Insider's Take: Chargers vs. Saints

The Chargers missed a golden opportunity to pull out a victory in New Orleans. But unlike the team's earlier loss versus an NFC South team, this game came with many positives. We cover the good, the bad and everything between in this Insider's Perspective.

What Worked

--Maybe all Robert Meachem needed was a trip back home. Returning to the stadium that served as his home field for the last five years, Meachem delivered his best game of the season by catching three balls for 67 yards, including his first two touchdowns as a Charger. Now if Norv Turner can find a way to get Eddie Royal more involved, San Diego's passing game may finally realize its potential.

--Ryan Mathews came off the bench for the second straight week, part of his unofficial punishment for an untimely fumble in Week 3. He responded in a big way, averaging an outstanding 6.7 yards on 12 carries. He also caught six passes, finishing with 139 yards from scrimmage. Included in his outburst was his first score of a season, as he dove in at the tail end of a 13-yard scamper.

--Defensive coordinator John Pagano's familiarity with the former Lightning Bug, Darren Sproles, paid off big time. The Chargers shut down New Orleans' most explosive playmaker, limiting him to 37 yards on 10 touches from scrimmage. It marked just the third time Sproles has been held to less than 40 yards from scrimmage since he joined the Saints.

What Didn't

--Philip Rivers must do a better job of protecting the football. Although he broke the 300-yard barrier for the first time this season (354), he was undone by an interception and a lost fumble, both of which came in the fourth quarter. When Rivers turns the ball over one or zero times, the Chargers are 3-0. When he has two or more turnovers, San Diego is 0-2.

--When Jared Gaither returned in Week 4, it was supposed to stabilize San Diego's pass protection. Instead, Rivers was sacked five times and harassed countless others. If the Chargers are to cut down on their three-and-outs and start finishing games with their offense, the offensive line has to play much better.

--In a prime-time game against a passing team, the stage was set for Melvin Ingram -- still looking for his first sack -- to make a big play. He did, but it was not at all what he had in mind. Ingram was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty that negated an interception that Demorrio Williams returned 36 yards for an apparent score with three minutes left in the third quarter. The score would have given San Diego a three-possession lead and an easy path to 4-1.

What's Next?

The Chargers go back home and right back into prime time, hosting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. This is not a must-win game, but a win could go a long way towards defining what kind of season this will be.

With a win, San Diego would open up a two-game lead and would improve to 3-0 in the AFC West, having defeated each of its rivals one time. With a loss, San Diego and Denver would be knotted at 3-3 and the Chargers would be forced to win a Week 11 rematch in Denver to avoid giving Manning & Co. the all-important tiebreaker.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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