Beasts or Bullies?

Have the Chargers regained their elite status? Or are they merely capitalizing on the league's weaklings? The Bolts are 0-3 against teams with winning records and 4-0 against everybody else. Either way, the team won its last three games by a combined score of 104-27. Here is a closer look at the latest victory.

What Worked

--Antonio Cromartie packed a month's worth of stats into half a game. He had two interceptions, two touchdowns, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and a tackle by the time intermission rolled around. After going 21 games without an interception, he now has three in the last two games. The touchdowns were the first two of his career and came less than nine minutes apart.

--Chris Chambers faced the Texans for the second time in four weeks. He liked the results better the second time around. He contributed two big catches -- a 21-yard gain and a 14-yard touchdown -- and almost had a third. He was wide open down the left sideline on what would have been a 65-yard touchdown, but Philip Rivers overthrew him. Antonio Gates credited Chambers for opening up the offense for the other playmakers.

--Gates took full advantage of the attention given to Chambers. Gates was all alone on his 49-yard touchdown grab, a rare sight for a player en route to a fourth consecutive All Pro season. Nonetheless, Rivers made him work for the reception.

"I was kind of shocked that they let him run wide open," Rivers said. "I hurried the throw and it didn't come out of my hand like I wanted it to."

Rivers redeemed himself for the wobbly throw by hitting Gates for a second touchdown, a 31-yard hookup that put the Chargers ahead, 21-3. It was Gates' 39th career receiving touchdown, the sixth-best total in franchise history.

--After losing Shaun Phillips to a groin injury early on, Ted Cottrell needed another pass rusher to step up. To the surprise of the Houston Texans, that player was Drayton Florence. Flo' came on a pair of corner blitzes. The first came on a third-and-13 and forced Matt Schaub to check down to Owen Daniels for a short gain. The second came on Cromartie's pick-six, which allowed Florence to be in the backfield and knock Schaub from the game with a devastating -- albeit illegal -- block.

--Count the performance of Legedu Naanee in the "what's working" column. With Craig Davis inactive with an ankle injury, Naanee leapfrogged Malcom Floyd on the depth chart and stepped in as the No. 3 receiver. Although the rookie failed to catch a pass, it is significant that he is working himself into a larger role.

--The Chargers won the turnover battle, 5-0. It was just the second time this season the Chargers failed to give the ball away. The five takeaways were a season high, as were the four interceptions.

--Mike Scifres punted five times and landed every kick inside the Houston 20-yard line. His 50.2-yard average was well above his season average of 43.5. He also had an incredible kick that skipped down to the 1-yard line before turning sideways and rolling to a stop just inches in front of the goal line.

What Didn't

--Vincent Jackson went without a reception for the first time all season. Part of that is because Rivers only attempted 11 passes. However, the Chargers must make sure that the talented but streaky receiver continues to develop and be a part of the offense. On talent alone, Jackson is a better player than Chambers.

--The Texans have been a pass-happy team all season. So when they fell behind, 35-3, late in the second quarter, the Chargers knew they could pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. However, the team recorded only one sack, which was split between Luis Castillo and Marques Harris.

--No lead is safe in the NFL. Just as Bill Belichick. So although the five first-half touchdowns were all well and good, it would have been nice to see the Chargers put something on the board in the second half.

--There was no reason for Tomlinson to play into the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. Michael Turner is the best backup running back in the game and finished with only four carries despite the large margin of victory. With Darren Sproles handling kickoffs, Norv Turner must find a way to get M.T. more involved. Today was a golden opportunity that went by the wayside.

What's Next

The Chargers head to the Midwest to take on the Minnesota Vikings (2-5) and leading rusher Adrian Peterson. The Vikings boast the third-best rushing defense in the NFL (74.4 yards per game) and will be a stiff test for the reigning MVP.

"You can have something like this (win) and have a letdown after the fact," Norv Turner said. "The biggest thing on my mind already is now we've got to get back into our normal routine and we're playing a team that's playing well. I know they lost a close one today, but I watched Minnesota play against Dallas over the bye week and it was a close, physical competitive game."

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.


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