Upon Further Review: San Diego @ Oakland

I've taken the liberty of re-watching the entire game, with an eye towards the defense and the pass-rush. Here are my notes, quarter-by-quarter, with analysis and final results. I'm completely untrained, so keep that in mind when evaluating my thoughts. As always, comments are appreciated.


1st Quarter:


  • Overpursuit by outside linebackers. Too busy going after Russell when he doesn't have the ball.

  • Rivers missed an open Gates for a 3rd down conversion.

  • D-line letting offensive linemen get to the second level and bock linebackers.

  • Miller's 1st catch—Cooper had coverage responsibilities, was about a half second too late to make play.

  • Almost exclusively rushing 4. Occaisionally 5. No stunts.

  • Miller's 2nd catch—Looks like Burnett had the coverage responsibility, got turned around and lost Miller. Burnett's mistake.

  • Bush TD: Failure to fight off blocks, failure by D-line to get any push.

  • Sproles started the night very good on kick returns.

  • First toss-play to the right side went for 4 yards. Pretty good job blocking by the line.

  • First sack: This one's on Clary. He got bull-rushed by Greg Ellis and pushed straight back into Rivers. This prevented Philip from stepping up, and allowed Seymour time to fight through a double-team to get the sack. Seymour gets the stat, but Ellis made the play.

  • LT just has to hang on to that ball. Cost us at least 3 points. Hopefully that's his fumble for the season.

Analysis: Our offense touched the ball twice, for very little time. Can't say much about them, except the obvious (LT shouldn't fumble). Our defense was attempting very little. Rushing 4 or 5 exclusively, with no stunts, twists, or any attempts at misdirection.


See my notes and analysis on the rest of the game after the jump.



2nd Quarter:


  • Defense did a better job of defending the run.

  • On a 2nd and 6, Burnett and a D-lineman (either Johnson or Martin) did a great job blowing past their guys to get to Russell. But, he eluded both of them and threw an off-target pass to McFadden who couldn't make the catch.

  • On the ensuing 3rd and 11, we rushed five and actually got pressure forcing an errant throw. But, Jammer got flagged for illegal contact, and gave the Raiders the first down.

  • Once when we rushed 5, we actually did so by dropping Merriman and blitzing Cooper. This resulted in a free rusher (Cooper) getting to Russell, but he dropped the ball off to Bush on a screen who picked up positive yardage. 
  • On the ensuing 3rd down and 6, we again rushed 5, and ran a bit of a twist with Phillips starting outside and then coming inside, but the Oakland offensive line picked it up enough to let Russell hit Miller over the middle, who beat Gregory for a 17 yard catch.
  • Thank God for Steven Cooper, who stripped McFadden on a 2nd down rush that would have picked up a first down at about mid-field.
  • On offense, Turner finally started getting Gates involved, calling a quick pass to him that netted a dozen yards.

  • Kris Dielman did a piss-poor job blocking Tyvon Branch on the screen play to Manumaleuna. Just really bad. Had he actually blocked him, that would have been a nice positive play. Instead, we lost 2 yards.

  • Especially here early, the Raiders' seconday was doing a great job covering. That made Rivers hold on to the ball, and dump-offs went nowhere because their DBs were right there to make the tackle.

  • You really have to give credit to Rivers for hitting Gates on a deep post route that set us up at the 1. The pocket was collapsing around him, and he fit the ball in between double coverage.

  • Back on defense, still rushing 4 for the most part.

  • One the Raiders' FG drive at the end of the half, we were lucky that Russell missed 2 wide open receivers.

  • Unfortunately, on the ensuing 3rd and 10, he did not. We rushed 5 and got a little push, but Russell just backed up and found his WR open 15 yards down the field. First down.

  • Two plays later, we again rushed 4. Miller had enough time to find a hole in the zone between Cooper and Cromartie, and Russell hit him for an 11 yard gain.

  • The very next play we again rushed 4, and Russell threw a bad pass that hit Cooper in the chest. Gotta hold onto those buddy.

  • 2 plays later was the TD that got overturned via replay. We rushed 4, and got a little push, but not enough to prevent Russell from setting up and firing a strike to Murphy across the middle. Murphy got inside position on Gregory, and beat him for the catch. Gregory wasn't in bad coverage—it was a well-thrown ball, and he just let Murphy get inside him.

  • The sack Rivers took on the ensuing FG drive was on the interior of the offensive line. Both OTs, Clary included, pushed the DEs far enough to the outside and rear that Rivers could step up. But the guards and center let their men get off their blocks and collapse on Philip from the sides. Dielman got blown up and pushed back into the pocket by Seymour, again preventing Philip from stepping up cleanly. Seymour reached past Dielman and Hardwick, and dragged Rivers down for the sack.

Analysis: We started to stop the run this quarter. A very small amount of creativity on defense, but not any that made any difference. Steve Young actually said he was surprised how basic the Chargers looked, that they weren't attempting anything fancy and were running simple defenses along with the Raiders' simple offense.



3rd Quarter:

  • The penalties we suffered on offense in the opening drive of the 2nd half were a false start on Osgood (perhaps due to his very limited playing time in the offense), and holding on Mruczkowski. Again, neither gets regular snaps on offense in actual games, so these could be attributed to lack of experience or familiarity.

  • Rivers's lone pick of the night was the result of a great play by the Raiders' defensive back, who deflected a perfectly thrown pass away from Gates and into the hands of Michael Huff.

  • The defensive line started shutting down the run this quarter.

  • Our 5-man rush started producing a bit more pressure, which helped force errant throws from Russell. Merriman started getting results on bull-rushes and spin-moves.

  • As the quarter wore on, we still rushed only 4 or 5, but it started getting more effective. Coverages also improved.

  • The third sack on Rivers was Clary's fault. He got stood up by Ellis, who knocked him aside and tackled Philip. The interior line got pushed back a bit, but not enough to cause a sack without Ellis beating Clary.

  • Zach Miller had another catch off a play-action fake, where he found a hole in the zone between Hart and Burnett. Burnett bit on the fake, and by the time he realized it was a pass, Miller was way past him. This play is on Burnett.

Analysis: Our rush defense got much better. This is why Russell started throwing more, because they couldn't bowl us over on the ground anymore. Russell was inaccurate, but this wasn't just because he sucked. Our rushes started to get in his face a bit, forcing him to move and throw some bad passes. Merriman was started to overpower people in this quarter. Despite this, there were still no more than 5 men rushing, and mostly 4.



4th Quarter:

  • On another fake, a linebacker (I think it was Phillips, but it could have been English) didn't get fooled and was all over Russell. This forced an early throw to Miller who was tackled by Cason for only a 2 yard gain.

  • Back to only 4-man rushes.

  • Phillips hurt us with his penalty, that would have stopped Oakland's TD drive. We still only rushed 4 on the play, despite it being a backup quarterback in a 3rd and 8 sitiuation.

  • On Nwagbuo's sack, he just did a good job of beating the lineman.

  • On 3rd and 14, we only rushed 4 and had no pressure. We were extremely lucky that Weddle killed Higgins.

  • On 4th and 14, there was only a 4-man rush and Russell had time to pat the ball and wait for Murphy to get open.


Analysis: The pass-rush, that had began to get results the previous quarter, stopped being effective. They stopped rushing 5 and went back to only rushing 4, with virtually no attempt to disguise the rushers or confuse the blockers.




Overall thoughts:


Our run defense got better as the game improved. Burnett wasn't as bad as we initially thought--only a couple plays where he was at fault stood out.


I'm extremely, extremely disappointed in Ron Rivera. For all the talk of mixing blitz packages, being creative to bring the pressure, he did virtually nothing in the first game of the season. With very few exceptions, it was the same vanilla scheme we saw in the pre-season. We never rushed more than 5 men. We ran very few stunts and twists, and those we did run were extremely basic. The offensive line had no trouble picking up the rushers and giving Russell an easy pocket.


I understand there's a school of thought that thinks Rivera was holding back for more difficult opponents. I understand the thinking, but my response to that is that this isn't baseball. There's only 16 games, and wins are hard to come by. You try to hold something back against a supposedly inferior foe, you could easily pay for it. We very nearly did.


Rivera had success in Chicago in his years there as DC. In his tenure, from 2004-2006, his defenses ranked 9th, 1st, and 2nd in DVOA respectively. That's really good. I wonder if his scheme, though, isn't going to work here with our players. Does anyone know what those Bears defenses looked like? Were there lots of exotic blitzes, creative schemes and packages, etc.? Or was there just really great line play that freed up linebackers to make plays, and allowed them to drop 6 or 7 into coverage every play? Because if it's the latter, we're in trouble. We can't get pressure with just 4 or 5 guys, and we certainly can't do it without running some kind of creative scheming.


This is alarming, to say the least, given what we were promised. This needs to change.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.

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