Bolts & Dolts: Chargers win stunner over Chiefs in Kansas City

Peter Aiken

Each week, we look back at the San Diego Chargers' performance and figure out which players played above or below expectations. This week, we analyze San Diego's exciting shootout win over the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Bolts

Philip Rivers - 27/39, 392 pass yds, 3 pass TDs, 1 carry, 1 rush yd

When the jumping and screaming and cheering has quieted, there was one question that I heard ringing out around me at our BFTB OC Meetup yesterday.

"When was the last time Rivers did something like that?"

Well, I did the research for you. The last time that Philip Rivers threw a 20+ yard game-winning touchdown pass in the last minute of a game was....never? Never! It's true.

(Editor's Note: Nevermind)

The three times that he came close:

That first one left too much time, and the last two didn't meet the criteria of being 20+ yards (yesterday's TD catch was 28 yards). Still, I am giddy that Ajirotutu has somehow found himself to be on this absurd list of mine twice.

Ku-xlarge-1-1_medium

via images.ftw.usatoday.com

Sure, Rivers has had a few game-winning drives that ended with rushing touchdowns or field goals, but for all intents and purposes, yesterday's finish was the greatest finish that Philip Rivers has ever had, smack dab in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career. That'll get you a Bolt every time.

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Keenan Allen - 9 catches (12 targets), 124 rec yds

We've been complaining about Allen not being the focal point of the offense, and apparently the Chargers have been listening. His 12 targets were far and away the most of any player on the team, and he was obviously Rivers' favorite target on third down.

Not having seen the game tape, I'm going to assume that the Chiefs were double-teaming Antonio Gates on third downs because they know he is usually Philip's favorite target in that situation, which led to more targets for Allen. Allen had about 8 catches for over 100 yards at halftime, which leads me to believe that KC moved the focus of their defense over to the rookie WR in the second half, which opened up lanes for Eddie Royal, Ladarius Green and Danny Woodhead in the passing game.

Ladarius Green - 3 catches (5 targets), 80 rec yds, 1 rec TD

Green took a few more snaps on Sunday than he's been getting, but they didn't come at the expense of Antonio Gates. Let's review my chart from last week:

75 Total Offensive Snaps (Week 10 vs. DEN):

65 Total Offensive Snaps (Week 11 vs. MIA):

  • Antonio Gates: 64 snaps
  • Ladarius Green: 20 snaps
  • John Phillips: 12 snaps

Now, let's add in the Chiefs game:

70 Total Offensive Snaps (Week 12 vs. KC):

  • Antonio Gates: 65 snaps
  • Ladarius Green: 29 snaps
  • John Phillips: 11 snaps

See? Gates and Phillips remain the same, but Green jumped about 5-10 snaps. Where did they come from? Maybe from Vincent Brown?

Vincent Brown:

  • Week 10: 53 snaps
  • Week 11: 46 snaps
  • Week 12: 47 snaps

Nope. Oh, wait, I think I know whose place he's taking and why...

Eddie Royal:

  • Week 10: 56 snaps
  • Week 11: 52 snaps
  • Week 12: 42 snaps

Yup, there it is. While Ladarius Green, who probably struggles getting off the line against a cornerback that is bumping or jamming him at the line, has been playing more slot receiver and taking snaps away from Eddie Royal (which is okay because Eddie can get healthy quicker with fewer snaps).

The plan obviously worked, as Ladarius Green once against proved to everyone near a TV that he's the most explosive player in the San Diego offense. The trust level between him and Rivers has developed very quickly, with him and Allen being the two guys that Rivers can throw the ball near instead of throwing it to. If you need a direct comparison, Allen has become Rivers' 2013 Vincent Jackson and Green has become his 2013 Malcom Floyd.

Seyi Ajirotutu - 1 catch (1 target), 26 rec yds, 1 rec TD

Speaking of snap counts....

Last week, while it was becoming painfully obvious that Vincent Brown is overmatched, Ajirotutu filled in admirably for Keenan Allen and made a few tough catches late in the game. The math was simple. Ajirotutu should start taking snaps away from Vincent Brown.

We already saw above that Brown's snaps were not limited, and he contributed absolutely nothing in his 47 snaps in this game. The one time Rivers threw to him, Brown slipped and the ball sailed out of bounds. Consider him lucky that the ball wasn't intercepted. It has become obvious that the Chargers QB no longer trusts Brown, and won't throw him the ball after two incidents where Brown has run the wrong route and cost Rivers and interception. So why is he on the field?

I mention this because Ajirotutu, who has been productive every time he has stepped onto the field wearing a Chargers jersey, finished the game with just 11 snaps. 11! The only offensive player that finished with fewer snaps in this game (while registering at least 1) is Le'Ron McClain, who was on the field for 6 offensive plays.

Rivv_medium

Tutu saved the day by getting open and making a tough catch, which is something Vincent Brown hasn't been able to do in over a month despite getting starter's snaps. If Tutu isn't starting on Sunday, Mike McCoy will once against face some serious questions about whether he's actually trying to get the best players on the field.

Eddie Royal - 4 catches (4 targets) 87 rec yds

I am no longer surprised when Eddie Royal has good games. Put this up there in the trophy case for McCoy and Whisenhunt along with with "Fixing Philip Rivers" and "Fixing Ryan Mathews".

Danny Woodhead - 6 carries, 25 rush yds, 1 rush TD, 4 catches (4 targets), 45 rec yds, 1 rec TD

I love games when Whisenhunt figures out how to use Woodhead just enough and doesn't fall in love with him. Let's update part of that thing I wrote about him and Mathews a few weeks ago:

When Danny Woodhead gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers 1-2.

Still true! I think the perfect place for Woodhead's touches is somewhere between 9-15. Let's see what the record is then:

When Danny Woodhead gets between 9 and 15 touches, the 2013 Chargers are 4-2.

Yup, I like that. Don't overwork him, he's not the starting running back, but Danny will make the most of the opportunities he is given and he did that again on Sunday.

Chargers offensive line

I hate handing out this fake award to groups because I feel like some guys performed better than others, but this one just seems right.

Playing against one of the best defenses in the league, here is what the Chargers had (along with where they started the season):

By my count, that's three guys playing out of position along with a 3rd-stringer and a rock at center. They should be getting destroyed by opposing defenses and pass rushers, and yet they allowed just 1 sack against the Chiefs on Sunday. Was that helped by Tamba Hali and Justin Houston getting injured in the first half? Certainly, but they held their own before that as well.

The fact that the Fluker/Troutman/Hardwick combo is starting to look eerily similar to the McNeill/Dielman/Hardwick combo is a testament to Joe D'Alessandris and, of course, Nick Hardwick,

Also, while the running game couldn't consistently pick up yards, there were a few giant holes for Ryan Mathews to run through and the two goal-line runs that went for easy touchdowns tell you that these offensive linemen were winning the battle in the trenches when they needed to.

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Corey Liuget - 1 tackle (1 solo) 1 QB hit

The Pro Football Focus ratings aren't out yet, so I have nothing really to gauge Liuget off of except what I saw with my own eyes.

Personally, I think the difference between the Good Chargers/Dr. Jekyll and the Bad Chargers/Mr. Hyde has been Corey Liuget. When he shows up to play, like he did in this game, he can stop long-drives on his own.

I don't want to give too much credit to a defense that gave up 38 points and a handful of embarrassing plays, but this Chargers team can at least win games when Liuget is stopping every 3rd or 4th play by himself.

Reggie Walker - 2 tackles (2 solo), 1 sack

What an odd season Reggie Walker is having. Signed after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals, a team leader and special teams captain for Ken Whisehunt in Arizona, Walker has done a bit of everything. He has started games at inside linebacker in place of Manti Te'o, has played a bit in place of Donald Butler, and now is working as a pass-rushing outside linebacker and getting sacks along the way.

This guy doesn't make sense, but I believe it's time we start referring to him as "Swiss Army Knife" or something else that shows how insanely useful and versatile he has been.

Dolts

Chargers defensive secondary

What. A. Trainwreck.

This season will probably best be remembered most for Derek Cox keeping his starter's job while being benched halfway through every game and unbenched a little later in the same game. Honestly, though, you can't blame John Pagano entirely for that. Cox has been bad enough to get benched, but his benching always serves as a sobering reminder that the guys behind him aren't any better.

The Chargers should consider themselves lucky that Donnie Avery is the only real deep threat in Kansas City's offense, because his 91 receiving yards and 1 TD don't seem all that nuts for a #1 WR (even if he's not a #1 WR). The zone defenses that challenged Alex Smith to throw deep accomplished some of their goal, some of the time, but San Diego gave up 38 points to a not-so-great offense because they'd be better off using scarecrows at cornerback than actual players from the roster at this point.

The only redeemable parts of the entire secondary were Eric Weddle's tackling and Marcus Gilchrist's interception.

Vincent Brown - 0 catches (1 target)

TO THE BENCH WITH YOU. Vincent Brown looks like he should be 5th WR that stays on the team because he contributes on special teams. That's how bad he's been on offense. He's looked like Kassim Osgood without the special teams amazingness or the height.

It seems that every time Rivers throws to Brown, there's a 50/50 chance that it'll be an interception because of something Brown does to screw the play up. No wonder he only got 1 target against the Chiefs.

Anyone else realize this team has been playing with 4 WRs for weeks now, one of which is terrible and another that hasn't practiced in over a month? Lavelle Hawkins would probably be a better use of an active player on Sundays.

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