It also helps that San Diego's loss came to a team from out of conference. As a result, the opening-day defeat won't come back to haunt the Chargers nearly so much when tie-breakers are being discussed in December.
However, it's way too early for the Chargers to start looking at other teams in the standings. Instead, the Bolts will find their silver-lining when they pop in the tape from Sunday's game. Because even though the team delivered a disappointing performance, quarterback Philip Rivers played fantastic.
Rivers finished the game having completed 17 of 27 passes (63 percent) for 217 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 217 yards and three scores are the most Rivers has ever thrown for in a season opener. The three scores matched Rivers' career-high, a benchmark he's fit five times.
TE Antonio Gates
In the fourth quarter, with the Chargers staring down a nine-point deficit, Rivers took his game to another level. He directed a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive in which he completed five of five passes for 74 yards, including completions of 25 and 17 yards to Vincent Jackson. Rivers capped the drive by rolling out left and hitting Antonio Gates in stride for a 24-yard score.
What was most impressive about Rivers' performance was his surprising mobility. He showed great escapability in the pocket, often sidestepping Carolina's pass rush to buy time and avoid sacks. It worked for the most part, as Rivers was sacked only once despite playing behind an offensive line that was missing two Pro Bowlers.
If Rivers can sustain that high level of play on the field, the Chargers will be the team to beat in the AFC. As for his performance off the field, his status as team leader has never been more secure.
"One thing I know about our guys: This will bring us together," Rivers said. "We'll keep fighting and move on."
Rivers & Co. will move on to face the Denver Broncos, a team Rivers has always played well against. In four career starts against the Broncos, Rivers has completed 64 of 92 passes (69.6 percent) for 960 yards, seven TDs and just two interceptions.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.