Across the hall from the locker room where he learned his team was still alive for a playoff berth, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers asked a question before immediately answering it.
“Are we a good team?” he asked. “I think we’re a good team.”
There’s evidence to suggest Rivers is actually right.
Sunday’s 14-7 win over the New York Jets was the Chargers’ eighth victory in their last 11 games. Despite being more talented than their opponents, the Chargers outlasted the Jets in a physical, grinding game that kept the door open on a wild-card berth.
The Chargers were plus-three in turnovers, the defense held the Jets to fewer than 300 yards of offense and the offense seamlessly integrated Antonio Gates back into a focal point of the attack.
But, in a problem that’s haunted the Chargers all season, they continued to do too many things that make you wonder if Rivers is too close to the situation to answer his question.
Would a good team commit five penalties on special teams? Would a good team get a 91-yard return overturned because of a hold? Would a good team sleepwalk through a game-starting onside kick?
Would a good team miss another field goal? Would a good team struggle to put points on the board against a defense that’s allowed an average of 30 points over its last four games? Would a good team not dominate a lesser opponent when everything was at stake?
These are tough questions to be answered, especially considering a win next week against Oakland would give them a winning 9-7 record — and with some luck, a playoff berth.
The Chargers’ two best wins this season came with major asterisks. They beat the Buffalo Bills when they stunningly decided to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman — a loss that could cost them a playoff spot. They won in Dallas on Thanksgiving with Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys’ best player, suspended.
Three trips into hostile territory ended with unforced errors and losses.
And despite all of that, the Chargers could still end up in the postseason. All they need is for Baltimore to beat Cincinnati and Jacksonville to win in Tennessee while they have to beat the fading Oakland Raiders.
It’s not crazy to think these outcomes could happen, and if it does, it could give us some answers.