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San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers drops back to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 5, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. He finished with 294 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 win.
The San Diego Chargers have needed their backups all season, picked apart by injury like teenagers in a Final Destination sequel.
In the fourth quarter Monday night, they summoned the reserves again: Billy Volek for Philip Rivers; Kory Sperry for Antonio Gates. Stephen Schilling. Colin Baxter. Richard Goodman. What a troubling sight.
Wait. What's that?
A victory formation?
Mired in a six-game losing streak and trailing late in the first half, the Chargers breathed life at last into a dying season, scoring twice in 70 seconds to spark a run of 28 unanswered points in a 38-14 stampede of the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.
It was their first win since Oct. 9 in Denver — a span of 57 days.
The Chargers offensive line, anchored by Jared Gaither, a left tackle signed off waivers Wednesday, and guards Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez, both coming off multi-week injuries, allowed Rivers to go unsacked for only the second time in the past 29 games.
With time, Rivers looked every bit like the healthy quarterback he has insisted to be all along, shredding a depleted Jaguars secondary for 294 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 22-of-28 passing.
"He's just an oustanding player," coach Norv Turner said. "Like any quarterback, it starts with protection and the people up front. I think when you see Malcom Floyd go out there and do what he did today. He's missed Malcom. We've missed Malcom. When Philip has all his guys and he can operate like he did today, he's as good as anybody."
To close the first half, Rivers found rookie wide receiver Vincent Brown working in single coverage against undrafted rookie cornerback Kevin Rutland, who made his first career start after only 36 career snaps. The 22-yard end-zone throw to Brown's inside shoulder pulled the Chargers ahead 17-14 with 1:26 left.
Safety Eric Weddle sent the Chargers' two-minute offense back on the field, intercepting a tipped — and rather terrible — Blaine Gabbert pass in traffic, which cornerback Antoine Cason redirected.
Rivers needed three plays to go 59 yards, finding wide receiver Vincent Jackson in single coverage against cornerback Ashton Youbouty, active for just the fourth time this season. The 22-yard strike came with 16 seconds before the break, and between an upright Rivers, a healthy Floyd, a Ryan Mathews-led run game and anemic Jaguars passing attack, the Chargers coasted comfortably to victory.
They now stand at 5-7, two games back of the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders in the AFC West with four to go.
Has the Chargers' postseason life been saved? No. Not yet.
But for one night, it's been salvaged.
"There won't be any quit in us," said Rivers, who hit Floyd with a 52-yard touchdown in the third quarter. "There never has been. We'll see what happens."