Ailing Chargers Eke Out Win

After a seemingly cursed start to the year, things finally went right for the Chargers Sunday. San Diego won in Houston, 29-23; division-leading Kansas City lost in Oakland, 23-20; and several ailing players got some much-needed time to mend.

The Chargers had more talent not playing on Sunday than some teams have on their entire rosters.

On offense alone, Antonio Gates (foot) and Kris Dielman (neck) sat out, as did the team's top four receivers: Vincent Jackson (suspension), Malcom Floyd (hamstring), Legedu Naanee (hamstring) and Buster Davis (IR). Ryan Mathews started the game but left in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return; he finished with nine carries for 42 yards and yet another lost fumble.

Luckily, Philip Rivers was healthy, and in the end that was all that mattered.

Rivers made the most of his B-team weapons and piled up 295 yards and four TDs. He completed 74 percent of his passes and rallied the Chargers from a two-score deficit for the second time in as many weeks.

WR Seyi Ajirotutu
Bob Levey/Getty
Seyi Ajirotutu was the primary beneficiary of Rivers' excellence. The undrafted rookie from Fresno State topped the 100-yard barrier for the first time (111) and scored the first two TDs of his career, including a pretty 55-yarder.

Gates' fill-ins also accounted themselves well. Randy McMichael caught a pair of sensational TDs -- he had just one score in the previous two seasons combined -- and Kris Wilson chipped in with a 37-yard reception on the tail end of a tricky throwback play.

The other side of the ball had an up-and-down day. Ron Rivera's unit was abused by Arian Foster (27 carries, 127 yards, two TDs), especially in the first half, and ceded 5.8 yards per play. But the Chargers stiffened after intermission, holding the Texans to three second-half points.

The defensive goat was Quentin Jammer, who was flagged for three costly penalties; the defensive game ball goes to Antonio Garay, who was sensational at controlling the point of attack and closing off cutback lanes.

As for the special teams, no assistant coach is having a worse season than Steve Crosby, especially after the Chargers gave up their fifth blocked punt of the season (as many as the rest of the league combined).

But unlike San Diego's earlier road losses, the Chargers showed enough guts to overcome the kicking conundrum and battle back.

Lightning Quicks

--Patrick Crayton finished with three catches for 70 yards, with most of the damage coming on a 47-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter.

--Paul Oliver had a rough day prior to his game-clinching interception, whiffing on a handful of attempted tackles. He was forced into action when Steve Gregory injured his shoulder in his first game back from suspension.

--Larry English (one tackle) returned from foot surgery but made little impact.

--Donald Strickland, who often blitzes from his nickel corner position, recorded his first sack of the season.

Is Philip Rivers a serious MVP candidate? 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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