Insider's Take: Chargers versus Broncos

Once again, the Bolts played down to the wire and, once again, the opponent walked away with the win. The Denver Broncos led 39-38 at the buzzer and exposed some of the Bolts' biggest weaknesses. SDBoltReport.com's Jaime Cattano checks in on what worked, what didn't work and what's next.

What Worked

--A patchwork offensive line proved stellar protection for QB Philip Rivers. The Denver Broncos attempted a variety of blitzes but San Diego's o-line permitted only one sack. While C Nick Hardwick is still sidelined due to a foot injury, fill-in Jeremy Newberry is getting more comfortable in the offense. LT Marcus McNeill has missed the first two games (neck); however, L.J. Shelton proves to be a dependable replacement.

--Rivers registered remarkable stats, going 21-for-33 for 377 yards and three touchdowns. With an average of 11.4 yards per pass, he recorded only one interception- an interception that was challenged by Norv Turner before the replay equipment failed to work. Rivers did an astounding job of stretching the field, something the Chargers focused on throughout the offseason.

--The special teams provided a durable force and kept the Chargers in the game. In the second quarter, RB Darren Sproles displayed amazing agility and unmatched speed as he registered a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The return tied Keith Lincoln's franchise record, obtained in 1962 against the New York Titans, for the longest kickoff return in franchise history.

--Sproles' efforts on special teams didn't stop there. In the third quarter, Sproles returned a kickoff to San Diego's 41-yard line. Establishing the short field, Rivers ended the drive with a pass to Chris Chambers for six points. For good measure, Sproles rushed for 53 yards and added a 66-yard scoring reception.

What Didn't Work

--CB Antonio Cromartie suffered his worst game as a professional, registering three penalties and a dropped interception. Cromartie's skills were fully tested by Broncos WR Brandon Marshall and he failed to shut Marshall down. Not only did Marshall set a club record with 18 receptions -- two receptions shy of Terrell Owens' NFL record -- he marked 166 yards and a TD, proving why he is QB Jay Cutler's favorite target.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson was limited to 10 carries for 26 yards due to a toe injury he first sustained during the Season Opener against the Panthers. Sproles shined in Tomlinson's stead, but Sproles lacks the size and between-the-tackles skills to be an every-down back.

--The loss of Michael Turner could be more significant than expected, especially in short-yardage situations. If L.T.'s injury keeps him sidelined or even limited, the Bolts will not only need Sproles to show colossal force up the middle, but they will most likely look to rookies Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert to aid the running game.

--The absence of both Stephen Cooper and Shawne Merriman was all too obvious. Cutler completed 36 of 50 passes for a career-best 350 yards and four touchdowns. The Broncos also shined on the ground, tallying 145 rushing yards versus the Chargers' 80. Without Rivers' precision passing and Sproles' returns, this game would have been a blowout.

What's Next

-The Chargers look to challenge the "all things happen in threes" theory as they gear up for the New York Jets next Monday at Qualcomm Stadium. With names like Brett Favre, Thomas Jones and Jerricho Cotchery, the Bolts can't afford to make the same mistakes over again. More importantly, the Chargers will hope for their key players to be back on the field in good health.


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