Chargers rewarded by their playbook

The San Diego Chargers opened up the playbook and were rewarded. Ironically, two receivers who rarely drop a ball did just that, thwarting what could have been true dominance from Philip Rivers.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Philip Rivers came of age against the Steelers, as coach Marty Schottenheimer finally took the shackles off him. Rivers led the team from a 13-7 deficit to a 23-13 victory. Rivers was especially sharp in the second half, going for 11-for-16 for 137 yards and a score with no interceptions. The pass blocking wasn't good early on, then made some adjustments against a confusing Steelers blitz defense that had an extra week to put in some wrinkles. Eric Parker continues to make the difficult catches; Antonio Gates was found again and cashed in a touchdown. But this was all about Rivers growing up.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- LaDainian Tomlinson isn't the leading Chargers rusher -- stop the presses. Michael Turner continues to prove he is worth every carry he gets. He averaged 5.1 yards on 11 carries, with a long of 23. Tomlinson could manage but 36 yards -- a 2.8-yard average. The run blocking left a lot to be desired in the first half when collecting but 8 yards rushing; the Chargers finished with 119 rushing yards.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Chargers got interceptions from Drayton Florence and Marlon McCree as the back end of the defense continues to show improvement. After finishing No. 28 last year, it remains No. 1. The pass rush was stout as well, as the Chargers collected four sacks. But that doesn't tell the whole story of how much pressure Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was under. There were eight quarterback hurries, and there was even pressure from the interior.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Williams was awesome for the second consecutive week. He not only was among the key reasons the Steelers managed but 68 rushing yards, but he also had a sack, six tackles and a quarterback hurry. The linebackers were active, in part because the Steelers had their hands full with Williams and ends Igor Olshansky and Luis Castillo.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Chargers were in desperate need of a jolt to open the second half, and Turner supplied it with a 51-yard return. The kicking game was also keen, as Nate Kaeding nailed all three of his field-goal attempts. P Mike Scifres had three of his efforts land inside the 20, and his net was 40.7. A few leaks on the kickoff return coverage, but overall it was a pretty solid effort.

COACHING: A -- Schottenheimer was pounded pretty good about his conservative ways leading up to the Steelers game, and not that he gives a flip, but he did come out throwing the ball to loosen up the Steelers. But the keys here were the halftime adjustments. The second-half Chargers didn't look anything like the first-half version, which had trouble collecting yards and protecting Rivers.

Steelers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Part of it looks good: Ben Roethlisberger completed 20 of 31 passes for 220 yards. The rest is ugly: No touchdowns, two interceptions, five sacks, a 58.5 passer rating. His receivers dropped two passes, one easy one by Hines Ward, a more difficult one by Nate Washington on a deep sideline go route. Roethlisberger looked good in the first half, horrendous in the second half. He got precious little protection, either.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The commitment to the run wasn't there and the lack of production followed. The Steelers ran 18 times -- just four times in the second half -- and gained 68 yards. Twenty-eight of those yards came on two runs. Willie Parker ran 14 times for 57 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown that staked the Steelers to an early 7-0 lead. If the Steelers aren't rushing for at least 100 yards, they're not winning. It's hard to put the rap on the ground game, though, when it does not get the opportunity.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- There was little the secondary could do about Philip Rivers. He was as accurate as any quarterback they've seen the past few years. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 242 yards and would have had much more except his receivers dropped several passes. Safety Ryan Clark had an early interception and Rivers was sacked four times. But none of it deterred him. He threw two touchdowns, both over excellent coverage by cornerback Deshea Townsend -- he had no chance to stop the first play, but somehow whiffed on the ball on the second.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- San Diego managed only 8 yards rushing on 8 carries in the first half against a swarming defense that seemed to be everywhere LaDainian Tomlinson wanted to go. That changed in the second half when the Chargers gouged them for 111 yards on the ground on 23 carries. Backup Michael Turner hurt them the most in the second half when he had all of his 56 yards rushing.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Jeff Reed made both of his field goal tries and punter Chris Gardocki averaged 47.3 yards per punt. Rookie Willie Reid also returned his first NFL punt 11 yards to get off on the right foot. However, Reid's foot was sprained at the end of the second quarter and he may be out for a while. The bad news continued, when the Steelers allowed a 51-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half that helped get the Chargers back into the game. The Steelers' lone opportunity for good news in the return game was squashed by a penalty. Trailing by seven midway through the fourth quarter, Steelers returner Najeh Davenport returned the kickoff 34 yards to the 37 but it was called back by a holding penalty.

COACHING: C -- Even though the Steelers led well into the third quarter, they abandoned the ground game in the second half. They ran the ball just twice in the third quarter and followed that -- when they had to play catch-up -- with just two more runs in the fourth quarter. They weren't doing that badly on the ground in the first half, either, when Willie Parker ran 10 times for 44 yards and a touchdown.


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