Road rage

The San Diego Chargers played a tough game on the road in a place that Marty Schottenheimer called one of the loudest stadiums he has ever heard. They came away without a victory but are paving a future that looks bright.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: B- -- The passing game more than held its own, especially considering WR Reche Caldwell left in the first quarter with a knee injury. Drew Brees was 23 of 31 for 227 yards, one TD and one INT -- his first in three games. TE Antonio Gates led with six catches for 80 yards -- he did drop one inside the Atlanta 5 in the final quarter. Pass-blocking was fine - one sack. Eric Parker stepped up in Caldwell's absence with a TD catch.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C- -- Tough going here. The Falcons entered as the top run defense and proved it in containing LaDainian Tomlinson. His 2.8-yard average was about 2 yards off what he usually gets. He did score over the top and gain 64 yards, but it took 23 carries. The run-blocking was OK, nothing special against a stout unit.

PASS DEFENSE: D --- For three quarters, it helped bottle up Michael Vick. But when it really counted at the end, the unit failed miserably. Sammy Davis got beat for the game-turning play, then Jamar Fletcher gave up the game-winning TD. Pass rush was decent, getting Vick for three sacks and putting pressure on him.

RUSH DEFENSE: B- -- OLB Steve Foley had a solid game -- six tackles, two sacks -- and the unit kept Atlanta under 94 yards. Vick was contained for the most part -- again, when it counted, he scooted around and basically won the game. His 14-yarder was a highlight reel run, and the Chargers were unable to contain him.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- No one is complaining about burning a third-round pick on K Nate Kaeding. He hit two more, giving him a perfect record on all nine attempts. Among his field goals was one from 53 yards -- a career-high, and it had plenty of juice when it went through. Coverage units were fine. Not much in the return game save a 32-yard kick return by Tim Dwight. P Mike Scifres continues to shine -- 51-yard average, two inside the 20.

COACHING: F -- A little harsh? Probably, but Marty Schottenheimer is a bottom line guy and the bottom line is coaches with his credentials don't blow 10-point, fourth-quarter leads. He got conservative midway through the fourth quarter, turning to Lorenzo Neal instead of Tomlinson, when inside the Atlanta 25. Then there were issues about plays coming in late, and having the wrong personnel packages on the field. The Chargers burned their last time out with six minutes to play and it helped kill them at the end.

Falcons Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Thanks to a nearly perfect fourth quarter in which QB Michael Vick completed all five of his passes for 130 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown, this worked out alright. It wasn't very pretty in the first three quarters, though.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Warrick Dunn rushed five times for 13 yards. Although T.J. Duckett (11 carries, 45 yards) was more effective, and at times really did a nice job chewing up yardage, the run attack - No. 1 in the league going in - was held below 100 yards for the second straight game, and Vick had 35 of those yards.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Once again, the Falcons gave up a high completion percentage (23 of 31), but Drew Brees' mustered just 227 yards. CB Aaron Beasley was beaten badly on a 17-yard touchdown pass. Atlanta missed NT Rod Coleman, and managed just one sack.

RUSH DEFENSE: B+ -- Holding RB LaDainian Tomlinson to 64 yards on 23 carries is pretty good. San Diego, the league's No. 6 rushing team going in, managed just 95 rushing yards, and 14 came on a pair of reverses.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- All five of Chris Mohr's punts were fair catches, but the kickoff coverage slipped a shade as Tim Dwight averaged 25.8 yards, including a 32-yarder. Allen Rossum's only punt return went for 17 yards, but he continues to struggle with kickoffs (14.5-yard average).

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