Bolts Notebook: Drop a Deuce on the Harbaughs

The Chargers kept their playoff hopes alive by overcoming a 21-point deficit and upending the host 49ers, 38-35, in OT on Saturday. We look at the key aspects to this monumental win, as the Chargers broke a Harbaugh's heart for the second time in the last four weeks.

One Tough Hombre

They don't come any tougher than Philip Rivers, physically or mentally.

After missing practice on Wednesday due to a back injury -- the first time he's missed practice due to injury since 2007 -- Rivers stood tall and directed one of the best comebacks of his career. His work is even more amazing considering an ESPN report on Monday that claims Rivers is playing with a bulging disk in his lower back.

Rivers also showed incredible mental toughness, overcoming three interceptions -- including one that was returned for a touchdown -- to bounce back and author the second biggest comeback in franchise history. Head coach Mike McCoy obviously never lost faith in Rivers; at one point in the rally, the Chargers called 25 consecutive passing plays.

The rally was reminiscent of San Diego's comeback win on the road in Baltimore a few weeks ago. Now, the Chargers must build on their momentum, which they failed to do after beating the Ravens.

"Games like this can do a lot," Rivers said. "You never know. We won one like this in Baltimore and then we scored 14 points in [the next] eight quarters. We can't have that kind of drop-off, but we're going to be riled up pretty good here in the next week."

Telesco Time

Take a bow, Tom Telesco. Any time that many undrafted rookies contribute to a win, the scouting department deserves some praise.

Dontrelle Inman, getting his first meaningful snaps on offense after joining the team by way of the CFL, caught seven passes for 79 yards. All of his receptions came in the second half, when he replaced an ineffective Seyi Ajirotutu as the team's No. 3 receiver. Among those catches was a huge 17-yard gain on fourth-and-10 to keep the game-tying drive alive.

"He's a guy that just shows up every day and works his tail off," said McCoy of Inman. "All of the hard work paid off today."

Rookie offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles was also pressed into duty for the first time. Sirles, who played tackle at Nebraska, stepped in at right guard for an injured Johnnie Troutman and the offense didn't miss a beat. Rivers was sacked twice on the final drive of regulation, but one was a coverage sack and on the other Rivers admittedly gave himself up. The interior offensive line did it best work in overtime, helping Ronnie Brown push the Chargers into field goal range with six straight runs.

And although Branden Oliver has been putting in work for weeks, his work on Saturday cannot be ignored. He was an afterthought in the second half as San Diego was forced to abandon its running game, but he still managed to gain over 80 yards from scrimmage on just 16 touches. He fought as hard as any player on the roster, breaking tackles and breaking ankles.

Telesco has done so well finding talent among undrafted free agents, we're almost willing to overlook his awful decision to sign Donald Brown last offseason. Brown, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March, dropped another potential big gainer on Saturday night.

Spread the Wealth

The Chargers spread the ball around as well as any offense in the league. Four players finished with at least 50 yards receiving: Inman (79), Eddie Royal (94), Antonio Gates (92) and Malcom Floyd (50). That quartet combined for 28 receptions and hauled in all four of Rivers' touchdown passes.

If Royal finishes with at least 67 yards in the season finale in Kansas City, the Chargers will have four receivers finish with at least 750 receiving yards. Speaking of goals for next week, Antonio Gates needs just 53 yards to reach 10,000 for his career. There would be no better place to do it than Kansas City, where Gates enjoyed some of his best games while playing on the same field as Tony Gonzalez.

Defense Steps Up in Second Half

The defense, despite occasionally horrific tackling and too many dumb penalties, made plays when it had to. John Pagano's unit scored a touchdown for the second time in the last three weeks when Dwight Freeney sacked Colin Kaepernick and forced a fumble that was recovered by Corey Liuget in the end zone. Another fumble was forced in overtime, when Eric Weddle stripped Quinton Patton to set up San Diego's game-winning drive.

"Our defense was awesome," Rivers said. "They obviously scored a touchdown. I know, I say they were awesome and y'all will say, 'But look at all the yards.' But they were awesome when they needed to be."

There were a few strong individual performances. Liuget was a constant presence in San Francisco's backfield, especially in the second half. Manti Te'o recorded his first career sack, just two weeks after posting his first career interception. And Steve Williams held his own after replacing Shareece Wright, who missed the second half due to a concussion.

The Chargers held the 49ers to just seven points after halftime, including none in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Lightning Quicks

--Chris Watt hurt his ankle in the first half -- yes, another center! -- and was replaced by Trevor Robinson. Robinson did an excellent job with the line calls and slowing San Francisco's initial rush, although he was pushed into Rivers lap on a couple of occasions.

--Nick Novak had only one field goal attempt in San Francisco, but it was a big one. One week after missing two attempts against the Broncos (one was tipped), he hit a 40-yard try in overtime to seal the win for the visiting team. It was clear the Chargers still have the utmost faith in Novak; McCoy called for the kick on second down (a first-down run was used just to center the ball) despite the fact that his offense was moving the ball at will.

"To kick a game-winner, a do-or-die kick, is a dream come true," Novak said. "It's what you train for on a weekly basis. We love to be in that moment."

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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