Bolts Notebook: 9/22

There is no shame in losing in New England. This week, though, delivers a different set of expectations. The Chargers host the fast-imploding Chiefs with a chance to all but bury the defending division champs. Here is a look at some key factors to the game as the Bolts aim to climb back above .500.

Ready to Receive?

There is no pass-catching duo better than Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson. Opponents can slow one, but never both.

It was Gates who went off in the season opener, getting eight balls for 74 yards. The Patriots saw that tape and chose to make Gates their top priority, double-teaming him on almost every play. Jackson took advantage of the attention paid inside the hashes, exploding for 10 catches, 172 yards and two scores.

Now, what other receivers are going to step up?

Malcom Floyd looked ready in Week 2, but he injured his groin after making a sensational 36-yard catch in the first quarter. This is all too familiar for Floyd … he makes big plays but struggles to stay healthy and contribute consistently.

No. 3 receiver Patrick Crayton (ankle) was inactive despite practicing all week. Third-round pick Vincent Brown was also inactive with a quad injury; he is so far behind it is tough to imagine him contributing in any meaningful way this season.

San Diego pushed to build depth at receiver this offseason after getting decimated at that position in 2010. The early results of that effort are not looking good.

Are We Elite Yet?


FS Eric Weddle
Donald Miralle/Getty
When the Bolts added Bob Sanders, Eric Weddle was quick to boast that he and Sanders would be the NFL's best safety tandem. So far, not so much.

Sanders has struggled to find his way in the new defense. He is not attacking downhill and making plays in the backfield, nor is he delivering jarring hits over the middle. Instead, he is being picked on downfield and spending too much time in pursuit.

Weddle has looked a step slow, as well, and has missed a few costly attempts to undercut routes. His play has not been too bad, but his $40 million contract set expectations he has yet to meet.

Sanders and Weddle do not deserve all the blame. The defense intercepted the first pass attempt it saw this season and has not stolen a pass in the 54 attempts since. The secondary has to do better.

Arrowhead Pointing South?

The Chiefs seem to be the ideal antidote for the Chargers. Kansas City dropped its first two games by a combined score of 89-10 and has been bitten by the injury bug (Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki). But with expectation comes pressure.

This is a must-win game for Kansas City if the Chiefs have any chance of defending their AFC West title. That desperation makes Todd Haley's team dangerous. Known as an excellent motivator, Haley will pull out all the stops for this divisional tilt.

If the Chargers win, they move north of .500 and can focus on competing with the Raiders for the division crown (the Broncos, though 1-1, seem unlikely to be a real threat). If the Chargers lose, however, a full-on panic will ensue.

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

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