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

The Chargers (8-6) pulled within a half-game of division leader Kansas City (8-5), which lost, 31-0, at San Diego on Sunday. The Chargers came within 4 minutes, 26 seconds of having consecutive shutouts for the first time in their 51-year history.

Jackson had his first three TD grabs of the season - 58, 11, and 21 yards. Jackson missed the first 10 games because of 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.

Cassel still iffy. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was limited in practice and his availability for Sunday's game at St. Louis remained unclear.

Cassel underwent an emergency appendectomy Dec. 8. He missed last week's game at San Diego.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley said Cassel and backup Brodie Croyle were both being prepared as possible starters against the Rams.

McCoy gets the call. Stepping way out of character, Browns coach Eric Mangini named Colt McCoy his starting quarterback for this week's game at Cincinnati and for the remainder of this season - home games against AFC North big boys Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

McCoy, who hasn't played since spraining his left ankle on Nov. 21 at Jacksonville, has been entrusted with Cleveland's offense for three games that could determine Mangini's future.

Steeler in doubt. Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller missed practice with an exercise-related headache, putting his status for Sunday's game against the Jets in question.

Miller suffered a concussion Dec. 5 against Baltimore, causing him to miss last week's game against Cincinnati. Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain was fined $40,000 for the helmet hit.

Miller was cleared to resume practicing and did so Wednesday, only to be held out of Thursday's practice.

Favre soldiers on. Brett Favre says he's committed to finishing the season with the Minnesota Vikings - even if he can't play.

Favre said Thursday that he was unsure if his sprained shoulder and hand numbness would heal in time for him to play another game. The Vikings (5-8) have three games left.

Favre said he was not concerned about playing one more game before he retires. He said he considered this entire season his last hurrah and didn't regret coming back for a 20th season despite the injuries and struggles he has endured.

Favre says he was supportive of giving rookie Joe Webb time to develop by playing in his place.

The Vikings placed Tarvaris Jackson on injured reserve and signed Patrick Ramsey.

Revis is hobbled. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was limited at practice by "a little soreness" in his right hamstring, but expects to play in the team's game at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Coach Rex Ryan said Revis was an addition to the injury report "that's more precautionary." Revis missed two games earlier this season after straining his left hamstring.

Ryan also said he would start cornerback Dwight Lowery at safety. New York is thin at the position with Eric Smith sitting with a concussion and Jim Leonhard out for the year with a broken shin.

Sideline rules. The NFL sent a letter to the 32 teams reminding them of the rules and restrictions for the bench area and sidelines.

The letter emphasized the responsibilities placed on each team to appoint a "get-back coach" to ensure that players, coaches, and other staff are in compliance with league rules.

The letter was sent in the wake of Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi's being suspended indefinitely and fined $25,000 by the team for sticking out his knee and tripping Miami's Nolan Carroll in Sunday's game.