The San Diego Chargers have moved to 3-0 in home games that are blacked out to the local television audience, meaning that many Charger fans have yet to see the team win a game this season.
The recipe for success in this game was not a complicated one. The offense and defense played as well as they have been playing all season, but the team as a whole made fewer (not none, just fewer) mistakes. There were no fumbles by the offense, and no kick or punt returns for touchdowns. Instead of mistakes losing the game for them, this week the Chargers' mistakes merely kept the Tennessee Titans within range to tie the game in the final minute.
Steve Crosby's Special Teams unit did nothing to quiet the people that want him fired. A blocked punt (which gave the Titans a Safety and an early 2-point lead) along with a botched PAT (which kept it as a one-score game late) and at least one big kick return showed off that Special Teams are still a big weakness on this team.
The two biggest factors to a Chargers victory were the Offensive Line, which kept Philip Rivers clean all day against the team that leads the league in sacks, and Mike Tolbert. Tolbert came alive at just the right time, and turned an almost terrible situation (Rivers INT returned for a TD, called back for Defensive Holding) in a giant shift in momentum when he followed it up with a 36 yard run that then freed up Antonio Gates for a 48 yard touchdown reception. Oh, and Philip Rivers and Gates are MVPs of course … but they are MVPs in every Chargers game.
Credit should be given to the San Diego squad for not giving up at any point during this game, and to the coaching staff for sticking with what they believed in (mainly, the running game) even when it wasn't resulting in big plays. However, if I'm playing Devil's Advocate, the Titans had a chance to tie the game in the final minute and this was after playing the entire game without their best WR, and after the Titans' starting QB was knocked out of the game.
Actually, this stat might be more telling than the one I started the post with. This season, the Chargers have knocked starting QBs out of half of their games and are 3-1 in those games. In games where the opponents' starting QB plays all four quarters, they are 0-4.
Either way, with this win the Chargers keep their playoff hopes alive. A win next week in Houston would have the team and its fans flying high heading into the bye week.