As the Dolphins game proved earlier this season, any time the Chargers defense can start getting turnovers the game becomes very easy for San Diego. The offense typically turns those turnovers into seven points, and the fear of doing it again plays right into Ron Rivera's hands.
True, the first matchup against the Chiefs was a more dominating one for the Chargers. At least in this game the Chiefs offense showed some spirit (in the form of Jamaal Charles and Chris Chambers). What's different in this victory against other recent ones is that instead of a full team effort of greatness, the Chargers really won on the back of some big individual performances. That should make this week's Bolts & Dolts a little more interesting.
Philip Rivers - 21/28, 317 yds, 2 TD. This six game winstreak for the Chargers has had a few games mixed in where Philip didn't have to win the game himself, and it's allowed him to be smarter and more efficient. Because of that, his QB rating for the season has been getting better each week. After yesterday's game, he has the 5th best QB rating in the NFL. Just below Peyton Manning and just above Tom Brady.
Antonio Gates - 7 catches, 118 yds, 2 TD. Remember a few weeks ago when Antonio was dropping big passes and everyone was talking about how he needed to work on his hands? His 7 catches, including a one-handed one for the first TD of the game, came off of 7 throws his way. An absolutely perfect, dominant game by Antonio Gates. (Random Sidenote: I was thinking this week. Antonio Gates was a Center at Kent State and everyone makes it seem like he was crazy for pursuing football instead of basketball. He's 6'4"! He's shorter than Michael Jordon (6'6") and significantly short than LeBron James. With his height, he'd have to become a shooting guard or somehow figure out how to become Charles Barkley. Football was the right move then and it is certainly the right move now for any short basketball player.)
Malcom Floyd - 3 catches, 85 yds. These numbers would be even better if he had not dropped that easy pass at around the Chiefs 10, and also if he had landed in the end zone instead of on the one yard line. Vincent Jackson was blanketed all game, and Floyd stepped up to become "the man" on third downs and down the field.
Offensive Line. Zero sacks allowed and it wasn't even close. That's the way to win football games. The running game wasn't as good as it was against Denver, but it was good enough to pick up key first downs. Also, Jacob Hester didn't help matters by falling forward every time he got the ball.
Brandon Siler - 9 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery. It's funny how many moving parts this defense has. If the opposing offense is one that loves to throw the ball (like the Broncos), Kevin Burnett and Paul Oliver will see a ton of time. If it's one that prefers to run the ball (like the Raiders), Brandon Siler and Kevin Ellison will get more time. Those are just two examples of switches in starters/personnel that happen based on the team the Chargers are going up against. I like that.
Anyways, Siler is proving himself to be a beast against the run (as expected) and good enough in coverage to be on the field in non-goal line situations. This game, in which the Chiefs were trying to ride Jamaal Charles to victory, showed that Siler is probably the best ILB on the team at blowing up a run play.
Quentin Jammer - 5 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble. I'm glad to see the hit he took in the Broncos game hasn't slowed Jammer down. He played his typical good coverage, got the interception when it was there for the taking and forced a fumble with his exceptional tackling. While there may be better coverage CBs around the league, I doubt there is another CB as complete as Quentin.
Paul Oliver/Larry English - 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 defensive TD. I said it earlier this year, when I began to worry about English's lack of production. Teams that have good seasons and are strong in the playoffs are ones that get contributions from their role players. Oliver and English are good players, but at the moment they're playing only according to their specific roles. Oliver filled in for the injured Eric Weddle without much drop-off (that's a huge compliment) and English was pestering Matt Cassel all game, before and after he beat him to the fumbled snap.
Nate Kaeding - 2/2 FGs (longest: 55 yds), 5/5 XPs. Simply put, the best FG kicker in the NFL when you're within 50 yards of the goal post. Not resting on his laurels, Kaeding has definitely improved this season at kickoffs and long FGs.
Jacob Hester - 3 carries, 3 rush yds, 1 catch, 3 rec yds. Everybody who was complaining about Darren Sproles getting all of the fourth quarter carries, listen up. Those carries should've been Jacob Hester's. Is he the starting FB? Not really. Is he the best Special Teams player on the team? Nope, 2nd or 3rd best. Mike Tolbert couldn't have taken every carry, because that would be risking injury to a player just as important as LT or Rivers. His 4 carries for 19 yards was fine. It was Hester, and his 1 YPC, that forced Norv Turner to try running the ball with Darren Sproles instead.
You could argue that, heading into a potential blowout, Michael Bennett should've been active for this role. You're probably right, but I imagine the coaching staff had some faith in Hester getting it done since he did it last week.
Also, I should note that Hester was almost a Special Teams Bolt this week, as he usually is.
Darren Sproles - 9 carries, 17 rush yds, 5 catches, 66 rec yds. This is a Dolt for his return bobbling/fumbling again. In B&D, players get rewarded for improving and fixing their flaws. This is a flaw that is not getting any better. If anything, it's getting worse. Also, the Chargers need to give up running Sproles. It's no use. Pretend he's Terrell Fletcher, use him only on 3rd downs and only as a blocker/receiver. 9 carries for 17 yards is ridiculous, when you think of the type of runner he is.
There are no defensive Dolts this week.
Mike Tolbert - I know eventually I'm going to have to start expecting it, but every time Tolbert catches a few balls for some yards and runs the ball better than anyone else on the team I'm surprised. What a tremendous player, and an incredible find for AJ Smith.
LaDainian Tomlinson - This is not for stats. This isn't for the fumble, the two touchdowns or the 3 YPC. This is because LT is looking better than he did earlier in the season, and is taking what the defense gives him. This is the "smart runner" that I talked about earlier this season. LT running smart, plus plenty of rest (only 14 touches!) should equal a more successful playoff experience for him.
Time of Possession - Usually, when a team struggles to run the ball and wins because of turnovers, they lose the time of possession battle. The Chargers won the TOP battle by more than 10 minutes! This offense is capable of doing whatever they want right now. Need a big play? There it is. Need a long drive to rest the defense? Sure thing.
James Holt - Welcome to the league, kid.
Shaun Phillips - That guy sure knows how to fill up a stat-sheet. He's been really good against the run. Unfortunately, you can see the dip in his pass-rush whenever Shawne Merriman is out of the game.
Vincent Jackson - I don't think it took this long for teams to gameplan for stopping VJ, but apparently somebody somewhere came up with one that works. He's been held without a TD for 3 straight games, and hasn't been over 100 receiving yards for 4 straight games. In yesterday's game there was at least one jump ball he lost that he probably would've gotten earlier this season. He has to figure out what the defense is doing and adjust.