Insider's Take: Bolts vs. Chiefs

In a game that featured eight lead changes and more than 80 total points, the Chargers struck first and struck last, walking away with their first divisional win of the season. We break down everything that happened in Arrowhead with a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next for San Diego.

What Worked

--The Chiefs have the second-best roster in the AFC West while the Chargers have the division's second-best signal caller (behind the Broncos and Peyton Manning, respectively). The latter trumped the former on Sunday, as Philip Rivers racked up 393 yards, three scores and a game-winning drive that kept San Diego alive in the playoff race.

Rivers averaged more than 10 yards per attempt while becoming just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 390 yards in a game four times in the same season. He spread the wealth, too, with six players catching multiple passes. He threw two touchdown passes in the final eight minutes: the first went to Ladarius Green, marking Green's first career touchdown, and the second went to Seyi Ajirotutu, who scored for the first time since 2010.

--Much credit goes to O-line coach Joe D'Alessandris and his mix-and-matched unit. With rookie D.J. Fluker starting at left tackle for the second consecutive week (with Jeromey Clary moving back to right tackle and Chad Rinehart filling in at right guard), the line paved the way for an offense that gained more than 100 yards on the ground and allowed just one sack on 39 pass attempts.

It helped that KC lost pass rushers Tamba Hali (ankle) and Justin Houston (elbow) to injuries during the first half. But Chiefs fans are unlikely to get any sympathy from Bolts Backers considering: a) the Chargers' best pass-blocking offensive lineman (King Dunlap) was out with a neck injury; and b) San Diego is already minus its top three outside pass rushers (Dwight Freeney, Melvin Ingram and Larry English).

--John Pagano's defense was mostly carved up in Kansas City. The Chiefs gained 395 yards, picked up 26 first downs and averaged 6.7 yards per play. But Pagano's troops did one key thing to allow San Diego to stay in the game ... they created negative plays. San Diego posted three sacks (Thomas Keiser, Reggie Walker and Kendall Reyes). Also, Marcus Gilchrist picked off his second pass of the season and returned it 17 yards. San Diego scored two plays later for a 24-21 lead.

What Didn't

--San Diego's cornerbacks are an embarrassment. Derek Cox was benched yet again -- seemingly a weekly occurrence at this point -- and Shareece Wright was repeatedly abused on the other side. Things got straight comical early in the third quarter when the Chargers were called for three defensive pass interference penalties in a span of four plays.

Alex Smith completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 294 yards -- both season bests -- for a passer rating of 106.7. He got everything he wanted except for the win, falling to 0-3 in his career against the Chargers.

--The injury bug continues to take massive bites out of the Chargers. D.J. Fluker and Corey Liuget -- both recent first-round picks -- were injured late. Ryan Mathews left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and didn't return. Eddie Royal (chest) and Darrell Stuckey (concussion) also got knocked from the action. San Diego has already had its lack of depth exposed and more serious injuries would be crushing.

What's Next?

The Chargers return home for four of their final five games, the first of which comes Sunday against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. The AFC North leaders (7-4) represent a stiff challenge, but if San Diego can defend its home field in Week 13 it has a chance to get right back into the thick of the playoff race.

There are currently six teams with 5-6 records vying for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Four of those teams play each other next week (Steelers at Ravens and Dolphins at Jets), so if the Chargers handle their business they will put themselves in position to be real contenders over the final month of the season.

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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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