By Dave Thomas
A week ago in their embarrassing and disturbing home loss to Atlanta, the San Diego Chargers did just about everything a step slower than their opponent. As a result, Atlanta’s 27-3 victory could have been much worse.
In an effort to prevent a repeat of that disaster, San Diego (3-1) hit Kansas City early and often Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, leading to a 37-20 win over the Chiefs in a game that was not as close as the score may indicate.
Forcing the Chiefs into six turnovers (scored 24 points off them), the Bolts got out to an early lead and were never seriously threatened, as San Diego maintained a one-game lead over Denver in the AFC West race.
In the game against Atlanta, San Diego had a chance to take the lead early in the second quarter, but a Ryan Mathews’ fumble at the 4 yard line swung the momentum. A week later, a pair of Jamaal Charles fumbles to go along with three Matt Cassel interceptions gave the Chargers all they would need to win their second division contest in two tries (Oakland) this season.
As a result, many eyes are now focused on the Oct. 15 Monday Night Football encounter between Denver and San Diego in Southern California, especially given the fact it now appears to be a two-team race for the division crown after four weeks.
With a road date this coming Sunday evening in New Orleans against former Charger QB Drew Brees and the winless Saints, the Chargers will have some work ahead of them, however, before they can focus on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
For those Bolt fans who worried about possible back-to-back sluggish games coming off the Atlanta debacle, San Diego saw to it that it was ready for work Sunday in Kansas City.
Team Effort Results In Positive Points
In looking at the performance, highlights included:
* Philip Rivers was 18-of-23, 209 yards passing, two TDs and a lone pick. For his efforts, Rivers passed the 25,000 career yardage plateau, joining San Diego greats Dan Fouts and Jon Hadl;
* Reserve running back Jackie Battle, who was a member of the Chiefs just a year ago, continues to perform well with the Chargers. Battle scored a rushing and receiving touchdown, getting a significant amount of playing time in place of starter Ryan Mathews. While Mathews was solid this week with 61 yards on the ground and no turnovers, it is evident Battle will continue to see the rock more going forward;
* Called on Friday to replace starting kicker Nate Kaeding (groin injury), Nick Novak was perfect on extra points, along with hitting on three-of-three field goals. Novak, who went 27-of-34 for the Bolts on field goals a season ago when Kaeding missed all but one play of the season, has proven to be a reliable backup in the kicking department;
* Donald Butler, Antoine Cason and Eric Weddle were all recipients of Cassel interceptions, with Butler taking his to the house for a TD. San Diego’s defense was aggressive and it showed. Unlike last week versus Atlanta, the ‘D’ was playing with a mentality that will be needed each and every week going forward.
* Finally, the Chargers may have put together their best game of the year, and against a team that had momentum coming into the game. While San Diego’s offense in the third quarter was essentially non-existent, the defense kept the Bolts in a position where their offense could be lackluster, allowing the team to still maintain a comfortable lead. Having said that, the one downside to this game was just that–San Diego’s efforts after intermission. The Chargers lacked the killer instinct coming into the third quarter and it showed. Were it not for building a sizable lead early in the game, the Bolts may have been in trouble in the second half.
With a 3-1 record, and a 2-0 mark in the AFC West, the Chargers are probably right where they should be after four weeks.
Quite simply, the next two games will give fans a good indication whether this team is a contender or a pretender.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.