Insider's Take: Chargers vs. Pats

Each of San Diego's losses has looked the same: Right when it seems the team will turn the corner, it runs into a wall of its own construction. Can the Chargers finally rev their engines and rip off one of their annual winning streaks? To find out, we analyze what worked, what didn't and what's next after the New England nightmare.

What Worked

--Philip Rivers continues to put up huge numbers and remains on pace to smash Dan Marino's single-season yardage record (Rivers is on pace to break the mark by more than 270 yards). Rivers hit on 34 of 50 passes for 336 yards, a TD and an INT. He completed passes to 10 different players, two of whom had never caught a pass before Sunday's game.

--The defense, except for the opening drive of the second half, was superb. Recent acquisition Antwan Barnes made a huge impact across from Shaun Phillips as the pair combined for three sacks. The defensive front seven shut down the run -- the Patriots averaged 2.3 yards per carry -- and the secondary came through in the clutch by allowing just three third-down conversions all game long. If the defense plays like this the rest of the way, the Chargers are going to the playoffs.

--San Diego's special teams have been lambasted, rightfully so, but Steve Crosby's units had some good moments. Kris Brown executed a perfect onside kick that was recovered by redemption-seeking rookie Richard Goodman, sparking the Chargers' rally. Also, it seems the revolving door at long snapper has stopped with Mike Windt. The rookie has been on-point since debuting a couple weeks ago, raising hope that he may be the heir apparent to 38-year-old franchise mainstay David Binn.

What Didn't

--The lesson goes as far back as Pop Warner: Play to the whistle! It's a simple principle, yet it was lost on the Chargers. Goodman made a spectacular 25-yard grab early in the second quarter, only to place the ball on the ground because he thought the play was over. On the next drive, Jacob Hester made no effort to go after a loose ball following a sideways pass. The throw seemed to go slightly forward, but when in doubt, players are taught to play to the whistle. Well, apparently not all players.

--In an ironic twist, Chargers fans wish they had Nate Kaeding taking the pressure kick. Instead, Kaeding's replacement, Kris Brown, clanked the game-tying field goal off the right goal post, costing the Chargers a chance to win the game in overtime. Brown also had trouble on kickoffs, misfiring on one directional kick and sending another out of bounds. Perhaps Bolts Backers should be more specific in their calls to replace Kaeding.

--Unlike last week, when every team in the AFC West lost right along with the Chargers, San Diego lost ground in Week 7. Kansas City's win over Jacksonville gives the Chiefs a 2.5-game lead in the division, while Oakland's demolition of Denver moved the Raiders into second place at 3-4. What's worse than trailing the Chiefs and Raiders halfway though the season? Knowing both teams already have a win over the Chargers.

What's Next

The beat-up Chargers host one of the NFL's dirtiest teams, the Tennessee Titans. If it sounds like a recipe for disaster, it might be. The Titans have won four of their last five games and will be looking for a little revenge after the Chargers derailed their playoff push last season with a 42-17 whooping on Christmas Day.

The Chargers may need their Christmas gift early this year, because another loss may be the death blow for Norv Turner's self-destructive squad.

Should RB Ryan Mathews see the ball more? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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