Ryan Mathews - 25 carries, 99 rush yds, 1 rush TD, 3 catches (5 targets), 20 rec yds
This is the only offensive bolt I'm planning on handing out...and it's probably the last time I'll give Ryan Mathews a Bolt for a game where he gets about 120 yards and a touchdown on 25-30 touches. At some point, we're going to need to start expecting these types of games from him.
That being said, the most unexpected part of Mathews' transformation this season has been his ability to pick up big plays. We've always said that he needed to break 1 or 2 long runs per game to make his numbers look better, like LaDainian Tomlinson used to do, and now Mathews is doing that along with everything else. His 34 yard run against the Raiders was a thing of beauty.
Eric Weddle - 4 tackles (2 solo) 1 interception, 1 QB hit
Now I get it. Earlier in the season, I criticized John Pagano for using Weddle as this "wild card" player that technically was playing nickel cornerback, outside linebacker, middle linebacker and often times didn't even look to have a true assignment. The Chargers needed a reliable safety and here they were wasting the league's best safety.
Well, now it makes more sense. Now that Pagano has settled on Jahleel Addae and Darrell Stuckey as his safeties on most plays, the pass-rush has gotten more dangerous with Melvin Ingram, and Pagano can rely on his players to play man coverage for more than a half-second...the plan is working out. The Chargers defense makes up for its lack of talent with confusion and nothing is confusing opposing offenses more than Weddle.
Eric doesn't even seem to know what he's doing until the ball is snapped, most of the time. Occasionally,that ends up with Weddle seeming lost during the first few seconds of the play, but most of the time it simply ends up freaking out opposing QBs. The defensive improvement for San Diego over the last few weeks is complicated, but rather simple to explain: The rest of the defense personnel was changed around to become reliable enough to allow Weddle to play his insanely-effective "Joker" position on every down.
Melvin Ingram - 3 tackles (3 solo) 1 sack
Remember those people that were against Ingram's return this season? Not only does Melvin look healthy, he is already the most dangerous pass-rusher on the San Diego defense.
The transformation of the defense has been pretty great to watch. Derek Cox was benched for Richard Marshall, who has less talent but is more reliable. Both starting safeties were moved out of their safety positions, simplifying the deep coverage for Addae and Stuckey (lots of Cover 2). That would be a bad thing, allowing for tons of 8-12 yard passes, except that Weddle, Marcus Gilchrist and Ingram are winning their battles at the line of scrimmage and ruining the play quickly.
The quick pressure keeps opposing QBs from waiting for someone to get open. Good coverage by Marshall (and Shareece Wright, most of the time) and Marcus Gilchrist keeps the under-pressure QBs from throwing short passes to open receivers quickly. Deep coverage by safeties keep under-pressure QBs from throwing deep passes to speedy receivers that can beat their man to the ball.
This unit might have less talent than it had before, but it's much more reliable. The pass-rush is more consistent, thanks to Ingram. The run defense is more consistent, thanks to Cam Thomas' benching and the return of Jarret Johnson. The pass coverage is more consistent, thanks to Richard Marshall. All of that has really freed up Weddle to be the star, but none of it would've been possible without Ingram returning 7 months after tearing his ACL.
John Pagano & Ken Whisenhunt
I know, I know. I don't give out Bolts or Dolts to coaches. Well, it's Week 17 and the Chargers are still in the playoff hunt and I'm feeling a little gushy.
No Chargers player had as good of a game as Pagano and Whisenhunt had.
The Oakland Raiders offense converted less than 33% of their third downs. Meanwhile, the Chargers offense converted more than 50% of theirs.
No Chargers player dominated this game. Ryan Mathews had a game in-line with what he's been doing. Philip Rivers was good, but also threw an ugly interception. Keenan Allen caught less than half of the balls thrown to him, and fumbled away a punt return.
This game wasn't won by the players, it was won by the coaches. Ken Whinsehunt's play-calling is the largest reason San Diego kept picking up third downs, and why they were able to move down the field consistently. John Pagano's play-calling is why the Raiders put up just 3 points in the second half. Both of these men are putting their guys in the right position at the right time, and they deserve all the acclaim that I can give them.
Honorable Mention: Philip Rivers, Donald Butler, Marcus Gilchrist, Richard Marshall
Shareece Wright - 7 tackles (7 solo), 1 defended pass
Man, Shareece is really starting to fall apart. He was absolutely abused by Andre Holmes in the second half of yesterday's game, to the tune of 5 catches for 71 yards. In the first half, Wright was the one losing the jump-ball to TE Mychal Rivera for a 37 yard catch that led to the Raiders' only touchdown.
Wright can have a good game, or even two in a row, but he really needs to get a handle on his consistency. Part of that will be learning how to deal with big, physical WRs.
Honorable Mention: None