1. El Capitan
Let's first lay out that Philip Rivers was arguably without his top four receivers yesterday (Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee). This is like if the Patriots' top 2 receivers were Julian Edelman and Taylor Price, or if the Colts' top 2 receivers were Blair White and Austin Collie. It was a nearly impossible situation to play in, and yet The Captain had an excellent game throwing the ball.
He completed passes at a high completion rate, even with a handful of drops by Buster Davis and Patrick Crayton, and ended the day with a strong 6.7 yards-per-attempt average. His one interception was overthrown, but wasn't stupid and wasn't much worse than a punt on 3rd & long. It's a shame that fumbles by Richard Goodman and Kris Wilson kept him from getting more chances in the red zone.
|vs NEP / 10.24.10||Passing||Rushing|
Funny stats time. Barnes is in his 4th year in the league. During his rookie season he collected 2 sacks in 14 games with the Baltimore Ravens, which is as many sacks as he collected yesterday. In his three seasons previous to this one, his sack totals were 2, 0 and 3. I think it's safe to say yesterday was probably the best game Barnes has had in his entire career.
Barnes, who was splitting time with Antwan Applewhite, did not just look good....he looked dominant. It got to the point where Shaun Phillips was facing a single blocker because guys like Barnes, Luis Castillo and Antonio Garay were all being equally disruptive. If that keeps up, it's a recipe for great success on the defensive side of the football.
3. Receiver Depth
This is almost a tack-on to point #1 about Rivers, but the receiving crew played pretty well. Patrick Crayton got open consistently and made tough catches, Buster Davis did a good job filling Legedu Naanee's shoes and even Seyi Ajirotutu made some tough catches in the second half. For a team that started the season with just 4 WRs, they may soon have as many as 6 (I'm assuming Richard Goodman would go back to the practice squad):
Since we're already looking in this direction, this spells good things for 2011. Rumor has it that the Chargers intend on signing Malcom Floyd to a new deal, but even if they do not (and obviously Jackson will not be back) the team would still have Crayton, Naanee, Ajirotutu and Davis as a good-enough top 4.
4. Darren Sproles!
Finally Sproles has a good game (not a great game) where he is used properly in the offense. He carried the ball twice for 7 yards, but the bulk of his touches on the day came as a check-down receiver and also on screen passes. Basically, the team worked on getting him the ball in space and with blockers in front of him. Shockingly, Sproles' signature "juke to a stop and then take off to the left" move finally worked and he was able to pick up some important yards for the Chargers passing offense.
|vs NEP / 10.24.10||Rushing||Receiving|
5. Kick/Punt Returns
Outside of a missed tackle by Jacob Hester (every team has the occasional missed tackle), coverage on kicks and punts was fantastic all day. One big reason for it was Richard Goodman, who was the special teams player of the game after grabbing the onside kick in the fourth quarter, who was giving me flashbacks of Kassim Osgood with how fast he was getting downfield and changing the direction of the returner.
Brandon Tate, who was seen as a dangerous kick returner, ran the ball back twice for 25 and 20 yards. Julian Edelman had punt returns for 34 yards (where Goodman and Hester were on top of him, but he muscled past them) and another for 3 yards. This part of the team, for as much as it was criticized, deserves some credit for getting better after the additions of Goodman, Quinton Teal and a few other no-name cleanup guys.