The calendar has flipped to December and the Chargers are no longer flops.
“We have a chance to get to 6-6,’’ Philip Rivers said.
The Southern man with the accurate right arm was once again on target. While leveling the books hardly seems like a cause for cartwheels, it’s about all the Chargers have right now.
Along with a helping of hope.
The Chargers and embattled coach Mike McCoy were left for dead. A month ago the last-place Chargers were careening toward another pileup, sitting at 3-5 and McCoy was a goner.
But come Sunday against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chargers are riding as high as an AFC West cellar-dweller can. They’ve won two of their past three games and are two back of the final AFC playoff spot with five outings remaining.
Can the Chargers do what is required to reach the postseason? Can they win out and hope others fall out as the weather turns and squads go from contenders to pretenders?
But after the Chargers lost four of their first five, reaching December even being in the playoff conversation was a stretch of epic proportion.
So too, possibly, that the Chargers have a chance. It’s more likely the Chargers will continue to be challenged to play 60 minutes of winning football and will miss the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
Then again, the Bolts have become a tough out. Rivals don’t like seeing their uniforms almost as much as Padres fans deplore their baseball squad’s new duds.
The Chargers are explosive on both sides of the ball.
Rivers is Rivers and someday his detractors will reflect fondly on his production. Eleven more touchdown passes and he matches his career-high of 34 set in 2008.
Melvin Gordon is one of the NFL’s top rushers, among the leaders in touchdowns and yards. Rivers hasn’t had a complementary piece like Gordon since at least the Ryan Mathews era and more pointedly, not since LaDainian Tomlinson’s salad days.
But it’s not just the offense that drives the Chargers.
The defense bends and breaks and that’s why its ranked No. 19.
But it also pummels and picks, which is why it’s collected 23 takeaways, second by one only to the Chiefs. Interceptions? The Bolts rule the roost with 14 as Casey Hayward tops the league with six.
Rookie Joey Bosa? The former Buckeye has gone at ball carriers as if they wore a bull’s eye.
All of this makes Sunday’s game big for an organization that has had few victories on or off the field. The Chargers, smarting from being denied taxpayer dough for a new stadium, could point the moving vans toward Los Angeles by mid-January.
But that’s news for another month. For this one, enjoy the stretch drive, which few envisioned during the early season’s rough stretch of highway.
“We got a chance to go back to 6-6 and set the stage for what we want to do,’’ Rivers said.
The Chargers might still exit stage left. But first comes the final five games, with the Bolts and McCoy remaining relevant in San Diego.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Read his book, “Game of My Life Chargers,” available at local bookstores and at amazon.com.