MVP Candidates Carry the Chargers

Earlier this week on, there was a thread in the message boards discussing the Chargers MVP candidates for 2008. Every one of those candidates came up big Sunday as the Bolts blasted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-24.

To see the message board thread in discussion, click here.

The discussion for the offensive MVP award centers on two players: QB Philip Rivers and WR Vincent Jackson. Both players authored monster performances in Tampa Bay against the third-ranked pass defense of the Buccaneers.

Rivers connected on 21-of-31 passes (68 percent) for 287 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. He spread the wealth to eight players with three of them finding the end zone: Antonio Gates (two), Brandon Manumaleuna and Darren Sproles.

More importantly, Rivers did not turn the ball over against a team that came into the game ranked No. 3 in interceptions.

Jackson was the primary benefactor of Rivers' success, tallying his third 100-yard game of the season with a seven-catch, 111-yard performance. In the process, Jackson went over 1,000 yards on the season (1,051) for the first time in his career.

NT Jamal Williams
Lenny Ignelzi/AP

On the defensive side of the ball, the MVP chatter focused on NT Jamal Williams, CB Quentin Jammer and LB Stephen Cooper. Each made his case loudly against the Buccaneers.

Williams logged five tackles as the defense held Tampa Bay's running backs to 19 carries for 50 yards (2.6 avg). Although he was denied his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl invite, Williams has been his usual dominant self over the final two-thirds of the season.

Jammer made a pair of big plays to secure the victory. The first came when he smacked a scrambling Jeff Garcia, forcing Garcia to bleed from the nose and lose composure down the stretch. The second play came when Jammer tipped a pass intended for Ike Hilliard into the arms of Antoine Cason, who sprinted 59 yards for the deciding TD.

The final defensive contender, Cooper, continued his furious finish by intercepting his fourth pass in the last three games. Cooper is second on the team with 92 tackles despite being suspended for the first four games of the season.

Not one of these five superstars will head to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl at season's end. But as they showed in Sunday's waxing of the Buccaneers, they are the driving force behind a team that has the capability to be among the league's best.

To see the message board thread in discussion, click here.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the 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.

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