Insider's Take: Chargers-Texans

Philip Rivers was a one-man wrecking crew against the Houston Texans. But help is on the way and the Chargers will be close to full strength as they ready to make a run through the AFC West. Here is a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next after San Diego's first road win of the season.

What Worked

--Sunday marked the official start of San Diego's first winning streak of the season and the unofficial start of Philip Rivers' MVP campaign. Rivers completed 74 percent of his passes and compiled a passer rating of 137.2. He threw four TDs, two to backup TE Randy McMichael and two more to undrafted rookie Seyi Ajirotutu.

Rivers has averaged 300 yards over the last two weeks despite missing his top four receivers in both contests (and missing Antonio Gates in Houston). It is scary to think what he will do when Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee return to the lineup. As long as the Chargers stay in the playoff hunt, Rivers has a chance to break records and create an MVP buzz.

--Most impressive about the offense was the volume of big plays. The Chargers averaged 7.3 yards per play (San Diego leads the NFL in that category at 6.4 yards). While big plays are easier to find between the twenties, the Chargers also excelled from in close, scoring TDs on both their red-zone possessions.

--San Diego's defense was lights out in the second half, limiting the Texans to three points. Houston went scoreless on its last four possessions, two of which ended on failed fourth-down conversions and the last of which culminated in Paul Oliver's game-clinching interception.

The key to the defense's success was creating negative plays. Antonio Garay led the way with a sack and three tackles for loss, while nickel back Donald Strickland chipped in his first sack since joining the Chargers.

What Didn't

--There are no words (or at least no new words) to describe the embarrassment that is the Chargers' special teams. San Diego gave up its fifth blocked punt of the season (although it was not technically a blocked punt because the ball went forward 1 yard); the league's other 31 teams have given up five blocked punts combined. This time, it was newly signed LB David Herron who blew his assignment; Brandon Siler (foot) cannot return soon enough.

--Simply put, Ryan Mathews cannot be trusted. He cannot be trusted to hang onto the football (he lost his third fumble of the season) and he cannot be trusted to stay on the field for all four quarters (he left in the second quarter after re-injuring his ankle). Norv Turner may be forced to turn the starting job over to Mike Tolbert on a full-time basis, which is essentially an admission that the Chargers overpaid when trading up for their "featured" back.

--The defensive line, despite rebounding nicely after intermission, had a rough game. The entire group failed, but no one has been more underwhelming than Luis Castillo. The former first-round pick (playing on a $43 million contract) finished with two tackles and zero impact plays. He has just 11 tackles and a half-sack through the first nine games, which is unacceptable for someone who is supposed to be the most talented player on the line.

What's Next

The Chargers will enjoy a much-needed bye. There is a chance several injured players (Gates, Floyd, Naanee, Kris Dielman, Siler) will return for the team's next game, a Week 11 contest on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos. Jackson will return one week later against the Indianapolis Colts. Norv Turner said it best: "The cavalry is coming."

That road clash with the Colts (a team the Chargers have always matched up well against) is sandwiched between three home games against AFC West rivals. That gives the Chargers, who are just 1.5 games out of first place, a chance to close the gap in a hurry.

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.


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