The Chargers returned to work Monday hours after a stirring victory that suggested their season might not be dead, despite the persistent rumors.
Their 26-11 thumping of Green Bay was such a promising revival that they now are looking at perhaps the longest short week in NFL history.
“You always hear about players complaining about Thursday games, but I’m glad that it’s on Thursday,” Philip Rivers said. “Hopefully, we can ride this wave a little bit against a tough Oakland team at their place.”
The Chargers have only three days to recover before playing the Raiders at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
That’s not a lot of time to heal physically, especially for a team that lost two more starters — right tackle Sam Tevi and linebacker Denzel Perryman — to knee injuries Sunday.
But, mentally, the Chargers appear to be feeling so healthy, so renewed that they almost could have played Oakland as the back end of a day-night doubleheader.
And it’s not just Rivers, who, as a quarterback, isn’t typically subjected to the same pounding that comes at other positions. Against the Packers, Rivers was sacked twice and hit four other times.
“We’re coming off a hot win,” safety Jaylen Watkins said. “When you’re playing like that, you don’t want to come off the field. I agree with Philip. We’re anxious to get right back out there and perform again.”
And Watkins is a player who was shaken up Sunday and had to exit the game for a play.
With about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, he and Green Bay wide receiver Geronimo Allison collided so violently that they knocked the wind out of each other. Both remained down long after the whistle.
“Those things feel like death,” Watkins said Monday. “For about 45 seconds or a minute, you feel like it’s all over.”
The Chargers’ season appeared to be facing a similarly dire prognosis before they beat the Packers.
They still are faced with the prospect of having little to no room to lose again. But, by producing their first complete performance of the season and dominating an opponent that had been 7-1, the Chargers at least offered a slice of hope.
“As you could see, when you believe in the scheme and everybody does their job, that’s how it’s supposed to look,” Watkins said. “We still have an opportunity. We don’t want it to pass by.”
The Raiders figure to enter Thursday feeling pretty good about themselves, too. They beat Detroit on Sunday to improve to 4-4 by stopping the Lions on fourth down at the one-yard line in the final 10 seconds.
They will be enjoying their second consecutive home game after going seven weeks without playing in Oakland. And the night should be a party, the Raiders having only four games left in Northern California before relocating to Las Vegas.
Both teams will be looking to capitalize on whatever momentum can be parlayed from dramatic victories on Sunday.
“We’re going to find out,” running back Melvin Gordon said when asked if the Green Bay win could propel the Chargers to bigger things. “Hopefully, we can build on top of what we’ve started and continue to keep stacking those W’s.”
The Chargers (4-5) have won two games in a row after dropping five of six. They are experiencing their first winning streak in a season that was forecast to go much smoother than this.
But a series of long-term injuries to key contributors and a general lack of execution have helped derail their plans of contending in the AFC. Today, they find themselves scrambling just to remain in sight.
“For whatever reason, we do better when the Chargers don’t have a chance,” Rivers said. “I don’t know why. I wish we did better when everybody thought we were good, like they thought when we were going into [this] season.”
After the victory over Green Bay, the Chargers at least are back on their feet, if not completely back on track.
Now, they’ll face an AFC West rival in the same basic position, both these teams fighting to have a meaningful second half of the season.
“After what we’ve been through so far, I think we all want to get back out on the field,” Watkins said. “We need to try to keep this thing rolling and see what we can do.”
Coach Anthony Lynn had no update on either Tevi or Perryman. He did say he was “hopeful” starting defensive tackles Brandon Mebane (knee) and Justin Jones (shoulder) could return Thursday.
The Chargers didn’t practice Monday but, per league rules, had to release an estimated injury report. The only unexpected addition was running back Justin Jackson, who was listed as having a calf injury.
Jackson missed five games because of a calf injury before coming back Sunday to play on offense and special teams.