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Chargers seek greatness, learn how to win ugly

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  • Chargers seek greatness, learn how to win ugly

    Jarret Johnson says you don't get style points for picture-perfect victories.

    Well-executed or ragged, they all count the same in the win column. And after back-to-back dominating performances at home in wins over Jacksonville and the New York Jets, the San Diego Chargers found a way to win, 31-28, in a dogfight with AFC West rival Oakland on Sunday at Coliseum.

    For Johnson, winning ugly is a mark of a good team that hopes to be great at the end of the season -- when it matters most.

    "Games like this happen all the time," the San Diego linebacker said. "I'm not going to sit here and say we're a great team, because we're not a great team yet. But it happens to every team, and the good teams are the ones that figure out a way to win them."

    The Chargers were not at their best on Sunday against an Oakland squad coming off of a bye with a new head coach, desperate to earn its first win of 2014.

    San Diego's defense allowed rookie quarterback Derek Carr to throw for 282 yards and four touchdowns. The Chargers didn't sack Carr once.

    The Raiders ran for 114 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. San Diego trailed 28-21 with 10 minutes left in the game, but it never felt like it was going to let slip away.

    "Obviously getting the win is the biggest thing," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But when you win games like this, it gives you confidence in other close games."

    That feeling of not letting one slip away for San Diego starts with the efficient play of Rivers. He led the Chargers on a nine-play, 68-yard drive that Nick Novak capped with a 30-yard field goal, closing Oakland's lead to 28-24.

    "We felt pretty confident because Philip's been playing well all season," Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget said. "The only thing we had to do is get out there and stop them."

    They did. On the ensuing possession, San Diego's defense forced a three-and-out. And Keenan Allen gave his offense good field position with a 29-yard punt return.

    San Diego's offense took over at Oakland's 39-yard line with 4:43 left, needing a touchdown for the victory.

    That's when the rookies took over.

    After a 3-yard pass to Allen and a 7-yard scramble for a first down by Rivers, Branden Oliver ran the ball on the final three plays, including a 1-yard dive over a pile of Oakland would-be tacklers at the goal line for the winning score with two minutes left.

    On Oakland's final possession, rookie pass-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu appeared to sack and strip Carr of the football. Attaochu recovered the fumble at Oakland's 10-yard line. However, the Georgia Tech product was called for a facemask on the play trying to tackle Carr, giving the Raiders new life.

    Carr promptly drove his offense to within easy range of a Sebastian Janikowski game-tying field goal at San Diego's 45-yard line.

    However, Carr wanted the win. He threw deep to Brice Butler, and Chargers rookie cornerback Jason Verrett picked the ball off to seal the victory.

    It was a great moment for Verrett, who grew up rooting for the Raiders as a native of Fairfield, California.

    "It was cool seeing our rookies make big plays," Johnson said. "Even though Jerry got that penalty, that was a hell of a play. He just happened to swipe his face mask when he was going for the ball.

    "But then you turn around and our other rookie [Verrett] makes the big play and closes the game out."

    Winners of five straight, the Chargers don't care how it gets done. Like their coach, San Diego just cares about results.

    "The great thing is we found a way to win at the end," Mike McCoy said. "That's the only thing that matters in this business, is finding a way every Sunday -- or whatever day we're playing -- to win. It's not always going to be perfect."