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Chargers happy to be 4-1 without playing their best football

SAN DIEGO -- Relegated to mere afterthoughts in the Tim Tebow saga even though they won, the San Diego Chargers issued no apologies for the way they've earned a 4-1 start, their best in five seasons under Norv Turner.

The Chargers eased into their bye week on Monday, a day after escaping from Denver with a 29-24 win over the Broncos, who fell a desperation pass short of a big upset behind Tebow.

While the Broncos sort out their quarterback controversy, the Chargers continue to catch grief from many fans who expect a lot more from an offense that's supposed to be high-octane.

None of their wins have been overly convincing, coming against teams that are a combined 4-15. Philip Rivers had two more turnovers and their offense continues to bog down inside the opponents' 20-yard line. They scored just one touchdown on five trips inside the 20 at Denver, with Nick Novak kicking field goals the other four times.

"It hasn't been an easy 4-1 and I think that keeps you ... real critical of yourself and of different areas and allows you to know you've got areas to improve in because it hasn't just been a smooth few weeks," Rivers said Monday. "We've had to fight wins out and we haven't played necessarily great, but we've played good enough and certainly we know we can improve and get better, and we know we have to as the year progresses."

The Chargers keep reminding the fans that 4-1 is far better than the 2-3 record they had at this point in each of the last three seasons. Still, they know they have things to work on before getting four days off to relax and, in some cases, rehab.

The immediate concern is why the Chargers stumble in the red zone. Some people think the Bolts bog down because they've been without star tight end Antonio Gates for the last three games because of painful plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Turner said there's a chance Gates will return in time for the team's game against the New York Jets on Oct. 23.

Turner expects running backs Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews to be ready to go in two weeks after they were hurt at Denver. Mathews, who hurt a calf and a wrist, ran 24 times for a career-best 125 yards. Tolbert, who was held out after two hard hits, including one when his helmet came off, had five carries for 24 yards.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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