As an NFL analyst for ESPN, you would think Keyshawn Johnson would do a little homework while "preparing" his opinions. Last night before the game, he told Charger fans they wouldn't make it this year because they had "several" games to make up to catch the Chiefs, and that was just unrealistic to think things could work out perfectly. Wrong. With a win last night, the Chargers put the Broncos out of their misery (season over) and stayed on track to catch the Chiefs. More importantly, the Chargers are playing at a level that qualifies them for, and makes them relevant in, the playoffs.
Shaun Phillips deserves the MVP award for last night's game. The guy has matured into a versatile and smart player who has emerged as a leader and play maker on this defense. Fans were right to wonder about his character with some of the things he's said and done in the first half of his career. He seems to have taken his past mistakes to heart though and decided he'd rather be great than be a disgruntled punk. His ability to read plays on the fly coupled with his rangy quickness makes him extremely dangerous in the backfield for quarterbacks and running backs on draws and screens. Great game Shaun.
The special teams didn't lose the game this week and I think we discovered one of the major reasons for the poor performance in previous weeks: the injury to Brandon Siler. Back this week, the guy seemed to make every tackle on kickoffs. His big hits provide a spark of aggressiveness that carry over when the defense takes the field.
As I mentioned in my last post, the defense did prove to be the difference in this game, dominating the Broncos after they looking like they hadn't had their coffee yet on the first series. Orton looks good only when everything goes to plan and when the first receiver who is supposed to open actually is. Anyone who thought Orton belonged in the same conversation with Rivers as elite NFL quarterbacks were disabused of that notion by the end of the night.
When I gamed out the season (two posts ago) I originally picked the Colts to win next week's game in Indianapolis, but given the Chargers' confidence and performance and Peyton Manning's horrible game Sunday, this next game looks very good for San Diego. A win at Indy might even get Keyshawn's attention.