Bolts & Dolts: San Diego Chargers at New York Giants

Hello friends.  Look, I made it out of Giants Stadium alive! 

I couldn't be happier at this moment.  The first San Diego Chargers game I see in person in years, and it turns into an incredible win that's capped with a late TD that happened right in front of me.  The sun was shinin' on me yesterday.

So now that I've gotten home, "slept it off" and watched the game on television.....let's get to quite possibly the longest edition of "Bolts & Dolts" ever.

Bolts

Offense

Philip Rivers - 24/36, 209 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT.  Just barely.  Two plays put him in the Bolts category.  One, obviously, was the game-winning touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson.  The second happened right before that, when Rivers saw a blitz coming and audibled to a Darren Sproles pass that picked up 21 yards in the flash of a eye.  Outside of the last drive, Philip had a poor game by his usual standards.  Throwing twice into double-coverage (and getting picked both times) is not his style and I don't expect to see it again.

Vincent Jackson - 5 catches, 58 yds, 2 TD.  At this point, VJ should be in the MVP conversation.  He has been that dominant in every single game.  I think his 3 non-TD catches yesterday were all for first downs.  Also, he had a good game against fantastic coverage from Corey Webster all night.  I don't think there's another receiver in the league that has that kind of game against a CB playing that well.

Brandyn DombrowskiAnyone want to guess why?  If you're planning on re-watching the game, pay close attention when the ref is calling defensive pass interference on Corey Webster in the end zone.  You'll see Dombrowski waiting patiently behind the ref the entire time.  The second the ref turns around, Brandyn clearly symbols and says "I'm an eligible receiver" and the ref gives him a thumbs up.  Fantastic job, Brandyn.

 

Defense

Ron Rivera.  I've been guilty of bashing Rivera quite a bit this season.  This game, I will eat my crow and give him praise.  He obviously came in with a game plan to stop the run and stop the big plays in the passing game.  Well, there was the occasional gash in the running game but there were just as many stops on 2nd & 2 or 3rd & 1.  Travis Johnson is proving to be a valuable linemen in those situations, by the way.  Anyways, there was plenty of blitzing that kept Eli Manning running around outside of the pocket more often than he would've liked and the Giants' passing game had only one play that went for 20+ yards (and that was a WR screen to Hakeem Nicks for 29 yards).  The defense was good enough on this day, and a big reason for that was Rivera's excellent play call.

Shawne Merriman - 3 tackles, 2 sacks.  This doesn't even tell the whole story.  Merriman had his hands on Eli close to 10 times during the game.  He was incredibly disruptive, and both of his sacks came on huge 3rd down players late in the 4th quarter.  Ladies and gentlemen, "Lights Out" is back.

Shaun Phillips - 8 tackles, 1 sack.  Wow.  I had almost forgotten what an amazing weapon Phillips is when he's not being double-teamed on every play.  He was everywhere during the game.  Those short run-stops that ended New York's drives?  On just about every one of them you can see Phillips either making the tackle or screwing everything up along NY's offensive line by beating his man easily.  He also played well in coverage (the Kevin Boss TD was not his fault) and......(take this with a grain of salt because it's just one game)......Shaun acted like the leader of the defense.  5 sacks in 3 games is no joke.  Phillips is currently playing out of his mind and I couldn't be happier with his game last night.

Eric Weddle - 9 tackles.  Where did that sledgehammer come from?  Early in the game I was pretty sure he gave Boss a concussion, and during the Giants last possession he damn near killed Steve Smith.  As usual, Weddle seemed to be around the ball on every single play.  Not as usual, he was making it really scary for Giants receivers to go over the middle.  Unreal game from him.

Luis Castillo - 1 tackle.  Want to know why Eli Manning was constantly running out of a shrinking pocket?  That would be Castillo.  He spent all night destroying double-teams and chasing Eli Manning right into the hands of the Chargers OLBs.  The stats aren't there, but he reminded me of Jamal Williams last night.  I think this may be Castillo's best season yet and yesterday's game was probably his best this year.

 

Special Teams

Darren Sproles.  I'm not going to put stats up because they don't matter for why he got the Bolt.  He gets the Bolt because the Giants were willing to sacrifice great field position just to have him not touch the ball.  The Chargers average starting position was on their own 32 yard line.  If you take out the Giants interceptions, their starting position was on their own 21 yard line.  That's a big swing, and that had everything to do with Sproles and......

Mike Scifres3 of his 5 punts pinned the Giants inside their own 20 yard line.  It would've been 4 of 5 if Mike Tolbert hadn't been called for holding.  After that call, Scifres' punt was downed at the Giants 21 yard line.  He was consistent, accurate and had the big booming leg when he needed it.  Between him, Merriman and Phillips, it's like the Chargers traded for players from the 2007 Bolts team mid-season.

 

Miscellaneous

Chargers fans.  There were a ton of Bolts fans for a game across the country from San Diego.  There was probably one Chargers fan for every 5 Giants fans.  Also, with the exception of my personal bodyguard/chauffeur, they were all quite well-behaved.  Considering how drunk and angry the Giants fans were (and rightfully so), it was surprising to only see one fight during the game.

Clip Show.  He couldn't have been a better guest.  We had a ball drinking and watching the game together.  Even after one game, I consider him a friend and will definitely try to catch a Chargers game with him in San Diego.  Also, he came through with a digital camera after I left mine at home (not surprisingly).  He should have a picture-laden FanPost up here sometime this week after he gets home and spends some quality time with his baby girl.

Giants fans.  Not at all what I was warned about.  I had to take the occasional heckle, but I'd be disappointed if it didn't happen.  Giants fans were nice and very accommodating.  Even the one my friend was badgering all game didn't do anything but throw an empty soda bottle after the game.  Well played, Giants fans.  Also, when the Giants took the lead, those NY fans were loud.  Louder than I've ever heard it at Qualcomm.  So loud I couldn't talk to Clip Show right next to me.  I hope the new stadium they're building next door is that loud.  Those fans deserve it.

Referees.  The first Chargers game in years where I wasn't able to pick out one bad call.  Usually, whether it's for or against the Chargers, there's one call where the announcers look at the replay and say "I have no idea what he saw there."  Not the case in this game.  Although the penalties were called heavily in the Chargers favor, every penalty was clearly backed up when watching the replay.  A solidly-called game.

Norv Turner.  I think each year, as the team finally starts to take shape, Norv lightens up a bit.  Before that it's like he's stoic and....almost nervous.  Yesterday he was pumping his fist, laughing and hugging LT.  It's not too much emotion, but it's something and it let's the players know that he's invested in the team with them.  I've noticed that in December he always seems to wear his heart on his sleeve a little more, and I saw that from him yesterday.  It's a great sign.  Oh, and he also called a fantastic game as the offensive coordinator.

 

Dolts

Offense

LaDainian Tomlinson - 12 carries, 22 rush yds, 2 catches, 8 rec yds.  The plan for this game was simple.  The Chargers wanted to get up early to try and take away the Giants rushing game.  They did that, and at half time (losing the time of possession battle 2-to-1) it seemed they decided to try to work the clock and help out their tired, banged-up defense by running Tomlinson a lot.  It didn't work.  As usual, with the exception of one or two decent looking runs, LT looked very astute at taking the handoff and falling forward for 2 yards.  His 1.8 yards per carry shows that he couldn't even do that every time.

Why does LT always seem to be falling down?  The good RBs around the league have fantastic balance.  You have to wrap them up and bring them down because you're sure as hell not knocking them over.  Even Sproles is like that.  With LT, it seems like he could be tackled by a stiff wind.  Half of the time he's going down after bumping into one of his offensive linemen.  I think his days of bursting through the arm tackles at the line of scrimmage are behind him.  To get more than 3 yards on a carry, he needs a BIG open hole to run through.

Antonio Gates - 5 catches, 67 yards.  I very nearly didn't make him a Dolt.  He had a very good day, and would've been a Bolt if it weren't for those two drops.  After watching the game on tv though, I couldn't let him go.  Those were two very easy catches, one for a huge play and the other for a third down conversion, that he just lost because he didn't look the ball into his hands before trying to make a play.  That's the type of "focus" play that he's known for making.  I hope, and I don't think it's just wishful thinking, this is his last time as a Dolt.

 

Defense

There are no defensive Dolts this week.

 

Special Teams

There are no special teams Dolts this week.

 

Miscellaneous

Chris Chambers - 3 catches, 70 yds, 2 TD.  This guy is apparently only good for the second half of seasons in which he switches teams.  Seriously though, a 54 yard catch?  Catches 3 of the 4 balls thrown at him?  That doesn't sound like the Chris Chambers I remember.

 

With a Pittsburgh victory tonight, the Chargers are one-game behind the Broncos with a game against them in two weeks.  I'd call that "controlling our own destiny".  Go Steelers.  (We'll be doing an open thread here tonight during the game.)

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