SAN DIEGO - Vincent Jackson reminded the San Diego Chargers just what they missed during a nasty contract dispute.

Jackson had a career-high three touchdown catches, Philip Rivers surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the third straight season and the Chargers beat Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers last night, 34-7, to stay alive in the AFC West race.

The Chargers (8-6) pulled within a half-game of AFC West leader Kansas City (8-5), which lost at San Diego on Sunday, 31-0.

San Francisco was probably the toughest test left for the Chargers, who finish with games at Cincinnati (2-11) and Denver (3-10). If San Diego wins out and the Chiefs lose once, the Chargers will win their fifth straight division title.

The Chargers came within 4:26 of having consecutive shutouts for the first time in their 51-year history.

Jackson had his first three TD grabs of the season, of 58, 11 and 21 yards. Jackson missed the first 10 games due to a bitter contract dispute.

The 49ers (5-9) could wind up 7-9 and in a three-way tie and still win the NFC West, the NFL's weakest division.

Before the game, San Diego waived rookie running back Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley, a West Catholic High graduate who played collegiately at Syracuse. Brinkley was waived when the Chargers signed linebackers Darry Beckwith and Brandon Lang from the practice squad.