- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the Chargers’ 19-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Are the Chargers a playoff team? Denver and Kansas City are both undefeated atop the AFC West at 6-0, making dreams of a division title unrealistic for the Chargers. Still, San Diego (3-3) is only a half-game behind 3-2 Miami for the final AFC wild-card spot. The Chargers have impressive wins over Dallas and Indianapolis at home, and disappointing losses at Oakland and Tennessee. They should (never assume anything with this team) take care of business on the road against winless Jacksonville heading into the bye week. Returning from the bye week, San Diego has three of four games on the road, including trips to Washington and Miami. If the Chargers can get through that tough stretch still hovering around .500, they will have a chance to compete for a playoff spot with four of five games at home to close out the regular season.
Little brother wins again: Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano continues to get payback for all the roughing up he received from older brother and Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano during their younger years. The younger Pagano put together a good, aggressive scheme that created constant pressure in Andrew Luck’s face, and he's now 8-1 against Chuck when the two teams they coach have faced each other in the NFL. San Diego’s defense had been an area of concern after struggling to stop Terrelle Pryor last week. But even without frontline players Donald Butler and Jarret Johnson, the Chargers executed on defense, holding one of the top-scoring offenses in the NFL to just nine points.
Secondary plays to its potential: San Diego had just one interception heading into the Monday night game against Indianapolis, and that occurred on the first defensive play of the season against Houston, a tipped ball by Johnson hauled in by defensive tackle Cam Thomas. So it was important for cornerback Derek Cox to record his first interception of the year on Luck’s final pass of the night to seal the victory. San Diego’s secondary held Luck to 202 passing yards, no touchdowns and a 66.2 passer rating. The Chargers also were helped by five Indianapolis drops, but for the most part, San Diego’s secondary played tight coverage and made plays on the back end. The return of cornerback Shareece Wright to the starting lineup also seemed to improve the team’s pass coverage.
O-line key to success: With the return of left tackle King Dunlap to the starting lineup, the Chargers rolled out their fifth different starting offensive-line combination in six games. Usually, that’s a bad sign for a unit that depends on cohesion and chemistry for consistent play. But no matter what players rotate in, San Diego’s offensive line has been rock-solid in pass protection and jump-starting the run game. Philip Rivers has been sacked just 10 times in six games. And San Diego’s offensive line helped pave the way for Ryan Mathews to run for more than 100 yards for the first time since December 2011. Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris created some versatility by having all of the linemen learn different positions, and that should pay dividends in the second half of the season once everyone is healthy up front.