Insider's Take: Bolts vs. Cardinals

The San Diego Chargers have struggled on the road, but life at home is easy like a Sunday morning. The latest home cooking was a 41-10 runaway over the Arizona Cardinals. Here is a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next.

What Worked

--Before the season, it was fair to wonder whether Vincent Jackson's absence would help or hurt Antonio Gates. After four games, the answer is obvious. Gates caught every ball thrown his way against Arizona and finished with seven catches, 144 yards and two TDs. He has six scores through four games after posting eight all last season.

--Maybe LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers are better off without each other. After watching L.T. run for 133 yards earlier in the day, the Chargers came out and busted loose for 180 rushing yards against the Cardinals. Mike Tolbert led the way, registering his first career 100-yard performance on only 16 carries. Ryan Mathews was used sporadically as he works his way back from an ankle injury, finishing with 55 yards on nine carries and his first career touchdown.

--True, the Chargers have yet to face any of the NFL's offensive juggernauts. Nonetheless, it is extremely impressive -- and unexpected -- that San Diego leads the league in total defense, allowing just 235.5 yards per game. Ron Rivera's unit has only allowed four offensive touchdowns through four games while ranking second in interceptions (seven) and fourth in sacks (15).

-- The kick coverage, while not airtight, was much better. The new-look kickoff team, from right to left, included Donald Strickland, Legedu Naanee, Kris Wilson, Brandon Siler, Quinton Teal, Kion Wilson, Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester, Steve Gregory and Paul Oliver. That group includes four starters and two players who were not on the roster last week (Teal and Kion Wilson). There will be even more changes next week thanks to Gregory's four-game suspension.

What Didn't

--The Chargers have to stop putting the ball on the ground. Darren Sproles lost his second fumble in as many weeks, which was scooped up by Kerry Rhodes and returned 42 yards for Arizona's only touchdown. San Diego's offense has lost six fumbles this season; only four teams have lost more and none of those teams have winning records.

--Nate Kaeding missed a 38-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter. Although he redeemed himself by connecting from 48 and 47 yards later in the contest, it was disconcerting to see Kaeding miss from inside 40 yards, especially on his home turf. Of course, until he converts a clutch field goal in the postseason, he will continue to be the least trusted player on the roster.

--With the Chargers moving the ball at will, it would have been nice to see the wide receivers get a little more of the action. Buster Davis and Patrick Crayton were held without a catch while Legedu Naanee -- although getting big praise for his blocking -- caught just one pass for 4 yards.

--The defensive line played outstanding, but at some point the Chargers mist work in Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas. The youngsters will not get better without in-game seasoning and the Chargers will need them to contribute as the year progresses.

What's Next

It's Raider Week. The Chargers have won 13 straight games against their division rivals and hope No. 14 coincides with their first road win of the season.

San Diego has struggled with hostile environments in Week 1 (Kansas City) and Week 3 (Seattle). With the Black Hole on-deck, things will not get any less hostile.



What are Chargers fans saying about Raider Week? See in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories