Insider's Take: Chargers-Falcons

No matter how poorly the Chargers played in their 27-3 loss to the Falcons, San Diego is still in first place in the AFC West and has plenty to build on ... and improve upon. Before we look ahead to the second divisional game of the season, we look back at what worked, what didn't and what's next after the debacle against the Dirty Birds.

What Worked

--Robert Meachem caught four passes, twice as many as he corralled in the first two games combined. While his 47 yards against the Falcons are nothing to get excited about, it is good to see him getting more involved. The Chargers need Meachem to emerge a playmaker if they are to avoid another touchdown-less embarrassment.

--Atari Bigby played well in his first two games as a Charger, but was known more for the plays he didn't make (a pair of dropped interceptions) than the ones he did. That changed on Sunday, when he paced the defense with 15 total tackles (11 solo). He now has 27 tackles on the season, tying him for No. 15 on the league leader board.

--Although the returns of Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates did not spark the offense, it is positive that both players stayed healthy and will only get better going forward. Mathews elicited plenty of groans with yet another fumble but was otherwise effective running the ball (10 carries for 44 yards). Gates finished with three catches.

What Didn't

--The Chargers turned the ball over four times, including a pair of interceptions by Philip Rivers. It wasn't just the turnovers -- it was the timing of the turnovers. Mathews' fumble at the 4-yard line prevented the Chargers from taking the lead in the second quarter and resulted in a 14-point swing. Rivers' first interception was a terrible throw that allowed Atlanta to blow the game open right before intermission.

--No matter how much the local newspaper tries to talk him up, Mike Harris is not a starting quality offensive lineman. It is not his fault he was forced into a starting role before he was ready, but his footwork and technique have a long way to go. Chargers fans are waiting for Jared Gaither to grow a pair, return and save the day ... it may be more prudent to count down to the return of Brandyn Dombrowski, currently on the PUP list with a foot injury.

--San Diego has five strong outside linebackers, a group charged with providing enough heat to stymie even the most potent of passing games. It didn't happen that way against Atlanta. Matt Ryan dropped back to pass more than 40 times and was sacked just twice, only once by a linebacker. Ryan had enough time to complete 75 percent of his passes and toss three first-half touchdowns.

What's Next?

The Chargers head to Kansas City, a very unfriendly location in recent seasons. Last year, San Diego blew a game in Arrowhead when Rivers fumbled a snap while trying to set up a game-winning field goal ... that loss was the reason the Chargers failed to win the AFC West.

The Chiefs rallied to win in overtime last week in New Orleans, tightening the AFC West standings. The Chargers are alone in first place at 2-1, but all the other teams are just a game back at 1-2. If the Chiefs win in Week 4, they will move back to the top of the division. The AFC West always figured to be a middle-class free-for-all in 2012 ... it looks like that prognosis is coming to fruition already.

How will the AFC West play out in Week 4? 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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