Insider's Take: Chargers vs. Colts

The San Diego Chargers thrashed the Indianapolis Colts, 36-14, en route to their fourth consecutive win. The victory moves the Chargers above .500 for the first time and keeps them within striking distance of the Kansas City Chiefs. Here is a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next.

What Worked

--After allowing an opening-drive touchdown, San Diego's defense dominated. The Chargers shut down the run (13 carries for 24 yards) and teed off on Peyton Manning, picking off four of his passes and returning two of those for touchdowns. Ron Rivera's crew was especially impressive in the second half, forcing three turnovers and two three-and-outs while keeping the Colts off the scoreboard.

--The Chargers were without starting RB Ryan Mathews, but the running game did not miss a beat. Mike Tolbert rumbled for 100-plus yards (103) for the second straight week and logged his ninth touchdown of the season. San Diego out-gained the Colts by more than 100 yards on the ground, helping the Chargers earn an 11-minute edge in time of possession.

--Steve Crosby's special teams delivered their strongest outing. The kickoff coverage shined with the Colts starting on average inside their own 23-yard line. Nate Kaeding did more than just kick off; he connected on five field goals and three extra points, accounting for half of San Diego's 36 points.

What Didn't

--The Chargers were fortunate their defense played its best game, because the offense left a lot of points on the board. San Diego went 0-for-8 on third downs and had to settle for field goals on four of five trips to the red zone.

--The receiver position remains a mess. Vincent Jackson's return lasted all of two plays thanks to a calf injury, while Malcom Floyd was limited by a nagging hamstring injury. With Patrick Crayton out for the foreseeable future, that leaves the recently returned Legedu Naanee and undrafted rookie Seyi Ajirotutu as Philip Rivers' only every-down options. At least Naanee looked strong after missing five games with a hamstring injury, catching three passes for 38 yards and delivering some key blocks to spring his teammates.

--As will be the case every week the rest of the way, the Chargers must keep their eyes on the first-place Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, what they saw in Week 12 was the Chiefs stomping the Seattle Seahawks, 42-24. That was likely the toughest test left on Kansas City's schedule, other than the Week 14 game in San Diego. As a result, that divisional rematch could very well decide the AFC West champion.

What's Next

Before the Chargers get their rematch with the Chiefs, they must win Round Two vs. the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have some impressive victories this season, including a 35-27 win over the Chargers in Week 5, but have dropped two straight by a combined score of 68-20.

This game kicks off a three-game home stand for San Diego. The Chargers will likely have to sweep these games to position themselves for a fifth straight division crown.

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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