Tuesday December 6th, 2011

Ryan Mathews ran for 112 yards and one touchdown against the Jaguars on Monday. (US PRESSWIRE)

Look, this could go one of two ways:

Either San Diego's 38-14 blowout of the Jaguars on Monday night will go down as the spark that sends the Chargers on a furious run at the AFC West and serves as the starting point for Norv Turner's Last Stand.

Or somewhere in the next four weeks, San Diego will revert to the form that had it on a six-game losing streak prior to Week 13. In that case, this forgettable Monday night matchup will fade from memory, quickly and deservedly.

Reports continue to swirl, to no one's surprise, that Turner's days in San Diego -- as well as those of GM A.J. Smith --  are numbered.

That's what happens when you enter a season with Super Bowl aspirations, then find yourself in last place in December. Blame it on the Chargers' brutal rash of injuries, if you want, or on a disappointing season from Philip Rivers. When things go this inexplicably wrong, huge changes become a necessity.

The only thing that might -- and I stress, might -- save Turner now is one of his patented late-season bursts. Maybe Monday night was the launching point for that.

Color me skeptical, though.

If San Diego's situation was dire heading into Jacksonville, then the Jaguars' was beyond repair. They entered Monday with a 3-8 record, a new coach, a new owner, a lethargic fan base and a secondary filled with names that belong on a practice squad roster.

Oh yeah, and a struggling rookie quarterback. Blaine Gabbert's first year in the NFL has not gone exactly according to plan, and he took the brunt of the criticism from "Monday Night Football" analysts Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden, who railed on him being scared in the pocket and unable to make quick reads or deep throws.

A loss against that Jacksonville team would have been the harshest indictment yet against Turner.

In a lot of ways, San Diego's win still could stand as evidence of Turner's failing this year. Even with the line in front of him decimated by injuries, Rivers threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in a clinical performance, getting Malcolm Floyd, Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates all up over 70 yards receiving on the night. Ryan Mathews ran for 112 yards on just 13 carries, Mike Tolbert chipped in a bruising touchdown run. The defense came with constant pressure.

It was one of those games that makes you pause, look at the standings and utter that always-frustrating "Where has this been?" question aloud.

"We just pulled together and tried to get a win," Chargers running back Mike Tolbert told the NFL Network after the game. "We forgot about the past and tried to move on. ...

"As long as Philip is ahead of us, I'm always a believer in our team. We've done it before ... and hopefully we can keep rolling and rolling."

Of course, all the evidence from San Diego's first 11 games suggests that this performance was nothing more than a flash in the pan -- a result of the reeling Chargers somehow finding a team in worse shape that they were.

For Monday night's win to mean anything, the Chargers have to do this again next week against Buffalo. Then again against Baltimore. And at Detroit. And at Oakland.

Does Turner have enough left to inspire that kind of run? Is San Diego even remotely capable of sustaining its momentum for the rest of the season?

If not, then Turner won't be around next season and the Chargers will be stuck in complete rebuilding mode, right alongside the Jaguars.

At the very least, for now, San Diego has a little life. The same cannot be said for Jacksonville, which could not look further from developing into a competitive threat in the AFC.

Between now and the 2012 season, the Jaguars have to find a new coach and have to pass some judgment on Gabbert -- with each passing week, he looks less and less like a player Jacksonville will want to commit its entire future to.

For all the distractions the Jaguars faced this week, Monday provided them a chance to take the national stage and give their fans a glimmer of hope. Instead, they were run out of the building by the Chargers, who are treading water.

But San Diego showed some signs of life Monday night, however faint they may be.

There are four weeks left for the Chargers to turn it all around, get back in the AFC West title picture and give Turner a fighting chance to save his job. Either this win over the Jaguars was just one mediocre team defeating another or it was the start of an out-of-nowhere Chargers charge. It's up to the embattled Turner and his underachieving team to prove the latter true.

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