Not that the Chargers necessarily needed to “rebound” from a preseason loss, but they definitely had reason to show character in St. Louis Saturday night.The Bolts had to justify being on a nationally televised game the second week in a row, not to mention the large amount of preseason hype they’ve received.Most pundits have given them the division crown, and all but an invite to the AFC championship game; teams on that hype level aren’t supposed to lose preaseason home openers, let alone the first two preseason games of a season.Yes, I know the preseason is meaningless. Most Super Bowl champs don’t go undefeated in the preseason, I get it.Still, Norv’s boys looked soft last week.Saturday, they looked like division champs. St. Louis is not an easy place to outshine the home team, it’s not Oakland or Arizona after all.Rivers and his O looked strong, the defense looked mean at times, and the Chargers controlled the game, when it counted.Don’t get me started on Gus Frerrotte’s success, I’m still trying to figure out why he isn’t a starter somewhere.
Offense• The style seemed different from the outset, with a little more smashmouth than last week. Michael Turner was used early and often, to the tune of 48 yards on 9 carries, which is promising from a first-team-O run production standpoint.• Vincent Jackson made a slight breakout as a red zone / 3rd down target, utilizing his size and strength to manufacture the important catches that will be needed in a playoff run.• Rivers fundamentals: since his starting days as a Freshman under Chuck “the chest” Amato in Raleigh, Rivers has had weird mechanics throwing the ball.But they aren’t inefficient like Byron Leftwitch. Have you seen that guy throw a ball in Jacksonville? He takes a Nolan Ryan windup each pass! That’s why he’s always getting sacked and picked off—it takes 3 seconds for him between picking a receiver and actually releasing the ball.Back to Rivers: if you noticed on his sideline strike to Gates, when he found himself under pressure after finishing his drop, instead of panicking, a la Jamie Martin (Saints), he tucked the ball like a running back and escaped the collapsing pocket.I’ve never seen a QB do this. It was brilliant! Brilliant, and fundamentally sound. Most QBs hold the ball one-handed (which is the worst mechanic to choose), pat the ball (Bledsoe, Favre), or hold it down low (Leftwitch), when they’re feeling the heat.Rivers tucked it RB-style, found his way out of the pocket, then re-seated the ball next to his ear when he was away from traffic until he found 85 on the sideline. Perfect. Rivers fundamentals are a product of being a coaches son, and something not to overlook as he marches this team toward Glendale.
Defense• The zone coverages need quite a bit of tightening up, but that is to be expected at this point of the season. The 3rd and 17, Bulger-Bruce 25-yard completion was a product of Bruce finding space between the 3 deep men and the 4 underneath men in the cover-3 scheme, and Bulger getting him the ball in that spot. This looked like a blown coverage, but the 25-yard gain was a veteran taking advantage of a secondary not knowing it’s boundaries at this point in the season.• Shaun Phillips forced the Madison Hedgecock fumble, sacked Bulger and forced another fumble, and was seen all over the field making plays on D. Definitely something we like to see. But the penalties can be avoided Shaun.
Developing Themes:• Darrren Sproles! I said it last week, this guy is a key to the team’s success. And this week I’ll say that anyone who doesn’t pick this guy up in a fantasy league in later rounds, you’ve missed out on this year’s sleeper. The 81-yard punt return for a TD was not a fluke, expect more of these. Upgrading from Eric Parker to D-Sproles is like going from a Civic Hatchback to a Lexus in the return game.• Penalties: 7 penalties this week; and all of them stupid, silly, off-sides or false start penalties. This must be cleaned up.• Craig Davis: in motion, catching passes headed to the sideline.Now, these are nice plays that gain easy clips of yards, but I’d like to see some passes to the young guy where he’s got some room to run after the catch. The deep ball that Rivers threw to him down the sideline was a dumb decision of Philip’s part. Davis had a corner bailing over top of him, with safety-help deep. Rivers, if he has to throw this ball, purposely underthrows the route or puts it on Craig’s back shoulder. Either option keeps the ball away from the defense, and gives only Davis a chance to make a play.
Game-HI : Rivers, 9/13 for 82 yards
Game-LO : 7 penalties for 35 yards