Most likely choice of Dean Spanos... Anyone Else - Harry How
4th and 29... game on the line. The Chargers have done what they've had to do all season to come through in big spots. Sunday was no different, in fact, it was an astonishing show of will and determination. Let's just face it, folks... no team finds ways to lose like the 2012 Chargers.
In seriousness, I can make a reasonable argument this Chargers team is about 6 plays away from being tied for the best record in the AFC. Here are the Big 6, in my opinion:
- The penalty on Melvin Ingram, wiping out a pick 6 and 31-14 3rd quarter lead in New Orleans.
- The sack on Philip Rivers by Elvis Dumervil and the resulting fumble return for a TD. A 24-7 3rd quarter lead against Denver with a scoring opportunity becomes a 24-14 lead.
- The dropped TD pass by Robert Meachem that turns a would-be 13-7 Chargers lead into an eventual 7-6 loss.
- Philip Rivers throwing a pick 6 against Tampa Bay, killing a scoring opportunity and turning a 24-21 4th quarter deficit into a 31-21 deficit.
- A blocked punt against Denver results in great field position and a 17-7 lead for the Broncos late in the 1st half, instead of a 10-7 halftime score.
- The Chargers allow Ray Rice to run for about 29.5 yards on 4th and 29 with less than 2 minutes to go, resulting in 13-13 tie, before losing in OT.
Running Backs: C+
WR Danario Alexander had another solid game, contributed 5 receptions for 74 yards, but the shine came off the apple a bit with 2 penalties that hurt early drives and a couple of critical dropped passes in OT. Floyd continues to be Mr. Reliable, with 4 catches for 65 yards and the TD. WR Seyi Ajirotutu also had a pair of catches for 17 yards, one of which was a nice diving reception for a 1st down. On the other hand, the TEs were virtually nonexistent. Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael combined for 4 catches for 24 yards. WR Robert Meachem was a glorified and very expensive cheerleader.
Offensive Line: F
The truth is 3/5ths of this Offensive Line is not NFL starting quality, and it showed as the O Line gave up 5 of the 6 sacks, and a handful of other pressures. Every lineman except for C Nick Hardwick was guilty of surrendering a sack (2, in the case of reserve G Rex Hadnot). Run blocking was somewhere between adequate and functional. Compared to the last couple weeks, LT Mike Harris was actually OK against recovering OLB Terrell Suggs, but RT Jeromey Clary struggled mightily against Ravens DE Paul Kruger. Also, DT Haloti Ngata wasn't terribly impressive against C Nick Hardwick. That said, DT Arthur Jones abused Hadnot for much of the game.
Defensive Line: B+
DE Corey Liuget has another terrific game, collecting a sack, deflecting a pass, and making a huge 4th-and-1 stop in the 3rd quarter. He consistently got push against the Ravens left side, so much so that Ravens generally ran away from his side. He also had a few great hustle tackles downfield. DE Kendall Reyes continues to justfy additional playing time, blowing up a 3rd and 1 running play. Dts Aubrayo Franklin and Cam Thomas were solid, if not spectacular in the middle. The only player on the line the Ravens attacked regularly was DE Vaughn Martin, and As a group, the DL contributed 16 tackles.
Both OLB Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes took advantage of Ravens rookie RT Kelechi Osemele for 3 sacks, while ILB Takeo Spikes and OLB Jarret Johnson combined for a sack. off a blitz against the Ravens left side. As for Spikes, he actually held up fairly well, considering his extended playing time, and Johnson, as usual, deterred teams from running his way. Surprisingly, it took the Ravens a while to realize ILB Donald Butler was injured, but they attacked his coverage assignments in the 4th quarter and OT, with passes regularly going to TE Dennis Pitta. when covered by Butler replacements Andrew Gachkar and Demorio Williams.
Defensive Backs: C+
Special Teams: B
It took 2 weeks, and two devastating blocked punts, but appears Rich Bisaccia has gotten the punt block problems straightened out. P Mike Scifres averaged53.2 yards on 9 punts, with 4 punts dropped inside the 20 and no punts going into the end zone. PK Nick Novak converted another 2 FGs from 47 and 30 yards, and also collected 2 touchbacks on 4 kickoffs. Coverage teams were solid across the board. As usual, the only Special Teams area that is consistently disappointing is the punt and kickoff returns, which continue to contribute very little to aid a struggling offense.
This coaching staff, on defense especially, was creative again, up until the 7 minute mark of the 4th quarter. After that, they went into a prevent defense that gave up yards far too easily, didn't burn enough time off the clock, and allowed the Ravens back into the game. On offense, is there becoming a more predictable call than the draw on 2nd down and more than 5 yards? To Norv's credit, he finally started running shorter routes, but he's still reluctant to give help to the offensive line, and he still wants go down the field. Whatever. Also, I'd love to add that teams are not going to honor the play-action pass when you don't feature your best runner on a more consistent basis. Lastly, 2 passes on the final possession of the 4th quarter?
Hidden Plays (Non-scoring, non-turnover plays that affected the outcome).
- 3rd and 10 at the Chargers' 34, 2:02 left in the 1st quarter - Corey Liuget's sack of Ravens' QB Joe Flacco pushes the Ravens out of FG range and forces a punt.
- 4th and 1 at the Ravens' 27, 11:19 left in the 2nd quarter - Norv goes for it on 4th down and Jackie Battle converts on a short run. Rivers' TD pass occurs 2 plays later.
- 2nd and 10 at the Ravens' 22, 3:53 left in the 2nd quarter - Terrell Suggs sacks Rivers to put the Chargers in 3rd and 17, killing the drive and forcing a (successful) FG attempt.
- 4th and 1 at the Chargers' 16, :34 seconds left in the 3rd quarter - Ravens' RB Bernard Pierce is stuffed by Corey Liuget for a 2 yard loss - killing a Ravens' scoring drive.
- 4th and 29 at the Ravens' 37, 1:59 left in the game.
One Big Play (Rivers to Floyd TD)
Things I Liked:
- Corey Liuget.
- Philip Rivers throwing the ball away and not forcing dumb throws.
- No blocked punts.
Things I Didn't Like:
- The Offensive Line.
- The ridiculous angles taken by Demorrio Williams, Takeo Spikes, and Marcus Gilchrist on 4th and 29.
- The non-call on Ravens WR Anquan Boldin for his blindside hit on Eric Weddle.
- 4th and effing 29?!
Looking Forward To:
Head Coach and General Manager job-security discussions that aren't masturbatory fantasies. It's also time to start figuring out who should, and should not be on the roster next season.