Chargers Rally to Take Down Vikings

The saying goes there's no such thing as an ugly win. The Chargers tested that testament Sunday, rallying for a 24-17 victory over the visiting Vikings. A strong second half is a sign of better things to come, but the Bolts have much to improve upon before visiting the Patriots in Week 2.

What Worked

--Bolts Backers were still fretting the loss of Darren Sproles when the Lightning Bug shined in his debut with the Saints, catching seven balls and scoring via punt return. However, the Chargers showed their passing game is fine without him. Mike Tolbert led the team with nine grabs, scoring on two of them, while Ryan Mathews averaged more than 24 yards on his three receptions.

--Sunday's contest was nothing like the prior Chargers-Vikings game for a couple big stars. Antonio Gates, who caught one pass for 10 yards in the '07 game, finished with eight catches for 74 yards. Three of his grabs moved the chains on third down. On the other side of the field, Adrian Peterson was held under the century mark after busting free for a record-setting 296 yards in the prior match-up. Take away his 46-yard run in the second quarter and Peterson averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry.

LB Donald Butler
Donald Miralle/Getty
--The D' stuck embarrassing stats on the Vikes. Shaun Phillips picked Donovan McNabb's first pass in purple, setting the tone for a game in which McNabb finished with less than 40 yards passing. The clamps came down strong in the second half, when Minnesota had just 26 yards of total offense.

"In the second half, we just couldn't get the rhythm we needed to," McNabb said.

What Didn't

--It is almost unbelievable the Chargers had a special-teams blunder on the first play. But that is exactly what happened, as Percy Harvin took back the opening kickoff 103 yards for a score. The play may have been Nate Kaeding's last of the season, as he injured his knee trying to make the tackle. Preliminary reports are calling it a torn ACL.

Mike Scifres saved the special teams from a failing grade. In addition to his punting duties, he filled in for Kaeding and responded with two touchbacks, three extra points and a clutch 40-yard field goal. Nonetheless, Rich Bisaccia's savior label lasted all of 15 seconds.

"It was a team win, all the way, all three phases," Philip Rivers said. "These are the kind of wins we didn't have last year."

--It is not often that Rivers ends up in the "What Didn't" section, but No. 17 was off on Sunday. He overthrew a handful of passes, including a potential deep touchdown to Vincent Jackson. Speaking of Jackson, it is hard to accept him catching two passes for 31 yards, especially after his dominant preseason. Rivers and Jackson need to be in sync next week in New England if San Diego is to improve to 2-0.

--Kaeding wasn't the only injured Charger. Luis Castillo fractured his tibia and will miss most or all of the season. That leaves the Chargers green at defensive end and will force third-year project Vaughn Martin into a more prominent role. Martin shined in training camp and the preseason but now must prove he can do it on Sundays.

What's Next?

San Diego has proven it can win in September. Now, it must prove it can hang with the NFL's true contenders. Norv Turner's team heads to New England to take on the AFC favorites, the Patriots. Patrick Crayton (ankle) should be available, which may be key … this has the look of a shootout.

How bad did the injury bug bite the Chargers? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is 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 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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