Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during their NFL Game on at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
The Ravens present a 'show me' opportunity for this new era of Gates + Jackson + Floyd + competent Oline. Now that Turner's offense is healthy, we'll really find out what proper execution can do against an extremely good statistical defense.
The Chargers offense sure did "Show Us" this week. The team executed six out of seven possessions to near perfection and kept Mike Scifres from having to punt the entire game. This was only the second game all season that the Chargers ran the ball more often then they passed, with a 60/40 split favoring the run. Even if you take away their last drive (12 runs and only 1 pass), they still had about a 50/50 balance. One stat that jumped out as a sign of a well oiled offense, was that the Chargers ran only nine 3rd down plays (out of 57 snaps!) the entire night, converting on six of them (five 1st downs and one touchdown). When you find yourself in 3rd down that little, and succeed when you do, things are going well, Pull off the offense log here and hit the jump to read about Norv Turner's tactical wrinkle for the week.
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The new feature for this week was an extremely slavish devotion to running from "13" personnel on first down. Before this week, "13" personnel had only been used in five games, and was used very sparingly in those games (never more than four times per game). This week, "13" was used ten times, almost exclusively to run Ryan Mathews on 1st down (they passed twice, used Mike Tolbert once, and showed up on 2nd down twice). The puzzling thing is that this group was not particularly successful (2.7 yards per play), and set up a bunch of 2nd and longs, but it didn't matter because a number of big plays came on 2nd and 3rd downs following 1st down "13" plays. What I can't figure out is whether this was a failed tactic that was masked by simple passing execution on later plays, or if the "13" grouping somehow fed into to those big plays. It would make more sense if they were used in a no huddle to prevent defensive substitutions and get weird mismatches, but that wasn't the case.
Note the complete lack of passing from fullback groupings. That was sixteen calls where the obvious tendency was to run, they completely ignored the pass, and still got 3.5 YPC. This marks a few weeks in a row that fullback sets have been used exclusively to run after a couple of games with passing success. Norv is going to get some big gains with surprise play action passing with from "2X" personnel in these last two games. Shotgun and "11" was used in combination with Mike Tolbert four times, with big success on three (touchdown, 8 yard gain, 23 yard first down, 3 yard gain) plays. The efficiency of staying out of 3rd down kept Patrick Crayton and the "11" group off the field most of the night.
I continue to love Turner's late season running back platoon management. Norv has finally found the perfect 70/30 playing time split for Mathews and Tolbert. Tolbert had a slightly higher run % than usual this week, and a healthier YPC because of the surprise factor there. Left side running is on a real hot streak and has broken a number of big runs since the acquisition of Jared Gaither. "21" and "11" personnel had the most efficient day running the ball. Mathews' first touchdown came from his first appearance in the "23" grouping for the entire season, fresh off of playbook confidential pointing out that Tolbert had been the full time "23" back all season (everyone wave at Norv who is totally winking at us with this call! hur hur hur).
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Did you see this?
Paging Ryan Mathews... Paging Ryan Mathews! The Lions can defend the pass and give up gobs of rushing yards. Will "13" personnel be back? Will some surprise play fake deep balls show up in fullback sets?