There were several missed opportunities in Sunday's game against the Raiders that really cost the Chargers a victory. Some were obvious, like Eddie Royal's fumbled punt, or Danny Woodhead's fumble returned for a touchdown. There were also quite a few not so obvious plays, which is what this post is about.
This might come off as if I'm really down on Rivers, but I'm not. He's been great this year, there were just throws that he could have made that he didn't see, that would've kept them out of certain situations altogether.
Make no mistake, Rivers isn't the only one that messed up this game. A safety by the name of Marcus Gilchrist is still struggling to read his keys and figure out as a safety that no one should be behind you. Which is something you learn in pee-wee football. Let's look at an example of this, the first play from scrimmage for the Raiders.
The Raiders only send three receivers out on a route, all on vertical routes. So there's really not much to read here, yet, Gilchrist still doesn't "find work" and is caught staring in the backfield.
There's a lot wrong with this play. They yellow line is where Gilchrist started before the snap. Pryor is at the top of his 5-step drop, and Gilchrist has only gained 2 yards of depth. In comparison, Eric Weddle, who isn't even in the picture, is about 7 yards deeper than Gilchrist. The difference between the two is pretty remarkable, actually.
Did the corner-back get beat? Of course. However, as a safety, there should never be anyone behind you. If Gilchrist gets any sort of depth here, he's able to break up the pass and it's incomplete. The same thing happened on the first play of the second half. The Raiders ran a deep route to the right side, and Gilchrist was caught flat-footed over the middle of the field and late breaking on the ball. It was good for 33 yards. At this point, I'm not really sure why he's being asked to play this deep safety role, when it's a recurring theme game after game that he doesn't know where to be, and he's not reading his keys.
Te'o is still learning, and it's clear. He didn't play bad, by any stretch, he just needs to trust himself. His only really rough stretch was during the first goal line series. The first play, the Chargers were in a Cover 4 look, and Te'o got lost in coverage. The next play, he got blown up and washed out in a run play. The next play, he could have easily given up a touchdown.
The play started out with Te'o in man coverage against 85. Te'o tried to jam him, and 85 just ran right through him. Te'o fell, and got lucky that Terrelle Pryor didn't take the easier throw here.
There were two instances were Te'o could have made impact stops in the back field, or at least on the line of scrimmage. He made one of those, where he diagnosed a screen beautifully, broke on the play, and broke it up in the backfield. That's what he's capable of, that's what he can do if he trusts himself. Then, there's the hesitation plays.
Te'o needs to play downhill. When he does this, he'll be a good player. Here, he's responsible for the gap where the red line is. That's where he should be. Instead, he hesitates and it turns into a 6 yard gain. There were a couple instances like this. Te'o just needs to just let go and play football. I think he will. I think Pagano needs to put him in a position to where he can succeed. Let him play downhill against the run and the pass. Him turning and running isn't his strength, and that showed in this game.
This next play is a good diagram for how Pagano really wasn't prepared for this game, at all. The Raiders ran read option a couple times throughout the game. The Chargers looked like they had no clue how to stop it. I truly wonder if they practiced against it this week. There were outside linebackers running upfield 4-5 yards with no responsibility. There were plays where no player was responsible for the running back, and vice versa. It was puzzling, almost as if they didn't expect to see the option.
Here's a good example of what I'm talking about.
Here, three guys are playing the quarterback. THREE. There were a few instances like this, it was pretty frustrating to watch the lack of preparation.
I think the recent move of signing Lawrence Guy was a direct result of the poor play of Kendall Reyes. He's a totally different player now that teams can game plan for him. He's a complete liability against the run, he's getting washed out every play. I believe the Chargers should also go back to playing three nose tackles, to keep each fresh. Cam Thomas isn't an every down player, and it's pretty evident.
Let's not forget a holding call that could have changed a drive that was missed.
This would have backed Oakland up inside the 10, instead Pryor runs for a 1st down.
Apparently, Vincent Brown is better suited as a flanker. That's good to know. He looked good running routes 10+ yards, really good. There's still a little hesitation with him on underneath routes as far as reading defenses, but I'm not too worried about that.
As far as the line goes, the Chargers really have something special with Johnnie Troutman and D.J. Fluker. Both have excelled expectations in pass protection, and both fit the offense really well. I have a hard time seeing a situation, when healthy, that Jeromey Clary or Chad Rinehart are better than Troutman.
There was a run that stood out to me, that I haven't seen anyone mention. It was an inside zone play (the only run play we saw all game that drove fans crazy) where Danny Woodhead missed a big hole that could have gone for a big play.
I wanted to point this out, because Ryan Mathews gets a lot of crap for his lack of vision, so it's only fair to point out when Woodhead misses a potential 10-20 yard gain.
Sticking with Woodhead. They had a 3rd and 1, and they went in a goal line formation with Ronnie Brown, and got 4 yards. Then, on 4th & short, they go Shotgun and run inside zone with Danny Woodhead. In what world does this work? I thought it was going to be a shovel pass, I thought that was the only option. I thought wrong.
This is the first game where Philip Rivers missed throws that could have changed the complexion of the game. Did Antonio Gates drop a TD? Absolutely. There were plays where I'm screaming at my TV that Rivers missed that were blatantly obvious. One was a double move to Keenan Allen, Jerome will get into that later. That was an easy touchdown missed.
Allen could have had 13 catches for 200 yards. Seriously. As good as you thought he played, he played better. He was always open, and his numbers don't do him justice. On this play Rivers chooses to wait for Brown, who is tightly covered, and ends up throwing it deep out of bounds.
Allen is open now, the ball should be thrown. Free yards here, even yards after the catch available. The corner is stumbling route now out of his break. Missed opportunity.
Another route where you-know-who is wide open. It's the "switch route" I diagrammed back in May that Mike McCoy brought over with him. It's a really tough play to guard. Eddie Royal runs a drag across the middle, Gates runs a 10 yard in route, and Allen runs a 5 yard in.
Allen is the easy read here. Easy first down. Instead, Rivers throws it to Royal, who has a corner draped all over him. Rivers is sacked the next play and the Chargers punt. More missed opportunities. Allen was running routes like this all game. Completely owning D.J. Hayden outside. I have no clue why Rivers didn't attack the outside more.
Next missed throw? If Rivers hits Vincent Brown here, there's no second interception. There's not even a chance to throw it because he has a touchdown.
Brown is the blue square. Rivers forces it to Woodhead to the top of the screen. The yellow rectangle is the GIANT area vacated by the defense. Not sure how he misses Brown here, but it should have been a walk-in touchdown.
Lastly, the second interception. Where Keenan beat Hayden instantaneously, because, duh. Rivers should throw the ball RIGHT NOW. He's open, get rid of it, and let's celebrate.
You could even argue that Philip had Woodhead open to the top of the screen, but that doesn't seem to be the read here or the play design. Instead, Rivers is late over the middle, and we all know what happens in the NFL when you do that.
Rivers throws it a whole 3 seconds late. The Yellow square is where he was initally open, looks to be a good 7 yards late.
Like I said, it seems like I'm bashing on Rivers. If you've read anything I've wrote over the past month, you know how I feel about Rivers. I expect him to be great. In this game he was good, not great. I don't expect this to be a trend, I just thought it was important to point out all the mistakes the Chargers made. No team in the NFL can win if they make the types of mistakes the Chargers made on Sunday.