Their beloved Bolts are in the lead, at 3-1, after beating the winless Miami Dolphins 26-16 on Sunday.
It’s a big change from Norv Turner’s first four seasons as coach, when slow starts agitated the fans. The Bolts were 1-3 at this point in Turner’s first season, 2007, then had three straight 2-2 starts.
“The only thing faster would be 4-0,” said Philip Rivers, who was 21 of 31 for 307 yards and one touchdown. “It’s a little faster than it has been around here. It’s usually a flip of 3-1.”
The Chargers have done it with workmanlike performances, not exactly the flash and dash fans might expect from such a high-powered offense.
Mike Tolbert ran for San Diego’s other score, and the Chargers knocked out Miami quarterback Chad Henne.
The Chargers have scored only two touchdowns in each of their last two games, both against teams that were winless at the time. Against the Dolphins, they got four field goals from Nick Novak, from 27, 48, 23 and 38 yards.
“We’re 3-1. We did enough to win,” Rivers said. “I care about winning. Had we been in a game today where four field goals wouldn’t have been enough, then maybe I’d be saying we ought to get touchdowns, but we did enough to win the game.”
The Chargers have a one-game lead in the AFC West over Oakland, which lost to New England.
“Everybody seems to think we can’t start fast,” Tolbert said. “But no matter how we win, how ugly it is, we’re 3-1. We’re on a good pace right now. We’re trying to keep momentum going.
“As long as you win, the style points really don’t count. We don’t care about style.”
They didn’t need to in a game in which the teams combined for three touchdowns and seven field goals.
“We’re finding ways to win,” said safety Eric Weddle, who had another late-game interception. “If that’s all you can say about us, then that’s a good thing to say.”
Turner was impressed with his team’s effort.
“There wasn’t anything ‘blah-blah’ about anyone on our side,” the coach said.
Henne hurt his left shoulder at the end of a run on a broken play on the Dolphins’ second possession and didn’t return. Although backup Matt Moore led the Dolphins to the game’s first TD, Rivers’ passing eventually overpowered Miami (0-4).
Rivers threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson to tie the game at 7 late in the first quarter. Ryan Mathews’ 42-yard gain on a screen pass set up Tolbert’s 1-yard leap over the pile for a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Rivers took a knee three times inside the Dolphins’ 20-yard line to end the game.
“One thing that has been nice about all three of our wins is we took a knee at the end of the game,” Rivers said. “A lot of guys will say that’s the best formation in football.”
Jackson, who was in and out of the game with a muscle strain in his leg, had three catches for 108 yards. Mathews had another solid day, running 16 times for 81 yards and catching five passes for 68 yards.
Henne and Moore were each intercepted once.
“Everybody is going to wish they had some plays back,” Moore said.
Chargers star tight end Antonio Gates missed his second straight game with a sore right foot, an injury that’s bothered him since last season.
Henne was hurt at the end of a 1-yard run in the first quarter. He went to hand off to Lex Hilliard, who wasn’t ready for the ball. Henne was hit by Shaun Phillips and stayed on the ground for a few minutes. He walked off the field, then went into the locker room. When he came back out to the sideline, it was clear he wasn’t going back in.
“I wanted to see how it felt, but the risk was too heavy to do,” Henne said. “Doctors will let me throw tomorrow, we’ll get some more tests done, see how my strength is.”
Henne said it was a checkdown to a run and there were “missed communications with the running back. Injuries happen. I’ll bounce back.”
Moore came in and completed a 31-yard pass to Charles Clay. Hilliard capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run, but it was overturned after replay, with the officials saying his knee was down inside the 1-yard line. Hilliard then dove over the pile to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.
Rivers needed three plays to tie it. After consecutive first downs, he lobbed the 55-yarder to Jackson, who dived to make the catch, then got up before a Dolphins defender could touch him, and scooted into the end zone.
Reggie Bush, playing as a pro in his hometown for the first time, ran 13 times for 50 yards and caught two passes for 15 yards.
Miami’s Dan Carpenter kicked field goals of 41, 37 and 51 yards.
Notes: The game was blacked out in Southern California. … The PA announcer referred to Bush as “Reggie Jackson” after a carry late in the first quarter. … San Diego’s Larry English had two sacks. … Rookie CB Marcus Gilchrist, making his first start in place of injured Quentin Jammer, intercepted Henne.