RB Ryan Mathews (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The turnovers and special-teams miscues have become September staples of Charger football. But San Diego did just enough to finish the month with a winning record, going to 2-1 with a 20-17 win over the defending division champs from Kansas City.
San Diego's second win of the season was even more ugly than its first.
There were familiar problems like ball security (two interceptions and two fumbles, although neither lost) and kick coverage (a 37-yard punt return by Javier Arenas). There were also new issues, like Philip Rivers' struggles (posting a passer rating of 62.0 and pushing his season's interception total to six).
In the end, it took a terrible read by Matt Cassel and a timely pick by Eric Weddle to run San Diego's record to 2-1.
The Chargers dominated the first half, particularly on defense. Kansas City gained just 34 yards -- and no first downs -- before intermission. San Diego, by comparison, rolled up 211 yards and 14 first downs while taking a 10-0 lead into the locker room.
The primary offensive weapon was Ryan Mathews, who finished with 98 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The only other Charger to put points on the board was new kicker Nick Novak, who hit two field goals (35 and 41 yards) and a pair of extra points.
The Chiefs made a game of it in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions to make it a 20-17 affair. Dwayne Bowe scored a 4-yard TD, set up by his own 23-yard reception, and Leonard Pope scored from 1 yard out after a 43-yard toss to Steve Breaston.
It was enough to make Chargers fans sweat … and enough to make A.J. Smith glad he overpaid Weddle this offseason.
--Mathews' emergence means a diminished role for Mike Tolbert. While Mathews recorded 21 rushing attempts, Tolbert had just four for 19 yards.
--Among the notables missing the game were Antonio Gates (foot), Bob Sanders (knee) and Corey Liuget (ankle). Malcom Floyd, listed as doubtful with a groin injury, played but finished with just two catches for 28 yards. His injury showed when he failed to run down a Rivers deep ball midway through the second quarter, resulting in Rivers' second interception.
--More injuries occurred in the game. Quentin Jammer hurt his hamstring and did not return. He was replaced by rookie Marcus Gilchrist. Jacques Cesaire (leg) also went down and was replaced by Ogemdi Nwagbuo. With Liuget and Luis Castillo (leg) also out, the Chargers were left with just four healthy defensive linemen.
--First-year starter Donald Butler played a strong game. He led the team with eight tackles, one of which was a terrific open-field takedown to prevent a first down.
--Stephen Cooper, playing with a torn biceps, saw his most extensive playing time.
--Antwan Barnes picked up a sack in the second quarter. He has a sack in each of San Diego's wins.
--San Diego, 2-1, is tied atop the AFC West with the Raiders, who beat the Jets on Sunday, 34-24. The Chargers stay at home next week to host the winless Dolphins. The Raiders will also be at home to take on the rebound-minded Patriots.
What are Chargers fans saying about Sunday's win? See in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.