SD-STL: What Worked, What Didn't, What's Next

The Bolts and Rams played one of the year's most entertaining games on Sunday, with San Diego narrowly escaping with its seventh victory. Before we move on and look at a huge showdown this weekend in Baltimore, we take our weekly look back at what worked, what didn't and what's next.

What Worked

--Philip Rivers bounced back in sensational fashion after throwing a pick-six to Janoris Jenkins on the sixth play of the second quarter. Rivers finished the game 29-of-35 (83 percent) for for 291 yards and a touchdown. He was at his best after halftime, when he completed 14-of-15 passes for 185 yards.

Rivers was quick to give credit to his offensive line, which was shuffled yet again as rookie Chris Watt made his first career start at center, filling in for the injured Rich Ohrnberger (back/ankle). Watt became the fourth player to start at center for the Chargers this season.

"I have to give credit to the offensive line," Rivers said. "All three times I was sacked, it was because they were in good coverage and I was taking the sack, especially there at the end ... I wasn't going to throw an incompletion if nothing was there, just make them use their timeout. Other than those three, I didn't touch the ground. Given their pass rush, especially with the job they did last week, that was just an awesome job by the guys up front."

--Ryan Mathews ran for over 100 yards on just 12 carries, averaging 8.75 yards per attempt. His 32-yard touchdown run put the Chargers ahead, 13-10, and he also ripped off runs of 19 and 17 yards.

San Diego's running backs also played a big role in the passing game. Mathews, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown combined to catch eight passes for 51 yards.

--The defense finally came up with momentum-changing plays in critical moments. Brandon Flowers picked off Shaun Hill on St. Louis' first drive, which turned into three points for San Diego. In the third quarter, Corey Liuget sacked Hill and forced a fumble, which was scooped up by Andrew Gachkar and brought into the end zone to extend San Diego's lead to 20-10.

Last, but certainly not least, Marcus Gilchrist sealed the win with an interception in the end zone on the Rams' final offensive play. It was sweet redemption for Gilchrist on a couple levels: 1) he was beaten by Stedman Bailey for a 7-yard touchdown one series earlier; and 2) he dropped a potential interception in Week 1 that ended up costing the Chargers the game against the Cardinals.

"The coverage we were in, I didn't have much responsibility due to the route combination that they ran," Gilchrist explained. "I was able to get my eyes back on the quarterback. I saw where he was going with the ball and was able to make a play."

What Didn't

--It's not often two players who went over 100 yards and scored touchdowns find themselves listed under "What Didn't Work," but that's the case here.

Mathews was sensational when he was on the field, but missed a key drive in the fourth quarter when he was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. It is great news that he was able to get back on the field and finish the game, but his inability to stay healthy is getting ridiculous.

Then there is Keenan Allen, who had a hand in two turnovers: he fumbled at the end of a 35-yard reception and muffed a punt when he collided with teammate Chris Davis. Allen redeemed himself to an extent with a 29-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but his turnovers nearly cost the Chargers the game.

"We can't have the muffed punt situation," McCoy said on Monday. "All 11 guys on the field have to understand what Keenan is trying to do back there. When one player comes too close to him, he can't fully commit to coming up for it. Unfortunately, Chris was in a bad spot there. It looks like it's Keenan, but it's everybody out there."

Rivers should not be let off the hook, either. The pick-six he threw to Jenkins accounted for a 14-point swing and dug the Chargers an early hole from which they spent much of the game trying to recover.

--For all the peaks and valley of this game, perhaps the most frustrating was the fake punt executed by Johnny Hekker. For one thing, the Rams have shown they have no hesitation to call fake punts with Hekker, a former quarterback. For another, the Rams were down by two scores at the time with just about seven minutes remaining. Everything about this situation screamed a fake punt was coming, yet the Chargers allowed Hekker and Bailey to play pitch-and-catch for a 19-yard gain on fourth-and-4.

When you also consider Tavon Austin's near game-winning punt return a short time later, it is clear the Chargers need a better effort from Kevin Spencer and his units.

--The final score was beautiful, but there were some ugly numbers buried in the box score. San Diego converted just 4-of-12 third downs (33 percent), which is crazy given Rivers and Mathews were both so efficient. Then there were the penalties, with the Chargers getting flagged eight times for 85 yards.

Another worrisome number: one, as in the number of sacks the Chargers recorded on the day. Hill, never to be described as mobile, dropped back to pass 36 times and was sacked just once. The pass rush has to be better, especially now that Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu are healthy.

What's Next?

Now, things get interesting.

San Diego begins a brutal five-game closing stretch this week in Baltimore, as the two 7-4 clubs battle for playoff positioning. The Ravens are coming off a short week, having beaten the Saints in New Orleans on Monday Night Football. But there are logistical problems for the Chargers, as well, who will be playing on the East Coast and kicking off at 10am PST.

Week 13 has the potential to go a long way towards determining San Diego's playoff fate. Later on Sunday, the Broncos and Chiefs will collide in Kansas City in a game that could potentially reshuffle the AFC West race. The Chargers host the Broncos in Week 15 and will visit the Chiefs in the season finale.

Can the Bolts finish strong and get back to the playoffs? Talk about it right here.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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