested mess into one of hope. And once again – the Chargers won a playoff game.

Playoff wins still count – even if they are against the Cincinnati Bengals and even if Andy Dalton is the quarterback.

Whisenhunt will move on from Sunday’s game and will deservedly again become a head coach. He worked wonders with quarterback Philip Rivers and Mathews finally became a solid back and rookie receiver Keenan Allen took advantage of his opportunities. It wasn’t a Don Coryell-like offense but the Chargers made major strides.

Anyway, be disappointed all you want over Sunday’s performance. Be mad your team fell one step short of the AFC Championship Game.

But if you can’t find any reason to be satisfied when a team overachieves and wins a playoff game in a season they have no business even being in the playoffs, then you’re not following sports properly.

And no, I’m not going to order “chill pills” for the fans like one of the Chargers’ less-than-intelligent executives did last season.

But no matter what happened Sunday in Denver, the 2013 season was a successful one for the Chargers. Period.

Here is the most ridiculous sentence I have written all year:

The San Diego Chargers qualified for the playoffs.

It didn’t seem like a very realistic possibility four short weeks ago and still was pretty slim entering Sunday’s final day of the regular season.

The Chargers needed the Miami Dolphins to lose – CHECK.

They also needed the Baltimore Ravens to lose – CHECK.

And they had to defeat the 11-win Kansas City Chiefs for a second time – CHECK.

With all three things going their way – winning their own game proved tougher than watching the other two teams lose – the Chargers are the AFC’s sixth seed and will visit the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.

San Diego sure didn’t do things the easy way in the 27-24 overtime win against the Chiefs, who rested four Pro Bowl players in running back Jamaal Charles, offensive tackle Branden Albert, nose tackle Dontari Poe and linebacker Tamba Hali as well as holding out quarterback Alex Smith, receiver Dwayne Bowe and veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson.

Kansas City’s on-field squad was dubbed the Chiefs JV on social-media sites and the reserves carried the flow for much of the game and held a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Then Philip Rivers tossed a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal and Nick Novak booted a tying field goal.

But the playoffs were about to bid adieu to the Chargers again in the final seconds until Kansas City’s normally reliable Ryan Succop was wide right from 41 yards out with four seconds remaining, a miss that would cause Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans to cry as well as keeping San Diego’s playoff hopes alive.

The Chargers finally won the game in overtime to close a frantic four-week stretch where one misstep would’ve assured they spent the postseason in their usual role as spectators.

Pretty solid job by first-year coach Mike McCoy to get the squad into the playoffs after the Chargers sat home in each of Norv Turner’s final three seasons as head coach.

And who’s to say the Chargers don’t win the playoff matchup with the Bengals? Sure, Cincinnati handed San Diego its last defeat of the season – in Qualcomm Stadium, no less – but the Bengals last playoff victory came 24 seasons ago against the Houston Oilers.

You may remember the Oilers – they departed Houston 17 years ago for Nashville.

So there’s definitely more pressure on the Bengals next weekend than the Chargers. After all, it looked like San Diego would be on the outside looking in – until the franchise posted one very un-Charger-like victory to land the final playoff spot.

And trust me – I never, ever expected to write a sentence that included a reference to the Chargers qualifying for the playoffs this season.

But that ridiculous thought is now fact.

That was sure a much different San Diego victory than anyone predicted.

You’d figure Philip Rivers would have to outduel Andrew Luck in a shootout for the Chargers to beat the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, it was a punishing, physical effort in which the Chargers played keep-away in posting a 19-9 victory on the Monday Night Football stage.

San Diego controlled the ball for more than 38 1/2 minutes in a superbly coached game by coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator John Pagano. Ryan Mathews had his best outing of the campaign with 102 rushing yards and kicker Nick Novak booted four field goals.

The Chargers (3-3) didn’t commit a turnover – yes, Rivers really wasn’t picked off in a nationally televised game – and had twice as many first downs (24 to 12) as the Colts. The effort was nearly as attractive as the sweet power-blue uniforms.

It was a truly a complete performance for the Chargers, who now receive the opportunity to play the Jacksonville Jaguars next. (Also known as the game you BETTER NOT LOSE).

Monday’s ball-control plan saw San Diego run off 72 offensive plays – the Colts had just 48 – and it featured four consecutive long scoring drives to keep Luck and the Colts off the field.

Three of those long forays ended with Novak field goals, which helped Indianapolis stay in the game. But there wouldn’t be a third final-quarter meltdown this time around as San Diego remained sturdy down the stretch and sealed the victory on Novak’s 50-yard field goal with 1:55 to play.

Apparently, Rivers had a chip on his shoulder over the pregame buildup for Monday’s game. Most of the national focus was about the contest being Luck’s first time on Monday Night Football.

“I wasn’t sure who the Colts were playing this week – all the ads I saw,” Rivers said in a postgame interview on ESPN minutes after the contest.

There was a lot of attention to a faceoff between the Pagano brothers but younger bro John was the happier sibling after his stellar defensive game plan helped hold older brother Chuck’s squad to its lowest point total in Luck’s 22 games with the franchise.

Another bright spot for the Chargers was rookie receiver Keenan Allen, who had nine receptions for 107 yards for his second straight 100-yard outing. Allen also scored the lone touchdown when he maneuvered away from double coverage to haul in a 22-yard scoring catch.

It was a good effort for the Chargers. And one that was as well-timed as it was surprising.

“Nobody game us a chance,” said Rivers, “and I wouldn’t have either.”

The trick is now following it up with another strong one if the Chargers want to legitimately be part of the AFC wild-card race.

I covered a game in 2008 when the San Diego Chargers were blanked in the first half by the Oakland Raiders and later scored 25 fourth-quarter points to pull out an improbable victory.

But the Chargers had a secret weapon that sunny day in Oakland five years ago and it had nothing to do with LaDainian Tomlinson running wild in the second half.

Yep, Lane Kiffin was coaching the Raiders that day. It was his final game before being fired.

Kiffin wasn’t in the facility this time around as the Chargers committed five turnovers and put up a substandard performance while digging themselves a huge hole in a 27-17 loss to the Raiders late Sunday night.

The game ended at 11:40 Pacific time – 2:40 a.m. Monday morning in the East – due to the time being moved back because of the Oakland Athletics being involved in the major-league baseball playoffs.

And for two-thirds of the contest, it appeared that only the Raiders were interested in playing at the late hour.

Oakland was strong at the outset and quickly built a 17-point lead. The Chargers were so dreadful over the first 2 1/2 quarters that you would’ve thought Otis Sistrunk, Matt Millen and Lester Hayes were back on the Oakland defense.

Then Nick Novak had a field-goal attempt blocked with under six minutes left in the quarter. But instead of the Raiders taking over, backup tight end Ladarius Green scooped up the ball behind the line of scrimmage – making it eligible to be run with – and notched a first down.

The Chargers eventually got on the board a minute later on a Novak field goal and the late-night weirdness took another turn against San Diego when Danny Woodhead fumbled and Charles Woodson – yes that ancient defensive back who entered the NFL the same year (1998) the Chargers selected Ryan Leaf – scooped it up and ran 25 yards for his 13th career defensive touchdown to make it 24-3.

But signs of a comeback picked up when Philip Rivers threw touchdown passes to Woodhead and Keenan Allen in the first five minutes of the final quarter to make it a seven-point game.

Perhaps history would repeat itself but as quickly as Sebastian Janikowski could boot a 50-yard field goal from second base, the comeback was derailed.

Rivers was intercepted twice in the final two minutes – that made a season-high three for the game – and the Chargers now take a 2-3 record into a Monday night contest with the fearsome Indianapolis Colts.

“We had every opportunity at the end there and that says a lot about the character of the football team after being down 17-0,” coach Mike McCoy said in his postgame press conference.

Rivers finished with 411 yards for his third 400-yard outing in five games under McCoy’s tutelage but he was outplayed by Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, who was 18-of-23 for 221 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chargers also had no sign of a running game against the Raiders with just 32 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Ryan Mathews left early with a concussion and neither Woodhead or Ronnie Brown fared well.

Now San Diego needs to rebound against the Colts or risk being 2-4 six games into the season with two games each against undefeated AFC West rivals Denver and Kansas City still ahead.

We will learn a lot about this football team – and its rookie head coach – by the way the Chargers play against Andrew Luck and the Colts.

All it took for Philip Rivers to regain his form was for the San Diego Chargers to finally discard Norv Turner.

The 31-year-old quarterback has played terrific football through four games and he can aim for another huge performance on Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders when practically nobody in the country will be watching.

The Chargers and Raiders will kick off their latest grudge-match game at 8:35 p.m. Pacific time, which is 25 minutes before midnight on the East Coast.

Pretty silly to start an NFL game at that time but it does remind us all that being a sports fan out West is infinitely better than being one back East.

Meanwhile, Rivers has been reminding everyone that he hasn’t lost his skills despite back-to-back poor seasons. He has been refreshed under new coach Mike McCoy, new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and new quarterback coach Frank Reich.

The new approach has resulted in production similar to the old Rivers – when he was one of the NFL’s better quarterbacks from 2008-10 by passing for 82 touchdowns against 33 interceptions. In the last two seasons, the numbers regressed to 53 touchdowns and 47 turnovers (35 interceptions, 12 lost fumbles).

Rivers has completed 73.9 percent of his passes for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns over San Diego’s first four games. Just as impressive is he has thrown just two interceptions in 142 pass attempts and no longer resembles the turnover machine he was in Turner’s last two seasons.

As the talent of the offensive personnel digressed and Turner kept running the same plays in the same formations that defensive coordinators had repeatedly seen for years, Rivers’ production suffered. We learned that he was incapable of carrying a team and it seemed that Turner wasn’t getting the message – partly because of his lack of confidence in the running game behind underachieving Ryan Mathews.

But funny how McCoy and staff can come in with different philosophies and ideas and here we see Rivers flourishing again. He’s putting up the big numbers despite projected starting receivers Danario Alexander (knee) and Malcom Floyd (neck) done for the season.

Tight end Antonio Gates is playing well so far, Eddie Royal is bouncing back from a poor 2012 campaign and free-agent acquisition Danny Woodhead is supplying the backfield receiving threat that has been missing since Darren Sproles was allowed to leave.

Dang, just imagine if the Chargers hadn’t mistakenly let Vincent Jackson walk too.

We’ll see what happens with Rivers as the season progress. There is a lot of football to be played and the Chargers have yet to see either of their fast-charging AFC West rivals in the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

But through four games, Rivers has been terrific. He’s been so good that he has single-handedly made the Chargers fun to watch again.

Well, at least for those who can stay up late and watch the contest.