Punter Mike Scifres #5 of the San Diego Chargers kicks a field goal. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
It would appear that, with their multitude of weapons in the passing game, the Chargers offensive gameplan is to simply take what the opposing defense gives them.
You want to put eight men in the box and try and get to Philip Rivers before he can get the ball out? Have fun defending the screen pass to Ryan Mathews or Mike Tolbert. Want to try and jam the Chargers WRs at the line of scrimmage? Vincent Jackson will gladly take the one or two deep TDs he can get from that.
The Vikings gameplan seemed to be to play both of their safeties deep and prevent those deep passes to Jackson and Malcom Floyd, while occasionally blitzing Rivers. What Norv Turner countered with was 15 passes for 144 yards and 2 TDs for his RBs, and 11 passes for 94 yards to his TEs. Most of these came off of screens, swing passes and low-risk passes over the middle of the defense. That's how you take what the defense gives you.
Donovan McNabb finished with a completion percentage below 50%, and with less than 3 yards per pass attempt. Less than 3! He finished the game with just 39 yards passing. A third of those yards went to Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, the other 26 went to Michael Jenkins.
Once Antwan Barnes was playing regularly, there were really no flaws to the Chargers passing defense. The pass-rush was strong, containment got better, the CBs were blanketing WRs and even the Chargers LBs were doing a great job covering TEs and RBs out of the backfield. All in all, a great first game for Greg Manusky.
Is there anything Mike can't do? Apparently not. He can punt, he can hold, he can tackle, he can throw and now....he can kick! Along with having a very good (as expected) game punting the ball, Scifres also went 3/3 kicking extra points and nailed a 40-yard field goal to boot. He wasn't too shabby on kickoffs either. Word came out that Mike got the game ball for yesterday's game, and nobody deserved it more. Way to earn that new contract, Mike.
I know, they were already mentioned in the "bads" for not having a big day running the ball and earlier for being a part of the passing offense. However, the running backs deserve additional praise because they were the difference in yesterday's game.
Ryan Mathews seemed to be used to perfection, playing a similar role to that of Darren Sproles in 2010, and finished the game with 118 total yards. There were at least two plays when he looked like the most dangerous playmaker on the field, and that's going to catch the eye of Bill Belichick and force him to gameplan for Mathews next week.
Mike Tolbert continues to mystify. How the heck do the Chargers continue to find undrafted free agent rookies and turn them into stars in the NFL? The guy that my dad calls Natrone Means (I'm not certain if he knows that Tolbert is, in fact, not the former Chargers RB) was the focal point of the offense yesterday, especially in the red zone. He touched the ball 21 times, resulting in 93 yards and 3 TDs.
The position of most concern heading into the season ended up looking like the strength of the defense in Week 1. Shaun Phillips started things off by tipping a pass to himself for an interception. Takeo Spikes flew all over the field and finished the game with 11 total tackles, leading the team. Donald Butler, whom I was worried about in coverage, looked solid in doing everything that was asked of him. Antwan Barnes was nearly dominating as a pass rusher in the second half.
Larry English was a healthy scratch for the game, the coaches say he still has some rust to knock off on defense but will probably play against the Patriots next week. Darryl Gamble, the UDFA that won a spot with a strong preseason, contributed nothing but a missed tackle that lead to the Harvin kickoff return TD. If English had played instead of Gamble, we could be talking about one of the best all-around LB performances for the Chargers in quite some time.