Maybe the refs won't notice.
Bolts & Dolts is a weekly series where I recap the San Diego Chargers' most recent game and point out players, coaches and position groups that had particularly good or particularly bad games. Guys that played to expectations are typically left off of this list.
Jackie Battle - 3 rushes, 55 rush yds
Battle came in when the game was already out of hand and got a 52 yard run, staying in the consciousness of the Chargers fans for another week.
Richard Goodman - 1 kick return, 31 return yards
In 3 games, Goodman has returned the ball 6 times for 181 yards. He's gotten smarter about picking his spots, not returning the ball every time, and his kick return average reflects that. The one time he did return a kick yesterday, the Chargers started the drive on their own 36 and ended up with their only points of the game.
Atari Bigby - 15 tackles (11 solo tackles)
Atari didn't have the greatest game ever, but 15 tackles deserves some recognition. Especially because, for what I saw, it looked like Atari was being replaced at SS by Corey Lynch on passing downs (I'll investigate further when I dig through the game book later today). To give you an idea of how impressive it is, 15 tackles each game would be 240 tackles for the season. Getting 100 tackles in a season usually makes you a "Pro Bowl" Strong Safety, so Bigby had himself quite a day.
I know he's not on the Chargers anymore and his good game was one reason why San Diego lost, but doing LaDainian Tomlinson's touchdown celebration was a classy move.
Philip Rivers - 21/38, 173 pass yds, 2 INTs
After a nice streak of good play from El Capitan, where he avoided turnovers and kept his completion rating over 70%, Rivers made mistake after mistake against the Falcons and finished with a QB rating under 30. It wasn't all his fault, he had pressure in his face all day, but he didn't handle the situation well and he allowed Atlanta to force turnovers by his hand.
Ryan Mathews - 10 carries, 44 rush yds, 5 catches, 32 rec yds, 1 fumble lost
Ryan did a good job of picking up yards with the ball in his hand, and the offense looked like it could be more balanced and more powerful with him in the lineup, but a fumble on the Falcons' 5 (when the Chargers had a chance to take the lead with a touchdown) gave strength to Mathews' critics. So much for shutting them up.
Rivers was sacked just once and "officially" hit only three times during the game, but that doesn't tell half of the story. If Philip had a clean pocket to stand in once all game, I don't remember seeing it. John Abraham was the biggest disruptive force, and Norv arrogantly tried to block him with just Mike Harris on more than one occasion (with bad results each time). Ryan Mathews showed some rust in his pass-blocking as well, and was chewed out by Philip Rivers for blocking the wrong guy on one play.
This was the first game where it was obvious how much the Bolts miss injured Jared Gaither at LT. I'm not saying they would've won if he was in there, but the offense would've had a chance to get into rhythm. Instead, the passes Rivers was able to complete were ones where he was on the run, throwing off of his back foot and finding whatever guy was nearest to him (instead of whomever the play was designed for).
Defensive Pass Rush
So much for the vaunted Chargers pass rush. The team sacked Matt Ryan twice, once by Vaughn Martin and once by Antwan Barnes (who seemed to injure himself on the play), but every time the Bolts got pressure it seemed more like a potential coverage sack than anything else. Without keeping in extra blockers, Atlanta was able to keep Shaun Phillips, Melvin Ingram and Larry English from getting anywhere near Ryan. That should help explain how Matt was able to complete 75% of his 40 passes. That should also explain explain why the defensive secondary looked so overmatched.