What we learned from the Chargers' 28-6 victory over the Cowboys

Here’s what we learned in the Chargers’ 28-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys:

1. Rivers still has it

While the defense has stood out in the Chargers’ victories this season, quarterback Phillip Rivers took center stage in Dallas and shone brighter than the star painted on midfield.

Rivers, who will soon turn 36, had maybe the best game of his career, passing for 434 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It was the Rivers we saw in the preseason, zipping the ball around to Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry.

After the game, Rivers admitted that part of the performance was driven by a desire to silence the people who have declared him washed up.

But he conceded that a poor performance next week against Cleveland would erase memories of Thursday’s dominance.

2. A new kicker could be coming

Nick Novak’s injured back is a real concern — just like every field goal attempt by a Chargers kicker this season has been a real concern. He missed a kick Thursday and had to leave the game, forcing punter Drew Kaser to take on the placekicking duties.

Kicking problems have been a major factor in the Chargers’ close losses.

A parade of kickers should be coming through the Chargers’ practice facility in the upcoming days as the team evaluates possible replacements for Novak, if needed.

3. Mike Williams is going to miss time

The team’s first-round draft pick this season, Williams has struggled with injuries, and those struggles got worse Thursday.

One play into his day, the wide receiver injured his right knee running a route.

A noncontact injury is always a big concern, and seeing Williams exit the stadium on crutches with a bulky brace on his knee doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that he’ll be back soon.

The team expects to know more about Williams’ status this weekend.

4. Casey Hayward is elite.

The Chargers’ top cornerback is playing some of the best football in the NFL right now, with quarterbacks paying dearly when they throw in his direction.

Thursday, he completely took Dez Bryant out of the game and intercepted his fourth pass of the season, his third pick in the last two games.

While Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram get a lot of credit for their role in the defense’s surge, Hayward is every bit as responsible.

5. The Chargers are very in this

Probably the most important thing to come out of Thursday game was that the Chargers’ maintained their place in the AFC playoff picture.

With each win, they have moved closer to the front of the race for the conference’s final wild-card playoff spot.

With two-straight games at home, the Chargers have a real chance to go into Kansas City on Dec. 16 with an opportunity to make the West Division race really interesting down the stretch.

While they haven’t dug themselves out of the 0-4 hole they began the season with, they’re making real progress.

dan.woike@latimes.com

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports

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