What a game. What a performance by all three phases of the game by the Chargers. I'll get into the playcalling details later in the week but, for now, hear me out on what I saw last night.
San Diego Chargers Offense Restores Balance
- The Chargers' offense had 4 consecutive drives of 10+ plays and averaged 8.0 plays per drive. They also had three 70+ yard scoring drives. This is a nod to the brilliance of ken Whisenhunt and how deep his playbook is.
- San Diego went to Oakland and passed the ball almost 50 times and ran it under 20 times. Last night, San Diego restored their balance as they ended the contest with 37 rush attempts and 33 pass attempts. This balance is key. As you saw, every unit seemed to feed off of it.
- Ryan Mathews got 100 yards on 20+ carries. You don't say!
- Johnnie Troutman has been nothing short of sound in his filling in for Chad Rinehart. Last night, though, he was tested in way I thought Monte Kiffin would test him. He didn't respond too well and began thinking too much because of it. I want the kid to succeed, and part of that is seeing how he'll respond to the challenge. I'm anxious to see his progression going forward.
- Anyone else notice Eddie Royal slowly beginning to get phased out of the offense? That's the Keenan Allen effect. Not too long ago, I mentioned that Allen was true weapon and should get 15 touches a game, whether it be running or receiving. He was targeted 12 times, Philip looked his way a lot more than that and Keenan ended the day with 9 receptions.They must've heard me.
- Not entirely sure if Ken Whisenhunt's playbook derives from West Coast concepts but the 'Hi-Lo Double Slant' and 'Empty Stick' calls I saw last night were a thing of beauty to watch. Also, this is the second contest that the Chargers Offensive Coordinator has ran or at least shown a Quads set (4x1); both times he has only ran double hitches out of it. I am itching for him to test defenses deep out of it, it'll be easy yards and easy points.
Defense: Nothing Was the Same
I've been trying to avoid talking about defense, but the creativity in last night's performance (haven't seen that much since 2012 Dallas preseason game) deserves a few notes:
John Pagano, simply put, channeled his inner-Ron Rivera last night. Let me Explain:
-- One way Rivera made Antonio Garay somewhat of a good player was to not give him two gaps in the base defense. Instead, Rivera would shade Garay to the left or right of the center, not directly over the guard but having his outside shoulder aligned on the inside shoulder of the guard. Rivera would then blitz the opposite A gap, forcing the center to make a quick decision and it ultimately worked like having a true zero technique NT. Pagano employed the same technique repeatedly last night and Cam Thomas played fairly well in the alignment. I just shook my head as I've been wanting this for the longest time.
-- Need another example of Pagano channeling Rivera? See 3rd-and-8 in the 1st Quarter, the Chargers were in a 2-4-5 nickel defense (2 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers, 5 defensive backs). Way too proper.
- I'll get into the details of this play once the Coaches Film becomes available but the Charger' Defensive Coordinator must've read my roundtable take when we were asked 'What the Chargers should do without Dwight Freeney'. In it, I stated that the Chargers must find a team's run tendencies and collapse their favorite side of the field with 91, 94, and 92. At around the 5:35 mark in the 1st quarter, you saw this. Corey Liuget, who was one-on-one, shot the gap quickly, forcing the run to go opposite of the strength of the formation. The play gained positive yards but it showed it worked in keeping the DL in as many one-on-one situations as possible.
John Pagano has to be more careful with playing Eric Weddle near the line of scrimmage. Allow me to again explain:
-- A few calls were brilliant in allowing Weddle to use his smarts on the fly. The Colts ran a Seam/Curl combo in the middle of the field and Weddle took a hard step to run with the seam, this signaled Andrew Luck to throw to the Curl Route. Well, Weddle fooled him and broke on the curl, interrupting it and almost gift wrapping another interception for Marcus Gilchrist.
-- The bad one you ask? Just reference the Coby Fleener drop towards the end of the half.