San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner gestures for a face mask against the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium on December 18, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated the Ravens 34-14.
Norv Turner stood strong behind the San Diego Chargers media podium Sunday night, wearing an all-business expression while discussing the short week ahead.
Game plan. Practice. Thursday flight to Detroit. Face a talented team on Christmas Eve.
Then he was asked what this roller-coaster season has been like, and the head coach caved with a smile.
“For me?” Turner said with a pause, about to break a quiet room into laughter. “It's just been a ball.”
The resilient Chargers and their coach are back from the dead of a six-game losing streak, shocking the stout Baltimore Ravens 34-14 at Snapdragon Stadium in the latest emphatic victory from the latest December surge.
The Chargers have outscored opponents 109-38 during a three-game winning streak that has them one game back in the double-dipped race for an AFC West title or wild-card berth.
Three weeks ago, their season teetered on the brink. Their head coach seemed, like their playoff chances, all but finished. Their general manager, given draft misses and exposed lack of depth at key injury-torn positions, was potentially not far behind.
But something is happening.
Wide receiver Malcom Floyd and guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green returned to health, left tackle Jared Gaither signed and valiantly replaced Marcus McNeill, as tight end Antonio Gates continued to get stronger.
More time and weapons for quarterback Philip Rivers have brought a second life.
Against a 10-win foe considered as tough as any in the NFL, the Chargers scored on their first five possessions while the defense notched a season-high seven sacks, led by Antwan Barnes' career-high four.
The Baltimore defense entered the game allowing an NFL-low 4.4 yards per play. The Chargers averaged 6.9 and didn't punt once. Their 34 points were the most the Ravens allowed since Oct. 24, 2010.
As for Turner, he is still standing strong.
"Obviously, there are some guys that don't last long in terms of this position," Turner said. "Some guys have gone back to college because it's a grind. This thing is a grind. It's a good grind, particularly if you're going through it with the guys we have in our locker room because we have great people in our locker room. They've handled this.
"Obviously, we've all been in or seen groups that don't handle adversity well," Turner added. "This group has. That's the thing that means the most to me. The guys in our locker room believe, and they believe in what we're doing and what our coaches are doing. The coaches believe in them. When you have that, you have a chance."
In the division, the Chargers, from 4-7 to 7-7, are tied with the Oakland Raiders one game back of the 8-6 Denver Broncos. They are in a three-way tie with the Raiders and Tennessee Titans at one game behind the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals.
They didn't turn the ball over Sunday night. In the past three games, they've won the turnover margin 9-1. Running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert combined for 34 carries for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
"There are a lot of 4-7 teams that throw in the towel, and I give credit first to Norv," said Rivers, who followed Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record 4,000 passing yards in four straight seasons. "It's the way he goes about it, the way he coaches us, and the way the players believe in him.
"Then it's the guys that have stuck together and won three in a row and got back to .500. It says a lot about our character."
Said tight end Randy McMichael: "I think it just boils down to how much we love each other, how much we really, really do enjoy playing with each other."