Insider's Take: Chargers-Raiders

Unlike San Diego's earlier losses, this one cannot be pinned on one or two fluke plays. The Chargers were dominated from start to finish, setting up a must-win game in Week 14. We break down what worked, what didn't and what's next for this bipolar bunch.

What Worked

--Kelley Washington caught his first pass since joining the Chargers, a 14-yard grab on third-and-11 late in the third quarter. It may not seem like much, but Washington could be the Chargers' No. 2 receiver next week in what is now a must-win game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Legedu Naanee aggravated his hamstring injury, Vincent Jackson is still recovering from a calf strain and Patrick Crayton is not ready to return from his dislocated wrist. Seyi Ajirotutu, while talented, is in over his head.

--While the defense struggled as a whole, San Diego's cornerbacks shut down the Raiders receivers. Oakland's wideouts combined for three catches and 40 yards, with 37 of those yards coming on a bomb to Louis Murphy on which Quentin Jammer was asked to cover the entire width of the field with no safety help. Antoine Cason, thought to be among San Diego's biggest question marks coming into the season, played another strong game.

--During the bye week, Norv Turner promised the Chargers would not have another punt blocked this season. Three games later, that promise is still intact. The Raiders, who blocked two punts in the first meeting, were not able to get to Mike Scifres in the rematch. Oakland's longest punt return was just 16 yards, so this unit has made tangible progress.

What Didn't

--The formula for beating the Raiders was dependant on the Chargers jumping out to an early lead. Instead, Darren Sproles muffed a punt and Philip Rivers airmailed a pass to Malcom Floyd, resulting in an early 14-0 hole reminiscent of the Week 5 matchup. This forced the Chargers to abandon the run and -- by extension -- lose time of possession by more than 17 minutes.

--The Chargers' front seven was dominated. More than anything, this revealed a serious flaw that the Chargers have been able to mask for much of the season by playing in shootouts. The situation on the defensive line is especially dire, as there are no dominant players and only one playing above-average ball (Antonio Garay, who played though an ankle injury). It's time to get Vaughn Martin (two tackles) and Cam Thomas (inactive) more involved in the rotation, because the regulars -- while more experienced -- don't have the talent to get the job done.

--Were the Chargers looking ahead to the Chiefs game? Were they just assuming another late-season run would fall into their laps? It certainly looked that way, as they were out-hustled and out-coached by a wide margin. Now, San Diego must run the table and hope the Chiefs lose at least one of their final three games. Things like this have broken the Chargers' way before, but as the players learned on Sunday, that's no guarantee it will happen again.

What's Next

The Chargers host the division-leading Chiefs in a game that was supposed to decide the division title. Instead, San Diego needs the victory just to stay in the race.

Kansas City faces back-to-back road challenges, as the Chiefs head to St. Louis to face the division-leading Rams in Week 15. The Rams are 4-2 at home while the Chiefs are 2-4 on the road.

If the Chargers are going to make a move, it has to be now.

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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