A silver dog tag jangled loosely around Chargers tight end Randy McMichael's neck. His body ached from battle. His skin was bruised from collisions.
On his face, he sported a wall-to-wall smile.
“Man, I love to play football,” McMichael said after the team's 26-16 Sunday win over the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium. “I might not be able to walk Wednesday and Thursday, but as long as Sunday comes around, I'm going to be fine.”
The Chargers played without Antonio Gates, Quentin Jammer, Nate Kaeding and, for about half the game, Vincent Jackson.
But when they needed them most, there was McMichael, a time-tested veteran, Marcus Gilchrist, a rookie cornerback in his first career start, kicker Nick Novak, fresh out of the UFL, and rookie wide receiver Vincent Brown, who had no career NFL catches.
They stepped in and delivered, and they weren't alone, as the youth-infused Chargers found production from all sides to improve to 3-1, the franchise's fastest start in five years under coach ...