Bolts Offense Gets Centered

Nick Hardwick is the center of attention. The Chargers offense dusted off its 2006 blueprints and looked to be its old self in Sunday's 32-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

That game was also the day Hardwick, the team's Pro Bowl center, returned after missing four starts with a foot injury.

"It's not like I came in and revolutionized the game or anything," Hardwick said. "It's probably more of a coincidence that we happened to win by so much."

Whatever the reason, the Chargers offense was back clicking like the old days of last year. And the unit looked comfortable and relaxed with Hardwick in the middle of it.

"It's a certain energy that he has," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of Hardwick. "I think it's confidence and leadership."

The Chargers were satisfied with what they got out of Cory Withrow, Hardwick's backup. Still, that didn't diminish their enthusiasm for Hardwick's return and the result it brought.

"It's just kind of lucky," the modest Hardwick said. "(I got to) step in at the right time and I look like a hero."

Hardwick's presence is especially critical this week. The Chargers head to Kansas City, where many a team has crumbled from not being able to get the offensive line calls out.

The Chargers are leaning on Hardwick and the rest of the inconsistent offense as they try and maintain their one-game lead in the AFC West. Sunday marks a return to the road for the Chargers, where they have lost four of five games.


--QB Philip Rivers threw three touchdowns and completed 25 of 35 passes in a solid performance. Just as important is that he didn't turn the ball over after doing so 17 times in 10 games. He looked good.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson went over the 10,000-yard mark as a rusher and did it in the right way with a 36-yard run down the left sideline. He had but 77 yards rushing, but added another 45 receiving yards.

--TE Antonio Gates was finally in the mix again after a five-game stretch in which he caught but 14 passes. Gates had two scoring receptions and 105 yards on six catches and had little trouble getting open.

--WR Chris Chambers added another touchdown catch and the way the newest Charger did it with Rivers is encouraging. Off each other's body language, they read the coverage and the result was a five-yard scoring play.

--WR Vincent Jackson had his best day in the second half, catching five balls for 65 yards. That included a long of 31 as he got back into the passing game mix.

--FB Lorenzo Neal's role was just to block -- he received no surprise handoffs in short-yardage situations. The way those have been working of late, that's just as well.

--WR Craig Davis is learning how tough it is to get his name called. On a day other offensive players were having big days, the rookie Davis got but one reception for four yards.

--RB Michael Turner got only two carries for two yards as coach Norv Turner continues not to look for ways to get him into the lineup.

--DT Jamal Williams held his ground and more in the middle as the run defense had a solid day. Nothing wrong with six tackles from his position.

--CB Antonio Cromartie has worked his way into the starting lineup at the expense of Drayton Florence. He had one tackle on Sunday.

--CB Quentin Jammer is back at full strength after a tweaked hamstring. He's good in run support and that helps a run defense that was taking on water. Jammer had four tackles and the hamstring didn't bark.

--OLB Shaun Phillips was all over the place a week after having a game-high 10 tackles in Jacksonville. Phillips showed six tackles, half a sack and two quarterback hits thanks to his clean burst off the line.

--OLB Shawne Merriman was back making the highlight reel for his play instead of for getting blasted by the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew. Merriman was solid with a team-high seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

--DE Igor Olshansky played well against the run and the pass. He had five tackles, forced a fumble and added a rare sack.

--DE Jacques Cesaire has been doing a good job filling in for Luis Castillo. Cesaire had a tackle, a sack and a quarterback hit in a pretty active game.

--KR/PR Darren Sproles got two carries in the offense but gained but one yard. He did have a nifty 32-yard kickoff return.

--K Nate Kaeding tied a career high with four field goals to give him some much-needed work heading into the stretch run. Two of the field goals came from 46 and 41 yards.

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