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

On the surface, there is no shame in a 23-14 loss to the Patriots. However, the game was far uglier than the box score indicates. Here is a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next after the Chargers fell to 0-2 this season in their Powder Blues.

What Worked

--Melvin Ingram enjoyed his best game the season. His first-quarter sack of Tom Brady stopped a New England drive in the red zone and he had two other powerful tackles for loss. It is a promising sign of things to come for Ingram, who is getting better by the week since coming back off the temporary injured-reserve list (hip).

--The entire defense deserves a tip of the cap, starting with defensive coordinator John Pagano, who called his best game of the season. Five times the defense got off the field in just four plays, including four consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half. That was more incredible given: 1) San Diego's offense could not sustain a drive; and 2) the Bolts were giving away field position with every exchange due to short punts by emergency fill-in Nick Novak.

Jahleel Addae forced a fumble that was returned by Darrell Stuckey for his first career touchdowns. Manti Te'o had his first career interception to prevent the Patriots from putting points on the board at the end of the first half. And although Ingram had the Chargers' only sack, the team piled up seven quarterback knock-downs and nine tackles for loss. The Patriots averaged just 3.1 yards per rush.

"Our defense did a nice job coming out and getting a number of three-and-outs to start the second half," said head coach Mike McCoy. "Offensively, we didn't capitalize on that and we need to do a better job there."

What Didn't

--Philip Rivers is clearly the engine that drives the Chargers -- he put the team on his shoulders and carried it to a win last week in Baltimore -- but you have to call a spade a spade ... this was a bad game by Rivers. He was often confused by what the Patriots were doing on defense and looked out of sorts for most of the night. He failed to find his hot reads consistently; he never saw Akeem Ayers on that third-quarter interception; and his trademark accuracy was missing (throws to Antonio Gates, Branden Oliver and Malcom Floyd come to mind).

"I didn't play very well, we didn't play very well, and [the Patriots] were the reason for a lot of that,?" Rivers said. "We had some things that were self-inflicted, as well. It wasn't our best day. Any time you score seven points in this league, you aren't going to win many games."

--The offensive line certainly didn't make life easier for Rivers. Rookie center Chris Watt had an especially rough go of it, which makes one wonder if all the high praise he was given the week before was a bit premature. He had a tough time diagnosing New England's different blitz packages, which often featured two players lined up over the A-Gap, and was simply overpowered on other occasions. His calf injury may have played a role in his ineffectiveness, but he can't put together a better showing against the Broncos, San Diego would be better off going with Trevor Robinson.

"The protection needed to be better throughout the entire game," McCoy said. "At times it was good, but not good enough to win against a good football team."

--After every Chargers loss, Mike McCoy laments that his team needs to coach better and play better. Well, let's put some extra emphasis on the former this week. San Diego looked completely unprepared to take down a Patriots team that looked completely beatable for much of the evening.

The offensive play-calling, in particular, was horrendous. The first two drives of the second half started with runs that went for a loss of 2 yards apiece. The next two drives began with passes to the running backs, which gained a combined total of 4 yards. The refusal to be more aggressive on first down made the offense predictable and put the Patriots defense in position to succeed on second and third downs.

What's Next

Things don't get any easier next week as the Chargers host their division leaders, the Broncos. Had the Chargers beaten New England, this would have been a showdown for first place in the AFC West. Now, it is a battle for survival. San Diego had a tentative hold on the AFC's second and final wild-card spot, but that will disappear with a loss to Denver. A second straight defeat would force the Chargers to win their last two -- at San Francisco and at Kansas City -- to even have a shot at making the postseason.

"We have to improve and play a lot better next week," McCoy said.

This is not the same Broncos team the Chargers faced a few weeks ago in Denver. This team is now making its living on the ground, fueled by the revelation that is C.J. Anderson. San Diego will have to load up to stop the run and hope Brandon Flowers, Eric Weddle & Co. can hold up in coverage. On offense, the Chargers just have to do the exact opposite of what they did against the Patriots and they should be just fine.

Is Coach McCoy to blame for Sunday's loss? Discuss inside of the message boards.

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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