It looked like the Chargers were slinking their way to another poor game (and possibly season?) when Ronnie Brown gave them a gift by coughing up the ball on the one-yard line out of the back of the end zone. Had Brown not fumbled, the Chargers would have been playing from behind with a serious case of the "here-we-go-agains." Instead, the game stayed close and the defense had some chances to get its confidence back.
On defense, the unit as a whole seemed to gain confidence from a little luck and a few good plays. Defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo made some big plays against the run in short yardage situations. He might just turn out to be a player. Larry English and Kevin Burnett seem to be getting their timing down and had some important rushes of the quarterback. They both hit Pennington on the play he was injured, knocking his shoulder out of joint and turning the tide of the game squarely on the side of San Diego.
As the Chargers gained a two score lead, the defensive unit could relax a bit and play like they're capable of. They haven't had confidence or rhythm all season, and the small lead with the Miami back up QB in allowed them play with a proper sense of aggressiveness. I think they can parlay this into next week's game against the Steelers and the rest of the season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Rivers' timing and ability to hit the long ball with Floyd and Jackson is beginning to look like something special. Remember the Tony Martin and Stan Humphries connection of the '94 run to the Super Bowl? The ability to make the big play consistently is a key ingredient of any "special" season.
The Chargers' offensive line still cannot run block. San Diego found itself again stalled in the red zone several times today. Getting LaDanian Tomlinson back will help some, but no one can help an anemic group of run blockers. I sincerely hope Norv understands what a serious issue this is. Sometimes it seems he, as an ex-quarterback, doesn't understand how important the run game is. His success with Dallas as offensive coordinator was predicated by Emmit Smith and the offensive line setting up everything else. I have yet to hear one comment of concern from the coaches about the blocking in the run game. This must change if the Chargers are going to do anything but "one and done" in the playoffs this year.
Shawne Merriman is injured, stopping his "progress" back to playing at full strength. LT may be out at least another week. Ankle injures can linger for a whole season or longer. Hardwick is out for the season. The Chargers can't do much is the post-season without LT and Merriman.
OVERALL? This team is still fundamentally flawed, but the Dolphins and a little luck helped them gain more solid footing this week. Now they can go to Pittsburgh with a little bit of confidence. The Steelers haven't been playing well and best not underestimate this team even without LT.