Playbook Confidential: Fool's Gold

Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers scores a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

So maybe the title is kind of harsh. The positive option was "Playbook Confidential: Gates + Jackson + Floyd = Win!" but I won't believe it until I see this kind of offensive output against the Ravens in two weeks. Take away any opponent's top three pass rushers, their top 17 defensive backs, then add in a dash of Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez back from injury, and Norv's same deliberate philosophy will yield a 38 point outburst by Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. Despite Jon Gruden's gushing on Norv Turner's play diagramming, the offensive output came down to simple execution of the same thing that hasn't been working against intact defenses and franchises that aren't reeling. I will give the Turner/Rivers credit for vastly increased and improved play faking this week. Through 11 games this season, Philip Rivers had only perfunctorily play faked on 12% of passing plays, but against the Jaguars he gave a slightly convincing fake on 32% of pass plays. The results were basically an equivalent yard-per-attempt between play fake downs and non play fake pass plays (roughly 10 YPA), but the yards-per-completion was vastly improved with play action (18 YPC vs 12 YPC without play fakes) and resulted in the Malcom Floyd long bomb touchdown (clip here) that all but sealed the game at the start of the 3rd quarter. Let's hope this is one feature the offense keeps for the last quarter season to come. This week's play call log is at this link.

Owing to the blowout, there were only nine Rivers' led drives, with six scores and three punts. Two of the dud drives came early in the third while presumably trying to run and burn clock.

Drive Run Pass Total Yards Result
1 6 5 11 57 Touchdown (Tolbert)
2 3 4 7 51 Field Goal
3 0 3 3 -1 Punt
4 1 7 8 68 Touchdown (Brown)
5 1 2 3 59 Touchdown (Jackson)
6 1 4 5 80 Touchdown (Floyd)
7 3 1 4 25 Punt
8 4 2 6 21 Punt
9 1 0 1 31 Touchdown (Mathews)

Norv got back to his classic 40/60 run pass balance, with a 1st down passion for Ryan Mathews carrying the ball, while third down runs continue to come only with 1 yard to go, or giving up on third and really long.

Down Run Pass Total
1st 13 10 23
2nd 5 12 17
3rd 2 6 8
Total 20 28 48

The running back platoon use came straight out of the season long textbook. Mathews continues to scream "run" like Darren Sproles used to scream "pass". It was certainly kind of a relief to see Kassim Osgood trot in to the Jaguars huddle and watch our defense react with a certainty about the run call coming. There was a brief series of plays in the 3rd quarter where Jacob Hester got knicked up and Mike Tolbert lined up in from of Mathews as the fullback. Tolbert looked a bit out of practice at the position. I was hoping for a second that it was our old pal "20" personnel, but then slumped back in my seat when I realized it was just an injury substitution. Runs to the makeshift side of the line (the left side with Gaither and Green) did much better than runs to the intact side of the line (with Vasquez and Clary). The playbook confidential "run ratio" got turned on it's head this week, with only super-obvious run personnel turning in good running results. I can admit that shotgun and "11" personnel runs (BFTB had been hoping for more shotgun running) were a total dud this particular week.

Halfback Snaps Running Plays Passing Plays Run %
Mathews 25 14 11 56%
Tolbert 23 6 17 26%

Rushes Average
Left 4 16
Middle 11 6.7
Right 5 -0.2
Overall 20 6.9

Personnel # Runs YPC Avg to Go Ratio
11 2 3.5 19 0.18
12 10 5.4 8.9 0.61
21 4 4.75 11.5 0.41
22 4 14.3 7.75 1.85

Personnel use looked a lot like it has the last couple of weeks with the O-line uncertainty. Turner used only the core personnel, and has really let "11" fall behind the pass protection offerings of "12" and "21". I'm still in denial, fully expecting Norv to bust out the unexpected when it really matters for that week 17 division title game vs the Raiders (feh!).

Personnel Run Pass Total
11 2 9 11
12 10 10 20
21 4 8 12
22 4 1 5

Personnel 11 12 21 22
1st 4 11 5 3
2nd 3 7 7 0
3rd 4 2 0 2

Season Long Stat of the Week

I went and took a look at the source of first downs so far this season. Anyone that thinks Mathews is anywhere near the Buster Davis or Larry English discussion should be shot, or fired, or both. I still can't decide if Vincent Jackson is elite or not, but this particular slice of stats says that he is. Tolbert continues to be super utility guy (Norv said he had five special teams tackles on seven tries!). Antonio Gates and Patrick Crayton fall in the disappointment category, while Malcom Floyd is hanging in despite the number of games he's missed. It feels like Vincent Brown should have more than 14.

Player # 1st Downs
Ryan Mathews 49
Vincent Jackson 40
Mike Tolbert 31
Antonio Gates 26
Malcom Floyd 20
Vincent Brown 14
Patrick Crayton 12
Jacob Hester 9
Randy McMichael 9
Philip Rivers (rushing) 6
Curtis Brinkley 2
Brian Walters 2
Kory Sperry 1

Next Week's Opponent

Holy crap the Bills defense is statistically terrible. Mathews on 1st down and play fake bombs out of "12" and "21" on 3rd down are going to be back again against the Bills. While reviewing opponent's DVOAs with raw yardage this season, we've seen a lot of teams showing better DVOA than raw stats because of prevent defenses, but in this case, the Bills seem to crumple against the pass when it matters the most.

Bill's Defense Yards Rank DVOA Rank
Run 129 #24 3.10% #24
Pass 234 #19 21.90% #28

All VOA, DVOA, YAR and DYAR statistical values are developed, calculated and reported by Football Outsiders. Their explanation can be found here.

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