Midseason report: San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- That five-game winning streak is an ancient memory, as the San Diego Chargers coughed and sputtered into the bye week on a three-game losing streak.

At 5-4, the Chargers are one game better than they were a year ago, and that team made the postseason. But with San Diego getting manhandled up front on both sides of the ball, earning a postseason bid for a second straight year will be an uphill battle.

San Diego does finish the season with four of its last seven games at home. However, the last four games come against playoff teams from a year ago.

Midseason MVP: Philip Rivers. Rivers has proved that 2013 was no fluke. Even after his poor performance against Miami, Rivers still remains in the top 10 in Total QBR (83.1), passer rating (102.6), completion percentage (67.0), passing yards (2,351) and touchdowns (20). With San Diego struggling to run the football, at times Rivers has had to carry the offense, with mixed results. San Diego has several talented receivers to get the ball to in the pass game, and Rivers spreads the wealth. However, Rivers has thrown five interceptions in the past two games, quieting any MVP talk.

Midseason disappointment: Running game. San Diego’s struggles running the football really are no surprise, considering the team’s top three running backs have missed time this season. Starter Ryan Mathews missed seven games with an MCL knee sprain, but has a chance to return to the field after the team’s bye week on Nov. 16 against Oakland. Backup Donald Brown missed three games due to a concussion. Third-down back Danny Woodhead was lost for the season after suffering a broken ankle against Buffalo on Sept. 21. Rookie Branden Oliver filled in admirably, rushing for over 100 yards in back-to-back games against the New York Jets and Oakland. However, the Chargers still average just 3.1 yards per carry, tied for worst in the league. San Diego needs Mathews to return to the way he performed last season, when he finished with a career-best 1,255 rushing yards. And the offensive line has to get more push up front.

Best moment: A victory over the Super Bowl champs. In a game few NFL observers gave them much of a chance of winning, the Chargers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-21 at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 14. Rivers was scintillating, throwing for 284 yards and three touchdown passes, all to Antonio Gates. San Diego’s defense also held Marshawn Lynch to 36 rushing yards. The victory proved that the Chargers could play with the NFL’s elite teams.

Worst moment: Humbled at Miami. To a man, San Diego players called Sunday’s contest at Miami a big game heading into the bye week, but they laid an egg and got shut out by the Dolphins. Eric Weddle questioned the team’s heart and effort after the game, so it will be interesting to see how the Chargers respond after the bye week. Coach Mike McCoy needs to lean on veteran players like Rivers, Gates and Jarret Johnson to get things turned around during the team’s time off.

Key to the second half: Staying healthy. The Chargers have started four different players at running back and three different players at center this season. San Diego also has had five different starters miss time on defense. So staying healthy during the second half of the season is critical, especially considering San Diego will face four teams that made the playoffs last season to finish out the 2014 schedule (New England, Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City).