Bolt Book, Week 1: Recover, Revive

This week will go a long way towards defining San Diego's season. Will the Chargers build on the many things they did well in pushing the reigning AFC South champs to the brink? Or will they struggle to shake the pain of Monday's meltdown? We examine all the key points of a wild season-opener.

Winning Environment

Whenever new leadership takes over a team, the first thing they talk about is building a "winning culture." It is obvious Mike McCoy still has a lot to do in that department.

The Chargers had several opportunities to close the door on the Texans and always squandered the opportunity. Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal had costly drops along the sidelines; Cam Thomas drew a flag for hitting a defenseless player; and the defense allowed key third-down conversions of 18 and 13 yards.

If Norv Turner were still around, a loss like this would be pinned squarely on his shoulders. So it seems only fair McCoy get some heat for this meltdown, as well.

Offensive Woes

The offense came out on fire, putting up 28 points in the first 35 minutes. But as far as efficiency goes, the team has a long way to go. Philip Rivers completed less than half of his passes (14 of 29), far off his preseason goal of completing 70 percent of his passes. He also threw a pick-six on a play where he never saw Brian Cushing, gifting the Texans a touchdown to complete their compeback.

Ryan Mathews averaged just 2.5 yards on 13 carries. He had three carries for zero yards after intermission.

The question of "Who is San Diego's No. 1 receiver?" remains unanswered after no player caught more than three passes or posted more than 50 receiving yards.

The offensive line gave up a pair of sacks.

Defensive Imbalance

You have to feel for John Pagano, as his unit is a mix of haves and have-nots. On one hand, he has dominant players like Corey Liuget, Donald Butler, Dwight Freeney and Eric Weddle. And there is no doubt Freeney belongs on that list. He was superb in the opener, creating constant pressure and making Matt Schaub uncomfortable in the pocket.

But San Diego's defense is also relying on too many subpar players. Cornerbacks Derek Cox and Shareece Wright were in over their heads on Monday, although Cox gets somewhat of a pass because Andre Johnson is among the league's best. Marcus Gilchrist showed no signs of being the answer at strong safety, nor did Larry English show any signs he is ready to shed the "bust" label.

This unit lacks balance and depth, so expect more uneven performances as the season progresses.

Just for Kicks

Fozzy Whittaker brought back his lone kickoff return for 42 yards. However, tabbing Whittaker as the kickoff returner forces the Chargers to keep five running backs active. That limits their flexibility elsewhere; for example, the team had only three outside linebackers active. Tourek Williams, inactive on Monday, could have impacted the game, especially in the second half when the defense was gassed.

In a clash of two of the NFL's best punters, Mike Scifres (44.3-yard net) out-dueled Shane Lechler (43.3).



What were the positives from the Texans game? Discuss in the message boards.



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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