The San Diego Chargers have been one of the NFL’s best second-half teams over the previous four seasons, leading to as many division titles over that stretch.
They will need to put together a similar run to get back into the playoff picture.
The Chargers look to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they go for their fourth victory in as many tries against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
San Diego’s run of four consecutive AFC West titles could be in jeopardy after a slow start. However, the Chargers (3-5) gave themselves some life with a 33-25 win over Tennessee last Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.
Between 2006-09, San Diego had the third-best winning percentage in the NFL during November, going 12-5, and it’s been even better in December with an 18-0 mark.
The Chargers don’t have to look too far back to see it is possible to recover from a 3-5 start. In 2008, they had three wins at the midway point but went on to finish 8-8. However, a .500 record might not be enough to reach the playoffs this season with 5-2 Kansas City and 4-4 Oakland already ahead of them.
“All it did was get us to 3-5,” Rivers said. “With the approach we had last week and the preparation, if we can duplicate that this week and try to go win another game, then we get to the bye.
“And obviously it won’t be where we wish we were or we had planned to be at the bye, but certainly we’ll be headed in the right direction.”
Rivers had another outstanding game last weekend and he’ll look to replicate that performance against a Houston team that ranks last in the NFL against the pass, giving up 299.4 yards per game. Rivers went 27 of 36 for 305 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans, helping the Chargers rally from a 19-14 halftime deficit.
He is leading the NFL with 2,649 passing yards and is on pace to break Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 set in 1984.
“He’s in a groove right now. Hopefully we can keep him in it,” left tackle Marcus McNeill(notes) said. “Just his character as a leader and his competitiveness is probably second to none in the NFL … He can take us where we want to go.”
Rivers will pose another big challenge for the Texans (4-3), who are trying to rebound on a short week after a 30-17 loss to Peyton Manning(notes) and Indianapolis on Monday night. Despite Arian Foster(notes) rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown while adding 65 receiving yards, Houston couldn’t overcome a slow first half.
The Texans were 0 for 6 on third down in the half and trailed 17-3 at the break. Matt Schaub(notes) was sacked three times and threw an interception as Houston dropped into third place in the AFC South.
“The first half we didn’t play the type of football we normally play,” said Andre Johnson(notes), who had seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. “We never really got into a rhythm in the first half because I think everybody was taking turns making mistakes. I think it was just mental lapses at times, and when you have those, you don’t win.”
It’s not the kind of performance Houston was looking for as it prepares to take on San Diego’s top-ranked defense. Despite their record, the Chargers are allowing 278.4 yards per game and have had two opponents rush for more than 100, which could make it difficult for Foster - averaging 105.3 yards - to put up big numbers.
The Texans had scored 30 or more points in four of their first six games, but they continue to do most of their damage in the second half. Houston ranks 31st in the NFL in points scored in the first half with 50 compared to a league-leading 120 in the second.
“I’m looking hard at that and come up with a reason or try to see what we may do differently or take a look at some of those things as we move forward,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “But we have been poor early in games.”
The Chargers have won all three meetings against the Texans, taking the last matchup 35-10 in San Diego in 2007 as Rivers went 7 of 11 for 130 yards and three touchdowns.