Insider's Take: Bolts vs. Dolphins

The Chargers dropped their third straight contest on Sunday, falling 20-16 in Miami when Philip Rivers' final heave to Vincent Brown was broken up in the end zone. We delve inside this latest defeat with a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next.

What Worked

--You can say this for Mike McCoy -- he listens to his critics. Just two weeks ago he was blasted for underutilizing Ryan Mathews and Ladarius Green during an overtime loss to the Redskins. In that game, Mathews carried just seven times and Green was on the field for just four offensive snaps. Two weeks later in Miami, Mathews carried carried 19 times for 127 yards -- his highest yardage total since November 2011 -- and Green caught four passes for 81 yards, both career highs.

--The defense picked up four sacks. True, the Dolphins were down three starters on the offensive line, but four sacks is impressive for any team without its top three outside pass rushers. Just as impressive is the fact the sacks came from all levels of the defense: one from the defensive line (Sean Lissemore), two from linebackers (Thomas Keiser and Reggie Walker) and one from safety Eric Weddle.

--Although the Chargers lost their fifth game by eight points or less, the box score shows San Diego was the superior squad on Sunday. The Chargers outgained the Dolphins, 435-343, gained a full yard more per play (6.9 to 5.9) and won time of possession by nearly three minutes. Also, the defense held Miami to a 20-percent conversion rate on third down (two of 10).

What Didn't

--The Chargers were penalized 10 times, including a few serious momentum killers. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Corey Liuget negated a turnover; the Dolphins scored a touchdown two plays later. Also, a second-half drive was scuttled when Keenan Allen was penalized 15 yards four taunting. The defense was penalized four times for offsides as the team racked up 76 total penalty yards. The home team, on the other hand, was flagged just three times for 15 yards, giving Miami a 61-yard advantage in hidden yardage.

--Derek Cox, just months removed from being San Diego's premier free agent acquisition, looks worse and worse with each passing week. After being benched for stretches of the last two games, he dropped a certain pick-six in the first quarter of Sunday's loss. He continues to give up generous cushions, break late on the ball and miss tackles. The good news is Cox's contract is guaranteed for injury only next season, meaning the Chargers can save $4.25 million if they cut him before the third day of the next league year. The bad news is San Diego will be in the market for two new starting cornerbacks in the offseason.

--The Chargers coaching staff staunchly refuses to take the necessary risks to "steal" wins with an undermanned roster. Early in the fourth quarter, the Chargers faced a fourth-and-5 from the Miami 11-yard line and opted for a field goal, which still left the Bolts trailing by a point. Two possessions later, the Chargers marched down to the Miami 29-yard line before Rivers took a 7-yard sack on third-and-5 (a huge no-no for a veteran quarterback). Even still, the Chargers could have attempted a 53-yard field goal, which would have made it a one-point game. Instead, McCoy played it safe and punted. If Nick Novak had connected from 53 yards out (he was true from 50 yards away earlier in the game), he Chargers would have only needed a field goal to win on their final drive.

What's Next

--The Chargers stay on the road to face the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs, who are sure to be fired up after suffering their first loss of the season on Sunday night in Denver. It is a 10 a.m. start for the Chargers, who face off against a team that ranks No. 2 in the league with 36 sacks. With San Diego mired in its first losing streak of the season, it is tough to see this game as a legitimate opportunity to snap it.

Should Cox be one-and-done in San Diego? Discuss inside the message boards.

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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