In both games, the Chargers drove for a field goal at the end of the second quarter, expertly working the clock. Then this past Sunday in a road contest against the Ravens, facing a 30-20 deficit with 6:03 remaining, the Chargers put together an impressive comeback filled with clutch plays on both sides of the ball when the margin for error was thin.
Summing up the victory, Chargers coach Mike McCoy said, "The way we played situational football was outstanding."
Even the terminology spoken by McCoy sounds Patriots-like, and it's not a coincidence. The second-year coach spent two years under Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator with the Broncos (2009-2010), so he's well-versed in how coaches groomed in the Patriots' system take great pride in their teams being well-schooled in "situational football."
When asked Monday about his time with McDaniels, McCoy said it was an important part of his coaching development, citing McDaniels' knack for making in-game adjustments and exposing an opponent's weaknesses.
"Josh is an outstanding football coach. I learned so much, a different way to approach things when I was in Denver with Josh -- the situational football things that stuck with me, and a number of other things philosophically," McCoy said. "It's one of the reasons I'm here today."
For more of the Chargers, below is our weekly primer:
Head coach: Mike McCoy (2nd year)
Offensive coordinator: Frank Reich
Defensive coordinator: John Pagano
Special teams: Kevin Spencer
General manager: Tom Telesco
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Philip Rivers. The 32-year-old has been one of the NFL's toughest, most durable quarterbacks since taking over as a starter in 2006, and he is completing 69.1 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. "Whenever you have a quarterback like Philip on your football team, as long as there is time left on the clock, you have a chance to win," McCoy said.
2. WR Keenan Allen. The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Allen, the ESPNBoston.com mock draft pick for the Patriots in 2013, has produced quickly for the Chargers since being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft and one thing that stands out is how he comes through in the clutch. In Sunday's comeback win over the Ravens, this was his production on the final two drives as the Chargers rallied to win: terrific catches of 18 and 23 yards, drawing a key holding penalty, running a pick route to set up the winning touchdown, and other catches of 14, 12 and 7 yards. He teams with lengthy vertical threat Malcom Floyd (6-5, 225) and slot man Eddie Royal (5-10, 185) to form a solid trio at receiver.
3. TE Antonio Gates. It seems fair to say that the 34-year-old Gates doesn't run as well as he once did, but throw it in his direction, and chances are he's coming down with it. He has 47 catches for 574 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. DE/OLB Dwight Freeney. The longtime Indianapolis Colt who was once referred to by Tom Brady as the game's most intimidating player doesn't wreak the same level of havoc as he once did. But a two-play sequence against the Rams on Nov. 23 highlighted how he's still a factor -- he drew a holding penalty (3:31 first quarter) and then was penalized for roughing the passer on the next play (2:56). He also had a spin move on a rush against the Ravens on Sunday (2:00, second quarter) that caught the eye. The 34-year-old Freeney usually lines up on the defensive right side and in 12 games this season (9 starts), he has two sacks.
2. S Eric Weddle. One of the top players at his position in the NFL, he entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2007. An aggressive blitzer who also shows good range when playing in the deep part of the field, he is also one of the team's leaders.
3. DE Kendall Reyes. The UConn alum who grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, was selected by the Chargers in the second round of 2012 and has been a full-time starter the last two seasons. He joins running back Donald Brown as former Huskies on the Chargers' roster, and plays with a non-stop motor.
Extra points: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Patriots (36-4) and Chargers (32-9) have the best records in the NFL in December over the past 10 seasons. ... Quite a bit of turnover at the center position, where the Chargers have played with five different players this year, as rookie Chris Watt (Notre Dame) is the latest in the pivot. The O-line, anchored by 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker at right tackle, appears to be a weakness. ... Linebacker Manti Te'o, the 2013 second-round draft choice out of Notre Dame who entered the NFL with much hype, has had a relatively quiet start to his career. This year, he's played in six games, with three starts. ... The Chargers had an issue with one of the play clocks in their last home game, and the play clocks were shut down by officials, with that time kept on the field. ... Running back Danny Woodhead was placed on season-ending injured reserve after breaking his tibia on Sept. 21. ... Top running back Ryan Mathews missed seven games with a knee sprain, but returned Nov. 16 against the Raiders and has been eased back into the mix (14-yard TD vs. Ravens on Sunday). ... Undrafted free agent Branden Oliver (5-7, 208), who wears Darren Sproles' old No. 43, created a spark in relief of Mathews but has cooled a bit of late. The media-based connections made between the two were inevitable. ... Like the Patriots had a tough night in Kansas City on Sept. 29, the Chargers had their one dud in a 37-0 loss at Miami on Nov. 2. ... Kevin Spencer, the special teams coach, says he wouldn't be coaching in the NFL if it wasn't for Bill Belichick. ... They blocked a field goal against the Rams on Nov. 23. ... ESPN's Eric Williams has the Chargers covered.