Chargers Lose, Fall Back to .500

Philip Rivers endured a three-pick game for the first time in his career and San Diego's defense yielded five scoring drives as the Packers remained perfect with a 45-38 win over the Chargers. It was the third straight defeat for the Chargers, whose only solace was losses by the Chiefs and Raiders, maintaining a three-way tie atop the West.

The best way to describe Philip Rivers is consistently inconsistent. He started Sunday's game by delivering an opening-drive touchdown, a 23-yard scoring pass to Vincent Jackson. His next two possessions ended with TDs going the other way, as he threw pick-sixes to Charlie Peprah and Tramon Williams. The first pick deflected off of Antonio Gates; the second was a hot-read mixup with Patrick Crayton.

Rather than fold, Rivers rallied. He led the Chargers to scores on five of their next six possessions (not including a kneel-down before halftime). That, combined with Darrell Stuckey's onside-kick recovery in the fourth quarter, put the Chargers in position to tie the game late. But true to his 2011 form, Rivers threw the game away by forcing a throw into double coverage and right into the arms of Peprah.

Rivers is not the only scapegoat in this defeat. Marcus Gilchrist was toasted for a second straight week and appears to be in over his head as a starter. On the other side of the defense, Quentin Jammer was flagged for a pair of costly penalties.

The defense as a whole disappointed. The pass rush was much improved even without Shaun Phillips, generating four sacks, yet the Chargers could not find the takeaway they so desperately needed. Greg Manusky's unit managed to get one turnover on downs and one pivotal three-and-out, but those were just flashes of smooth sailing amongst mostly rough waters.

The silver-lining is that the Raiders and Chiefs lost at home to the Broncos and Dolphins, respectively. That means the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs are tied atop the division at 4-4 while Denver is now just a game back at 3-5. The Chargers and Raiders meet on Thursday in San Diego; the Chiefs and Broncos collide three days later in Kansas City.

The division is as close as it gets. Too bad everyone knows how the Chargers fare in close contests.

Lightning Quicks

--Although he was undone by three INTs, Rivers racked up 385 passing yards and four TDs. His biggest beneficiaries were the usual suspects: Jackson (seven catches, 141 yards, three TDs) and Gates (eight catches, 96 yards, one TD). Vincent Brown, starting in place of Malcom Floyd, had a career day with four catches for 79 yards.

--Mike Tolbert started in place of Ryan Mathews (groin) and carried 19 times for 83 yards and a TD.

--Antwan Barnes had a monster game, recording two sacks and nearly getting a third (Aaron Rodgers was forced to flee the pocket and fell forward for a 1-yard gain). If the Chargers can get Barnes and Phillips going at the same time, it will make Manusky look like a much better coach.

--Antoine Cason played more in the fourth quarter when it was clear Gilchrist was a walking bull's-eye. It'll be interesting to see who gets the start in Thursday's divisional clash. It may be time to get Shareece Wright on the field more, as he challenges receivers more than Cason or Gilchrist have been able to do.

--Nick Novak connected on a career-long 52-yard field goal, his only attempt of the game. Battling the rainy conditions, his kick barely made it over the crossbar.



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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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