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Bolts & Dolts: Playmakers lead Chargers to upset victory over Colts

Bolts & Dolts is a weekly look back at which San Diego Chargers played above, or below, expectations in the team's previous game. Let's see which players came up big on Monday Night Football to lead the Chargers to victory over the Colts.

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Philip Rivers - 22/33, 237 pass yds, 1 pass TD

A real bounce-back performance for El Capitan, who seemed much more relaxed than he was against the Raiders. After completing just one of his first six passes in the game, Rivers found the balance between safe and aggressive and took advantage of what the defense was giving him. He completed 22 of his last 27 pass attempts, and has generated chemistry with Keenan Allen (deep threat) and Vincent Brown (medium threat) for when Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead (short threats) are covered.

King Dunlap

I normally don't credit individual offensive linemen, but Dunlap was awesome yesterday. After missing the last two games, King was inserted back as the team's starting left tackle and was easily the best linemen for the Chargers.

Pro Football Focus rated Dunlap's game at 6.2, which is insanely good. It also pushes Dunlap up the charts as the Chargers' second best offensive player this season behind only Philip Rivers (remember, this is a counting "stat", so the fact that Dunlap is up there means that his four games have been better than six for most of the rest of the offense).

If you were on the fence about Dunlap's long-term potential as San Diego's starting left tackle, rewatch this game. He was one-on-one consistently against one of the league's bets pass-rushers (Robert Mathis) and his QB was kept clean. In addition to that, he was taking out two blockers at a time on running plays. I saw a few people on Twitter say that Jeromey Clary is so bad at RG that the team has to run left, but I actually think they're running left because of how great Dunlap is at run-blocking on both the first and second level.

Ryan Mathews - 22 carries, 102 rush yds

Ryan Mathews' first game with 100+ rushing yards since 12/11/2011. Welcome back, Mr. Mathews.

We're about a third of the way through the NFL season, Ryan has yet to miss a game and he's only fumbled once in 96 touches. With so much attention being paid to Mike McCoy "fixing" Philip Rivers, is it possible that he's "fixing" Ryan Mathews as well?

Just like Dunlap, this is the game to look at if you want proof that Mathews is actually capable of being the running back that he was drafted to be. He picked up big chunks of yards consistently, creating many "2nd & short" and "3rd & short" situations for the offense. He picked up yards at the end of the game when the defense knew what was coming. The offensive line did a good job of opening up holes for him, but Mathews was hitting them quickly and aggressively in a way that we haven't seen in the last few years.

More games like this means more balance for the offense, which means more points and more of those long drives that this team needs to win games.

Keenan Allen - 9 catches (12 targets), 107 rec yds, 1 rec TD

I said, quite brazenly, during training camp that the team would need Keenan Allen to be a big contributor this season. Not because I knew all of the injuries that were coming, but because I am a big believer in a young player being a "spark plug". Someone that gets the whole team excited. D.J. Fluker has been something like that for the offensive line, and Manti Te'o is still knocking off rust, but Allen is now what makes the Chargers offense exciting.

I've liked Allen since catching a few of his games at Cal. He is, quite simply, one of the most versatile receivers I've ever seen. We know, by now, that Vincent Brown is a specific type of receiver that needs to be used in a specific way. Malcom Floyd is the same way. Most receivers are that way. Allen, however, can seemingly succeed from any spot on the field and running any type of route. That's why he's been able to have immediate success.

It's easy to start imagining a long and prestigious career in blue-and-gold for Allen, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves. He's earned his starting spot and seems to be the perfect compliment to Rivers, Gates, Brown and Woodhead. His TD catch shows that he's not a normal rookie. He knows the playbook and he's ready to be a dangerous playmaker.

Eric Weddle - 6 tackles (5 solo), 1 pass defended

I still have no idea how this defense kept the Colts from scoring a touchdown. The pass rush wasn't good, the coverage was pretty terrible across the board and Indy was able to run about as well as the Chargers were. If I'm being honest, it seems like this defensive showing was the result of John Pagano doing a great job of hiding what his defense is doing pre-snap.... and the Colts being incredibly conservative.

Of Luck’s 29 targeted passes in this game 19 of them were aimed less than 10 yards in the air, with only three aimed more than 20 yards downfield and none of them completed after the 35-yard completion to Wayne on the Colts’ first snap of the game. - Pro Football Focus

The Chargers came through on third down in a big way. So big, in fact, that you would think the Colts would change their gameplan to try and convert more on first and second down. However, they never made that adjustment and their offense never got going.

Looking at the stats and the ratings, the only defensive player that actually played a "good" game was Eric Weddle, who was mostly just covering Colts' tight ends and running backs out of the back field. It took Pep Hamilton about three quarters to realize that he should get Coby Fleener on Manti Te'o instead of Weddle.

This reminded me of the old Chargers-Colts matchups, where Peyton Manning's team was obviously better... but for some reason couldn't get anything going against San Diego. There was really no rhyme or reason to the Chargers' defensive success except to say that they manage to confuse Andrew Luck and Pep Hamilton's play-calling wasn't great. Excellent work by John Pagano.


The Dolts section is reserved for players that perform below expectations. I'm not sure anyone fits that bill from the Chargers last night.

Was the pass rush terrible? Yes, but Larry English, Tourek Williams and Thomas Keiser are not expected to generate a pass rush.

Was Manti Te'o coverage awful? Yes, but he's a rookie that missed the entire preseason.

Did Shareece Wright and Derek Cox get burned consistently? Well, yes, but Cox got the game-sealing interception and Wright just missed three games.

So, you see, everyone on the San Diego Chargers played either to, or above, expectations last night. That's typically what happens when a team this thin wins a game.

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