Bolts Overcome Mistakes, Tebow in Victory

It was another game littered with mistakes: red-zone miscues, porous run defense and costly turnovers. But the Chargers won in the end, holding off a furious Tim Tebow-led rally for a 29-24 win. San Diego heads into its bye week at 4-1, ready to make corrections but enjoying the view from atop the AFC West.

When the '11 schedule was announced, most Chargers fans had the same reaction: "This team better start 4-1 ... at least."

Fans got the fast start they wanted, although the Chargers' play through five weeks has left a lot to be desired.

Sunday was a perfect example. Philip Rivers turned the ball over twice -- a pick that was returned for a TD and a fumble that set up Denver's final scoring drive.

The Chargers had issues on defense, too, especially versus the run. The Broncos averaged 7.0 yards per rushing attempt, led by Willis McGahee, who ran 16 times for 125 yards and punched in a two-point conversion that made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.

Tim Tebow also did well on the ground, running six times for 38 yards and a TD.

In an unusual twist, San Diego's special teams were the game's strongest unit. New PK Nick Novak extended his hot start, going five-for-five on field goals -- including a career-long 51-yarder -- and bagging touchbacks on seven of his eight kickoffs.

Patrick Crayton added five punt returns of at least 10 yards, including a 29-yarder.

Of course, the special teams were not the sole reason the Chargers won their third straight game. Ryan Mathews ran 24 times for 125 yards before leaving with a calf injury. Malcom Floyd hit the 100-yard mark for the first time year and needed only three catches to do it. His 42-yard TD right before intermission was the biggest play of the game.

Donald Butler picked off the first pass of his career, caused by a Shaun Phillips pass rush. Antoine Cason also deserves a mention for breaking up a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game with less than four minutes to play.

It was a new script with a familiar theme ... the Chargers made too many mistakes but did just enough to beat an inferior foe. Now, San Diego must use the bye week to keep improving, because the competition is about to get stiffer in a hurry.

Lightning Quicks

--Rivers was sacked four times, including once when the ball simply slipped out of his hands and he had to fall on it for a loss. The Chargers defense, on the other hand, failed to record a sack for the first time this season.

--With Mathews (calf) and Mike Tolbert (concussion) knocked out with injuries, Jacob Hester was the last back standing. He carried 11 times for a career-best 47 yards and caught two balls for 13 yards. Hester's versatility is one of the reasons the Chargers have been able to keep rookie Jordan Todman on the inactive list every game this season.

--Kory Sperry made his first catch of the year, good for 34 yards. There was also a personal foul against the Broncos on the play, making the total gain nearly 50 yards. San Diego scored a touchdown on a sneak by Rivers five plays later.

--Eric Weddle dropped what should have been an easy interception. It would have been his third consecutive game with a pick.

--The Chargers enjoy their bye, as it could not come at a better time. The time off will help San Diego's ailing backfield and receiving corps. It also gives Jacques Cesaire (knee) a chance to return to the rotation. The biggest hope, of course, it that the extra rest allows Antonio Gates to return healthy and play out the remainder of the season. If there was ever a remedy for a team with red-zone woes, Gates would be it.

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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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